While the stand-up pouch may not be new, it has certainly taken on a new lease of life following the introduction of wet pet food in the 90s. Today the market is growing at 10% a year says Rodney Abbott

Once tuna fish only came in tins, dishwashing liquid could only be bought in bottles and you had to have a tin opener to feed your dog or cat. Those days are gone forever. Today there is an innovative high-performance, high-convenience packaging alternative – the stand-up pouch and its popularity is steadily growing.

According to Pira International’s report The Future of Global Packaging Markets, which was published in 2002, flexibles are expected to grow at about 3% year on year. The largest single sector is PE, accounting for just under half the market volume, followed by BOPP at 30%.

Growth of flexibles will be predominantly in the food sector due to cost effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. Future growth in flexibles will be fuelled by greater usage in fresh produce, pet foods, meat, poultry, snack foods and for stand-up/lay-flat pouches in sectors such as yoghurt, pet foods, soups and sauces.

Demand for stand-up pouches is expected to grow at about 250M units a year in Europe, reaching a volume of 9bn units by 2004 with the bulk of the market in pet foods [46%] followed by other food/beverages taking just over 20% of the market each.

One of the key drivers is microwaveability. As a consequence, dramatic increases are being seen in the transparent pouch market. The pouch also offers huge branding potential. Today, even the bottom gusset is being used for printed text.

There are a number of reasons why the stand-up pouch has been so enthusiastically received by food manufacturers and consumers alike. For packer fillers, it offers:

• Appealing product presentation

• Pack shape and base construction to meet individual needs

• Striking printing possibilities, with up to 10 colours

• A minimum of transport volume and weight

• Low transport and storage costs

For consumers the stand-up pouch is a packaging option that is:

• Lightweight and easy to carry home

• Easy to open

• Optionally reclosable with a zipper or spout

• Environmentally friendly, with up to 80% less weight and volume to throw away

For all of these advantages, pouch development has still a fair way to travel, both in terms of production and application aspects.

Many canners have been reluctant to embrace the new technology due to the inferior speed of pouch sealing compared with canning lines, which typically operate in excess of 1000/min. Depending on the product involved pouch production can be as low as 80 units/min.

However, R A Jones’ Pouch King is able to produce pouches at up to 500/min so some progress has been made in that direction.

Young acceptance

The young, especially women, more readily accept the pouch. They value the convenience factor but, in a recent report, Mintel was eager to point out some of its failings and I quote: “Pouches are more expensive and less robust, as well as taking up more shelf space and being less easier to display at retail than cans or jars.

“Given that there is also some consumer resistance to the pouch, such as difficulty of emptying, and resistance to the pack feel of certain products, pouches are unlikely to totally replace cans, and are seen as a complementary form of packaging.”

One leading European producer of these pre-made pouches – Frantschach Flexibles & Release – makes pouches for food, pet food, personal care products, detergents and cleaning agents. Made from stable materials that can be pasteurised and sterilised, the pouches are aseptic and durable, guaranteeing a good shelf life.

Not only is the aroma of coffee or cheese retained in its full, original strength but the optional zipper makes it possible to preserve freshness and aroma even after the pouch has been opened. For dog and cat food, eye-catching photo-realistic glossy printing is a decisive factor in the purchase decision. Pet owner satisfaction is greatly enhanced by the convenience of being able to open the pouches easily and cleanly by hand thanks to laser perforation and tear notches.

Whether as primary or refill packaging, stand-up pouches are ideal containers for all liquid personal care products. Features include reclosable spouts and contouring for easy pouring. Pack dimensions can be determined according to product.

These user-friendly characteristics also make the stand-up pouch an outstanding solution for household cleaning products, car care products and building chemicals.

Although Parkside International has only had pouch making capabilities for around three years, the company is quickly developing a reputation for providing high performance stand up and flat pouches to a range of markets including pet food, personal care, beverages, DIY, foods and horticulture.

“Although food-based products still account for a large percentage of the stand up pouch market, more and more brand owners from non-food markets are beginning to realise that the innovative format offers endless opportunities to any type of product,” says Parkside’s pouch business manager Warren James.

“The stand up pouch market continues to grow across Europe at a considerable rate with forecasts predicting the market will have doubled by 2006 as the concept makes inroads into markets previously dominated by the likes of tin, glass, cartons and PET containers.

“The pouch can provide exciting branding opportunities due to its excellent PoS impact, its fresh and modern perception, together with an environmentally friendly image that generates consumer confidence,” continues James.

“The benefits are not just confined to branding opportunities as the practical advantages are evident. The consumer can benefit as the pouch is easier and safer to open, offers portability and recloseability applications and can also reduce the effects of breakage.

