It’s undeniable that flexibles are the fastest growing segment of the packaging industry, expected to reach a market cap of about $248 billion (yes, nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars!) by 2020 according to a recent study by Smithers Pira. In addition to growth among the product classes that are already packaged in flexibles, a number of brand owners are making the switch from rigids. Below, we give you 7 compelling reasons to consider flexible packaging over rigid packaging:
1. Reduced Weight
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of flexible packaging is the reduced packaging weight. Flexible packaging, whether in the form of pouches, bags, or any other style, is significantly lighter in weight when compared to rigid alternatives. This means more product can be filled with less packaging material.
In a comparative case study for raisin packaging, the Flexible Packaging Association found that a flexible pouch utilized at least 70% less packaging material relative to the contents than either of the two rigid alternatives:
|Packaging Style||Product/Content Weight||Packaging Weight||Product-to-Packaging Ratio||Packaging Weight per 100 g Product|
|Round Paperboard Cannister with Plastic Lid||24 ounces (680 g)||39.69 g||17:1||5.83 g|
|Folding Carton with Inner Poly Bag||12 ounces (340 g)||22.68 g||15:1||6.67 g|
|Flexible Pouch (Stand Up Pouch)||24 ounces (680 g)||11.34 g||60:1||1.66 g|
2. Low Transportation Costs
Lowered weight means lowered space requirements, which translates to lowered transportation costs. The space savings offered by flexibles relative to rigids is enormous, especially when considering unfilled or empty packages. To illustrate, one truckload of empty (flat) flexible pouches is about equivalent to 15-25 truckloads of empty rigid containers! That’s a routine savings of at least 14 times for transporting empty packaging to a filler or contract packager!
Unlike most rigid containers, flexible packaging is significantly less likely to incur damage during transport and storage. This resiliency is particularly evident during a drop or other unexpected accident. It also means that customers are less likely to complain of damaged packaging that might compromise the contents. In addition to the overall integrity, the durability of flexible packaging helps better protect the exterior artwork and graphics upon impact.
4. Amazing Barrier Properties (and we mean amazing!)
Most people don’t fully appreciate the excellence of the barrier properties that a flexible laminate can provide, helping maximize shelf life. Whether it’s moisture, oxygen, light, or aroma, a flexible package can be engineered to ensure superior safeguarding from any and all of the above. What’s more is that flexibles allow for the “tweaking” of individual barrier levels through inclusion (or not) of specific materials – driving down material usage. Features such as re-closeable zippers complement these properties to allow for a prolonged duration between first opening the package and finishing the product, all of which screams value to the end consumer.
5. Design Control
From a graphics standpoint, flexibles allow for a greater amount of creativity and control of the packaging’s overal look when compared with other types. Options such as window knockouts, external finishes, and the ability to place artwork anywhere mean limitless permutations for creating unique packaging. Additionally, unlike rigids, the flexible packaging manufacturing process includes both the converting and printing processes – forgoing the need for labels to be secondarily sourced, which often become a bottleneck in the filling process. This also means the ability to make instantaneous changes to graphics or labels, something particularly useful in a time crunch.
6. Better Branding
The most notable advantage of having more control over a packaging’s graphics is improved branding. A market research study found that up to 80% of brand awareness can be lost simply by having poor color selection! Color along with shapes and logos can be a powerful tool to help a product maintain its competitive edge. Further, the ability of a packaging to stand up on its own or take on an interesting shape differentiates it from the crowd, better engraving it in the memory of a consumer. Once a consumer has a positive product experience—which includes liking both the product and its packaging—he or she will tend to assimilate with the brand and develop the loyalty that encourages repeat purchases.
7. Environmentally Friendly
Using flexible packaging instead of rigid packaging results in significant benefits to the environment over the package’s entire life cycle. This includes material and energy savings during manufacturing, vastly lowered space utilization in landfills, and lowered energy and emissions during the distribution process. Another case study by the Flexible Packaging Association analyzed the environmental benefits of using a flexible pouch versus a rigid clamshell for cookies. The results found an equivalent of 87% less coal or 64% less crude oil utilized during manufacturing when switching from rigid to flexible; 79% lowered CO2 emissions during manufacturing; and 69% reduction of solid waste into landfills. These numbers are staggering, and only one of the many reasons to preferentially use flexible packaging whenever possible!