Inventive packaging is one of the many ways to improve the convenience of handling and health aspects of a commodity. Flexible pouch packaging is one such example in the packaging industry which has made the packaging of certain commodities easy and convenient. Flexible pouches offer by far the most space for product packaging. Compared to tin cans and aluminum trays, the percentage of product packed is highest in flexible pouches. The wide variety of these flexible pouches offer unlimited product packaging options. The flexible pouches are even preferred due to its ease of handling, less space occupancy and, given that it doesn’t have a rigid volume, it can be also be fitted in travel cases very easily.
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Flexible pouches are available in various materials and combinations depending on the requirement of the product. The main materials used in flexible pouches are various plastics such as PET, OPP, CPP, PE, OPA; and non-plastics such as aluminum and metallized films. Flexible pouches can be segmented on the basis of the film used over the flexible pouches, the design of the flexible pouches and by end user. The films used in the manufacture of flexible pouches are:
- Co-extruded films
- Laminated films
- Surface printed films
Co-extruded films offer a four to nine layer custom blended packaging option to a wide range of markets. Among co-extruded films, barrier films offer moisture, oxygen and aroma barrier properties. VFFS films offer heat resistance and durability. Laminated films offer vibrant printing on the films. These films offer chemical resistance and liquid containment. These are ideal for frozen products as well. It also ensures integrity of product moisture and aroma. Surface printed films offer a wide range of printed co-extruded films and bags.
Flexible pouches are further segmented based on the way they are designed into the following:
- Retort pouches
- Shaped pouches
- Stand up pouches
- Spouted pouches
Retort pouches use less than 5% of the packaging material, can be customized for any product and is available as flat or stand up pouches. The shaped flexible pouches can be manufactured in accordance with the brand, function and the overall appeal of the product. The spouted flexible pouches have specified closures and fitments based on the product requirements. The spouts can avoid spills, offer better handling and food safety. Additionally, the add-ons also increase the end user convenience of handling, such as laser perforations or hand/punch holes and reclosable zipper locks.
The end users of the flexible pouches are mainly the food and beverages industries, as well as the cosmetics industry. The changing demographics worldwide and modified eating habits of the population has increased the demand for packaged foods over the last several years and this trend is likely to continue over the forecast period, which in turn is anticipated to drive the market for flexible pouches market. Furthermore, the demand for flexible pouches is expected to be the highest in the food and beverages and pharmaceuticals market. With increasing stringent regulations for pharmaceutical packaging and to prevent the presence of fraudulent drugs in the market, including the necessity to maintain the properties of the drugs, it is expected that the market for flexible pouches will increase steadily over the next few years.
The demand for flexible pouches is highest from the Asia Pacific region and is likely to be the highest in terms of growth over the next five years. Rising demand for user friendly packaged goods like packaged food, juices, hand sanitizers or drugs are increasing the demand for flexible pouches. Changing lifestyles and food habits and the growing demand for pharmaceutical products and retail non-food products is expected to drive the demand for flexible pouches in Asia Pacific. The demand for flexible pouches is mostly steady in the developed markets of North America and Europe. In addition to this, the flexible pouches market is highly fragmented due to the presence of many medium and small scale flexible pouch manufacturers globally and region-wise. The key players in flexible pouches market are Amcor Ltd., Mondi Group, Sonoco Products, Huhtamaki Group and Sealed Air Corporation among others.