In a fast-paced world where convenience is currency, a continuing prominent trend in product packaging is the use of flexible plastic pouches. More consumers are choosing pouches over traditional glass, paper and metal packaging, and even rigid plastics, as global market demand is projected to rise 6.2% annually to $37.3 billion in 2018. Food is the largest and most developed market for pouch use due in great part to rising output and consumption rates worldwide. Pharma/medical and beverage are the second and third largest markets, respectively.
Consumer lifestyle trends demand increasingly convenience and portability of product, particularly in the food sector. Ease of use at home and on the go have become a requisite for driving the purchase of consumer foods.
Advancements in seal and barrier technologies for the pouches market are keeping food fresher longer at all stages of the supply chain, contributing to a longer shelf life for both retailers and end-users. As quality and healthfulness of convenience food products continue to increase in significance, pouch technologies allow a greater variety of these foods to be available to more consumers, geographically and economically speaking. For example, the dairy market segment, which includes yogurt (a product very much in demand), is expected to grow significantly through 2020 with the aid of these high-barrier pouches.
The environmental implications of pouches in food packaging and other markets are significant. Pouches are smaller and thinner than glass, paper and metal packaging and will use 60% less plastic and be 23% lighter compared to traditional rigid packaging on average. Both the stand-up and flat variety of pouch generally have a higher product-to-package ratio than rigid packaging and require about half of the energy required to produce, cutting down on the CO2 emissions released during production and during transport; taking up less space means fewer trucks are needed, reducing fuel consumption and additional CO2 emissions.
While flexible plastic pouches reduce landfill waste because they are lighter, less bulky and take up less volume than conventional packaging, it is important to note that they are not recyclable through the current waste management infrastructure. The multi-layer films from which most pouches are comprised are often made up of several different plastics, which are difficult to recycle because these components they require separating. Further, contact with food, beverage, medical and industrial substances requires additional processing so as to not contaminate recycled plastic batches.
The handling difficultly of ensuring the pouches enter and exit a pastuerising and/or cooling tunnel is a challenge already solved with INOX tunnels that have a special depositing conveyor feed system for the infeed to the tunnel.