Flexibility is packaging’s future. That’s evident if you look in any grocery store. Products from baby food to motor oil now come in plastic pouches. Packagers continue to devise new ways of creating sizes and shapes of pouches for retailers from convenience to dollar stores. Brands continue to come up with new designs and graphics to appeal to the busy mom, on-the-go teens and smaller households.

Estimates put the US flexible plastic packaging market at $16.2 billion in 2012 – nearly 20 percent of all packaging. Leading market researcher Freedonia Group estimates annual growth of 3 percent, to $18.8 billion in 2017. Pouches will be the fastest-growing type of flexible packaging at 3.6 percent a year, based on new applications and the advantage of lighter weight that can vastly reduce production and transportation costs.

Food usage will continue to outpace nonfood, although there has been growth in the pet, household, and lawn and garden markets. Recent launches in such areas as soups and sauces, snacks, fresh-cut produce, noncarbonated beverages and ready-to-eat meals will contribute to growth. Freedonia puts the food growth rate 3 percent a year from 2012-2017.

Some of this Freedonia research will be presented at the 17th Global Pouch Forum June 11-13 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This event is the largest of its kind focusing specifically on pouches and last year drew 500 people to the Westin Beach Resort, where the event is again being held.

Among them were executives from packaging equipment and supplier companies; consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers; service, design and branding firms; consultants; and investment houses.

This year’s presentations are a mix of sessions on markets, trends and new technologies, along with more technical sessions on resins, coatings, films, adhesives and fitments. There will also be a jam-packed session on packaging machinery innovations.

Regarding the sessions on selling and branding, there will be a fascinating panel on new market niches for pouches. We will have a representative of Lubrication Technologies Inc., which sells automotive oils, along with its packager, Glenroy Inc. We will also have an executive with a food startup, Birch Benders, which sells pancake mix. Two very different kinds of products that showcase the possibilities of pouches.

In addition to 1 ½ days of sessions with 30 speakers, registrants may attend two networking receptions – one the day before the conference and the second at the end of the first day’s general session. This event on June 12 includes 67 table-top exhibitors.


Drinks in Flexible Packaging

While one of the first products sold in a pouch was Kraft’s Capri Sun fruit drink in 1981, beverages have lagged other products in terms of pouch packaging. But that means there’s huge potential, experts say, especially with younger buyers

Some beverage companies have capitalized on advances in film printing to offer colorful graphics on wine and cocktail packaging and nonalcoholic energy drinks.

This year’s keynoter is the head of one of the first U.S. companies to sell wine in a pouch – not the bag in a box – but just the pouch, like an old-fashioned bota bag.

Eric Steigelman is the founder and CEO of Bonfire Wines, a company that was started in 2013 and sells 1.5 liter wines in pouches made from BPA-free laminated plastic. The compact packaging fits into coolers and refrigerators and chills in 65 percent less time than a traditional glass bottle. As an added benefit, the pouch requires fewer trucks for transportation, using less fuel and creating fewer emissions than the same amount of glass bottles. A built-in spout lets consumers enjoy the equivalent of two bottles a glass at a time – the wine can stay fresh for up to four weeks.

Prior to Bonfire Wines, Steigelman worked for a global packaging company, helping develop packaging concepts for food and beverage companies include Nestle North America, Green Mountain Coffee and Ocean Spray.

Bonfire has hit the market at a time when younger people are more likely to buy a beverage in a pouch—maybe they learned on Capri Sun. Steigelman told the New York Times: “Millennials are interested in convenience and availability, and some areas like soup and baby foods have been moving to pouches. Wine seemed to be an area that was looking for innovation, but little had been done.”

The wines, made in California, come in two varietals; the design has a vibrant wide yellow or magenta band on black.


Consumer Insights

Speaking of consumers, Sal Pellingra, VP of innovation at Ampac, and Steve Callahan, president of Perimeter Brand Packaging, will offer insights on what consumers are looking for in packaging.

Callahan recently wrote in our sister publication Brand Packaging that, “In the mind of the consumer, perception is reality – even if our packaging engineers say otherwise. A crucial part of consumer insights is determining what consumers think is important and how those consumers will interpret a package even before they use it.”

Both speakers will share case studies for products their companies have created and talk about how you can’t change consumer behavior but you can create interesting designs using familiar materials to create a product different enough to pique their interest.

Also on the design front, Milana Kosovac, who founded the New York design and branding firm Miloby Ideasystem, will speak about how insight-driven design helps propel brands further. “We observe, we listen, and then we craft,” the company says on its website. Miloby also strives to “seek the poetic to find the practical – some wow comes with the pow.”


Machines and Technology

There is much more at this event, with four sessions focusing on films, resins, adhesives, coatings, fitments and retorted pouches. These panels feature speakers from some of North America’s leading companies such as Dow Chemical, Henkel, Sun Chemical, Berry Plastics, Sealed Air and MeadWestvaco.

The program concludes with a panel on packaging machinery, moderated by Tom Eagan, VP at PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.



for the 2014 Global Pouch Forum, go to www.globalpouchforum.com