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FLEXO Magazine : February 2014
INDUSTRY INDICATORS Changing Tides The Shift From Rigid to Flexible Packaging The way consumers view and interact with packaged products is changing. With a growing focus on conve- nience and sustainability, traditional pack types are being replaced by innovative and flexible options designed to meet consumer needs. The flexible packaging market is esti- mated to be worth $351 billion by 2018 and that rapid growth is projected to come at the expense of other sectors, such as traditional rigid packaging. A prime reason for that growth is the range of new product developments, which have helped to demonstrate flexible packaging’s potential to consumers. Examples include the Halls “twist off ” Stickpack converted by Sonoco & Co—a flex- ible package which allows one sweet to be dispensed without losing others. FLEXIBLE ADVANTAGES So, what sets these products apart from the rigid packag- ing that customers are more used to seeing on supermarket shelves? In the sixth installment of Smithers Pira’s bulletin series, the forecaster examines the latest flexible packaging market trends, as well as the main advantages of flexible packaging over more traditional rigid packaging solutions. LIGHTWEIGHTING The bottled water sector is a prime example of a market where materials have gotten lighter over time, producing less waste. However, manufacturers have now reached the stage where polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles cannot be made much lighter. The next step in this process is to replace plastic bottles with lightweight, flexible pouches. This development has been slowly gaining traction over the years, but widespread usage has not yet occurred. The primary reason for this has been issues with high speed filling: While PET bottles can be filled at speeds of 1,500 packages per minute (ppm), the process of filling pouches falls to only 400 ppm. Some of the newer PET bottle filling technologies are de- signed to transport bottles through the cycle via the neck. This is forecasted to occur as early as 2014, and the use of pouch- es would allow water companies to reduce their packaging weight by as much as 50 percent. EASE OF DECORATING Part of the total cost of any rigid package is the label and these are applied as part of the filling process. Labels come from a different supplier than the bottles they adhere to, meaning they often become a bottleneck in the filling process. With flexible packaging such as pouches, the converting of the pouch generally includes full printing features along with the lamination of films, if needed. This printing only marginally increases the cost of the pouch and has no effect on filling. Another key decorating feature is the printing of security or brand identity graphics, something just being developed for flexible packaging. This comes with an added challenge: How can security graphics be included in a package’s design without making them obvious to a potential counterfeiter? Solutions include pigment additives that only appear under certain lighting and inks which disappear and reappear de- pending on environmental conditions. Such technology isn’t possible with rigid alternatives. BARRIER PROPERTIES One of the main advantages of flexible packaging over rigid packaging is a company ’s ability to “dial in” the appro- priate barrier for the product and its end use. Many products require a reasonable oxygen barrier: • Juice • Wine • Milk Bottles made from PET, glass or multi layer paperboard laminate provide a barrier for all products, whether one is required or not. A flexible package can be supplied with barrier properties that can provide anything from moisture and aroma protec- tion to essentially the same benefits as glass. Aluminum foil has been used for many years as the ultimate flexible barrier material, although its properties are compromised by recent flexible packaging developments, such as standup pouches. When creased in this way, the foil can fracture, leading to pinholes, which let in oxygen, water and light. FLEXIBLE PACKAGING BENEFITS • Easy to decorate • Barrier properties • Light weight • Larger sizes • Dispensing • Design variation 22 FLEXO FEBRUARY 2014 www.flexography.org