“Parkside is equipped with advanced pouch making technologies that allow pouches to be produced with more consistency than has previously been possible. The latest in pouch making machinery enables Parskide to reduce make ready times, provide quick job changeover periods and allow pouches to be produced on a single web.

“We have pouch making capabilities that can offer a broad, fast and flexible product proposition to our customers. This means that we can supply flexo or gravure pouches in a variety of sizes, with applications including reclosable zippers, handles and euro slots.

“We are also committed to meeting specific customer requirements through bespoke projects. Ongoing developments include flexo-printed, fully retortable, solventless, laminated pouches, side-gusseted pouches, spout applications, innovatively shaped designs and liquid and dry goods dispensing packs that are ideal for food service markets.”

Innovative concepts

Alcan Packaging’s Midsomer Norton UK pouch-manufacturing facility provides customers such as Baxters and Cadbury’s with innovative concepts. The Alcan range of flat and stand-up pouches includes pre-made pouches for cheese wedges, peelable vacuum pouches for fish, meat and cheese products, reclosable zipper pouches and spouted pouches for both liquid and granular based products.

“Pouches are a significant growth area for Alcan Packaging as brand owners seek alternative packs to increase shelf impact and differentiate their product ranges,” says business manager Nick Mabbutt.

Alcan’s Ceramis coated material provides a cost-effective, clear alternative to metallised pouches. Its silicon-oxide coating gives it exceptional barrier properties and has the added benefit of being retortable and microwavable. Customers can take full advantage of ambient freshness and achieve shelf-life characteristics to rival products packed in aluminium cans.

The pouch can be printed in a variety of colours around a window if desired to show to the consumer the high product quality. Ceramis has a higher barrier to moisture, oxygen and aromas than metallised film. The material is also resistant to creases and cracks and results in lower disposal costs than PVDC or EVOH.

Gualapack premade flexible pouches have proved a great success in the cosmetic field. Following the winning introduction of Tony & Guy hair conditioners and shampoo last year, Boots has decided to extend the use of Gualapack pouches to other Boots counter lines.

Boots and pouches

Earlier this year Boots launched two sun lotions and one after sun lotion under the brand Soltan, packaged in Gualapack 50 or 100ml stand-up pouches with central nozzle and cap. Recloseability, safeness, ease of use, differentiation and fun are the reasons for their choice.

The French beauticians Yves Rocher launched a facemask in a Gualapack 75ml stand-up pouch last May. The product is sold under the brand Biospecific. When positioned on the shelf, the shining decoration and the metallised effect of the rotogravure-printed, multi-layer laminate immediately attracts the consumer.

But Gualapack’s innovative pouch development has not been restricted to the cosmetics sector. Snacking is becoming a way of life, especially with young people. In a bid to encourage the young to return to healthier products Kellogg’s has launched a new fruit-based snack in the UK called Screamin’ Fruit Squidgers in three flavours – apple, blackcurrant and strawberry.

The packaging chosen by Kellogg’s is a stand-up pouch by Gualapack containing 80g of smooth thick pulp made with over 90% fruit and fruit juice. It offers kids an exciting new way to snack. The pack doesn’t need a spoon so it’s easy to eat and, as it’s resealable, there isn’t any mess. For those who prefer chocolate and vanilla to the fruits, the Swiss company Nutrifrais has launched a milk-based dessert in two flavours. Pocket cream is the name of the product that is packed in a 150g Gualapack stand-up pouch targeting children and teenagers and distributed under the brand TAM TAM.

Rise of the Tenzalope

API Tenza, reputed to be Europe’s largest manufacturer of packing list envelopes, produces about 600M Tenzalopes a year at its factory in Saxmundham.

Tenzalopes were developed to carry packing list and other distribution documents for parcels in a secure, watertight, low cost manner. This is still the major application but they are increasingly used for penalty notices, work tickets and promotional items.

The traditional clear or printed Tenzalopes are now supplemented with those made using high clarity or co-extruded films. Adhesives have also been developed to allow application in deep freeze conditions for the frozen food industry; to be peelable from reusable packaging and to have a high ‘grab’ on cartons made with recycled board that has a high silicone content.

Current adhesive developments are focusing on removal from glass and other removable applications.

Release liners have been developed to give different performance characteristics. To aid automation, die-cut Tenzalopes supplied on a roll for application by a label applicator have also been developed and can be supplied on rolls or a continuous fan-folded pack.

Development of Tenzalopes that will be able to be filled automatically is currently underway. This will enable high volume users to save the labour associated with manual filling.

In recent years the growth of Internet and other home shopping has been the major growth area for Tenzalopes.

There has also been a move towards resealable products that can be opened and closed several times so that the documents can be removed and inspected at customs.