Friday, 21 June 2024

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The Rise of Flexible Packaging

What is Flexible Packaging?

Flexible packaging is usually comprised of heat-sealed pouches with resealable enclosures. Think of Ziploc bags or dog food bags. Potato chip bags, cookie bags, pasta bags, juice pouches, and detergent pods are examples of flexible packaging. Flexible packaging is just that, flexible and easily adapted to meet a wide variety of product needs. The market for flexible packaging is growing at a fast pace. In 2021, the global market for flexible packaging alone was worth 252 billion dollars. The annual growth rate for the flexible packaging market is 4.5%. By 2030, it is estimated that revenues from flexible packaging will be at the 373.3-billion-dollar mark, making it a very lucrative market to invest in.

Benefits of Flexible Packaging

When compared to traditional rigid packaging, flexible packaging is lighter and cheaper to manufacture. This is a two-fold cost-saving benefit, as not only is it more affordable to make, but lighter overall packaging reduces shipping and freight costs. For products that do not need much protection, flexible packaging is easily the most cost-effective way to ship them. Another benefit of flexible packaging comes when putting them into secondary packaging. Due to their flexible nature, it is easier to put them into secondary packaging, and more can fit when compared to the same product in rigid traditional packaging. Flexible packaging takes up less shelf space, meaning more of your product can fit in the same space.

In the image above, a huge benefit of flexible packaging can be seen. Colorful and attractive designs can be easily printed onto them. The unique nature of flexible packaging is already attention drawing, but when combined with these prints, your product will easily stand out on the crowded shelves of retail stores. Branding is critical when it comes to a successful product, by being easily printed on, flexible packaging gives you an edge when advertising yourself.

Food Packaging

Retort pouches are becoming increasingly popular in food packaging owing to their construction. They comprise multiple layers of polymers and often contain metalized sheets made up of aluminum. This type of flexible packaging offers chemical and thermal shielding to the products on the inside. The pack provides an air-tight barrier, prevents exposure to light and heat, and is temperature tolerant to help retain the freshness of its contents. It allows the shelf life of many food products to be extended.

The Daisy sour cream brand is a popular example of the market trend toward this type of packaging. Traditionally, sour cream has always come in one form of packaging, a large tub to hold the product. This type of packaging offers very little product isolation as the white plastic would let light through and heat. It was also brittle, with many tubs being damaged in transit. In 2015, the Daisy sour cream brand rolled out a new retort package that allowed the product to be directly squeezed from the package. The packaging became interactive and attention-calling. It stood out from the rest of the tubs of sour cream. The retort packaging better protected the sour cream, offering more layers of protection. Many consumers reported that the novelty of the new packaging made it more fun and appealing. It allowed the Daisy brand to advance into the future and grow as a company. Many companies followed suit by rolling their versions of retort flexible packaging. The convenience of flexible packaging has revolutionized how consumers view certain products. In the baby food segment, flexible packaging has made carrying it around an order of magnitude easier than traditional glass containers. Many consumers have voiced their preference for flexible packaging and is backed up by the rate at which the market is growing.

Amazon’s Shift Towards a Flexible Future

Since Amazon is one of the largest retailers, their marked increase in the usage of flexible packaging is notable. As of last year, flexible packaging accounts for 49% of their shipments. Amazon calls these types of packaging “flexibles,” including padded mailers, flexible mailers, paperboard envelopes, unpadded bags, and recyclable paper-padded mailers. These have enabled Amazon to significantly reduce the weight of many shipments and reduce the space needed to ship many products. Many of these shipping materials are part of their Frustration Free Packaging (FFP). The FFP program ensures a better unboxing experience for the end consumer. Most forms of flexible packaging are easily opened by hand, eliminating the need for tools such as box cutters.


Flexible Packaging and The Environment

Flexible packaging is notably more efficient from the start. Manufacturing these packaging materials consumes less energy and natural resources than traditional rigid packaging. It also generates fewer CO2 emissions. Flexible packaging also has a much greater product to packaging ratio. Your typical glass bottle has a product to packaging ratio of 1 to 1. A flexible stand-up pouch has a product to packaging ratio of 35 to 1. This greater density reduces the non-product weight that must be transported. As a result, fewer trucks have to be utilized for transportation. Fewer trucks mean less fuel spent and lower emissions. The lower footprint of unfilled flexible packaging implies that, on average, you only need one truck to carry the unfilled product compared to the 26 required for traditional rigid packaging. Another example of the efficiency of flexible packaging is how much traditional packaging is needed to package 60 pounds of beverage. You would need 50 pounds of glass versus 1.5 pounds of flexible packaging. Most freight cost is calculated based on weight, which is a tremendous saving. Up to 50% of flexible packaging can easily recycled. Many types of flexible packaging are also resealable and reusable, greatly extending the useful life of the packaging. It is critical that we move away from single use packaging.


Flexible packaging is quickly becoming more prevalent. Lots of traditional rigid packaging is being replaced by flexible forms. The sheer number of benefits is too hard to look past. From the ease of customizability for every need to the wide range of printing options, there are almost infinite ways to create original designs. Shipping powerhouses such as Amazon have begun to take notice and are shifting as much of their business as possible to flexible packaging. The significantly increased product-to-packaging ratio is a large draw. As a result, the amount of material required to ship products is also drastically reduced. The shelf space taken up by flexible packing materials is also lower than rigid materials, meaning you can get more products on retail store shelves. The general public has shown great favor towards flexible packaging. The switch to flexible packaging has proved very successful for the Daisy brand of sour cream. Sales were up after the switch and the product had a lot of buzz. The sour cream inside was still the same, and a simple packaging change made all the difference. The future is flexible, many more products must shift to remain competitive.


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