Stand up and Cheer for Flexible Pouches

by Aaron L. Brody, PH.D.
Stand-up pouches encompass families of flexible materials that, with a little or no assistance, stand erect on retail shelves, foodservice kitchens or consumer pantries. Usually, the structure carries a flat bottom.
In their original formats, flexible structures intended for standing incorporated gussets that folded/sealed to each other to form a base and “flat” vertical sidewalls. This structure resembled a paperboard folding carton. Perhaps costs, marketer reluctance to change or slow machine speed resulted in the paucity of acceptance until the mid-1990s.
A driver during the 1990s was the perception that flexible stand-up pouches represented a reduced solid-waste or environmental insult. Thus, several household chemical and personal care products appeared in stand-up flexible pouches.
But consumer feedback was absent, and so results such as failure to drain contents or the loss of the stand-up feature led to meager repeat sales, essential to product success.
Shining examples
This pothole on the road to universal acceptance of stand-up flexible pouches hardly deterred the owners of the worldwide Capri Sun franchise from applying hot-fill and barrier stand-up flexible pouch technologies to their packaged fruit-flavored beverage products.
In what was a bold move just 15 years ago, several marketers introduced salty snacks using stand-up pouches. Consumer acceptance of the new snacks in new packages was evidence enough for some product managers and packaging technologists to test the structures for other new products.
The introduction of easy-open, zipper and slide closures for flexible pouches fueled further applications for bakery and snack products.
Although new product shelf differentiation appears as the driving force for stand-up flexible pouches, much of the volume comes from package substitution. The reliable film-lined paperboard folding carton faces a substitution crisis.
One example is the cake and cookie mix category. Some regional brands switched long ago from bag-in-box to flexible laminations with stand-up features. The national brands are following suit.
Retort pouches join the parade
The 21st century versions of retort pouches are mostly stand-up. Erect appearance facilitates retail display and is essential to acquaint consumers with this “new” concept.
The return of retort pouches to the forefront marks yet another milestone in the saga of stand-up pouches. The success of stand-up retort pouches for pet foods, solid-pack fish and now chicken and rice products suggests that these and related categories will experience major growth on their current narrow base.
To permit a resealable retort pouch, Presto Products Co. has developed a line of retortable zipper closures that have received regulatory acceptance in the United States.
The addition of a dispenser to the stand-up pouch offers product access convenience. But incorporating an appropriate device represented a major heat-sealing challenge for converters and packagers.
Recently, Kapak introduced QuadPAK, a side-gusseted stand-up pouch featuring a Seaquist resealable closure. The pouch structure includes layers of polyester, aluminum foil, nylon and polyethylene. The closure contains a silicone valve that permits inverting with no spillage.
Technology for applying the closure and filling through the nozzle came from Germany’s Hensen. This company also developed the original Capri Sun packaging technology. BP
The author, Aaron L. Brody, Ph.D., is President/CEO of Packaging/Brody Inc., a consultancy in food, packaging technology and marketing. Contact Dr. Brody at 770.613.0991 or