There’s a massive shift going on right now in the world of product packaging, as more and more packaging converters are moving away from standard rigid materials such as paperboard and molded plastic and into flexible materials such as bags and pouches.
In fact, according to a recent “State of the U.S. Flexible Packaging Industry” report, which is conducted annually by the Flexible Packaging Association ( FPA), the industry on a domestic scale has regularly experienced year-after-year growth and currently stands at near $30 billion. This market is expected to continue to increase at about a 3 percent clip– a trend that does not appear to be going away anytime soon.
Flexible packaging, of course, is all about plastic materials. To summarize the process, a film converter will create plastic film via the blown film extrusion process and roll it into webs, which are then supplied to packaging converters to be made into the particular packaging, whether that is a bag or pouch. So just why is the flexible packaging market on such an upswing? A lot of that has to do with the plastic material that such packaging is created from and the benefits that packaging companies, retailers – and, of course, consumers – are experiencing from it. Here’s a closer look:
1) Convenience and Portability
Perhaps the biggest reason behind the shift to flexible packaging is that retailers and consumers are demanding it. Consumers like it because it is reusable, convenient and very portable and easy to be packed and stored away. For instance, instead of closing a box, consumers can zip up a seal. Retailers like it because it saves space on store shelves compared to rigid packaging formats and allows for more creative merchandise displays compared to rigid packaging. Both retailers and consumers like it because of its aesthetics – it stands out on the shelf and is eye catching, thanks in part to advanced packaging printing methods.
2) Cost Savings
Another big benefit of flexible packaging is the cost savings associated with fabricating packages from plastic, compared to other materials. In general, less material is needed to create a bag or pouch, translating to a 40 percent reduction in the overall packaging cost, according to a study from Fres-co. This also translates to far less solid waste, which leads us to our next point…
Not only does flexible packaging use less material than its rigid counterparts, leading to a lower overall packaging cost, it also creates less waste. Fres-co states that flexible packaging formats create 50 percent less waste than rigid ones, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and BTU consumption. The FPA estimates that flexible packages require 88 percent less fossil fuel to produce than rigid ones. Flexible packaging offers up to a 20 percent space savings compared to rigid packaging, meaning more can be shipped at a time, thereby reducing transportation costs along the way as well.
4) Health Benefits
There are also several health benefits that the plastic that makes up flexible packaging can help consumers attain. Not only is the packaging made from high-grade, FDA-approved plastic films, but such packaging can also be made to be UV-resistant to prevent product deterioration from the sun. Packaging can also help extend the life of products, as the resealing nature of flexible packaged products helps keep foods better for longer. The plastic film can also do a better job of keeping contaminants that may be encountered from plant to store shelf out of food products better than rigid packaging.
It’s easy to see why flexible materials are so popular right now in the world of product packaging – and plastic is the key cog driving all of these benefits.
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