Dairy processors have so many specific needs that it's sometimes hard to look at new and innovative packaging forms and imaging them being used for milk, cheese or other dairy products. But when a package shows as much promise as pouches, it's hard not to imagine the possibilities.

Pouches and bags made with form-fill-seal machines are somewhat ubiquitous, but in recent years, some new incarnations have become the darlings of the packaging industry, thanks to their outstanding shelf-appeal and functionality.

"For the past decade, stand-up' ability to differentiate product at the point of purchase has been tremendous," explains Steve Mogensen, author of Alternative Pouch Formats, a study published by Packaging Strategies. "While stand-ups will continue to experience in some cases as much as 26% CAGR, the ability to gain even greater shelf-appeal and additional functionality via alternative formats will push the entire pouch category exponentially ahead of other packaging formats, both rigid and flexible."

So, while pouches may currently have only limited application in the dairy industry, that might be changing, and smart processors may want to think about pouches as an innovative packaging form.

Cheese is in the bag

The one true success story involving dairy and pouches is that of shredded cheese in a zippered pouch. When Sargento Foods introduced shredded cheese in a recloseable pouch it jump started an entire retail category. Shredded natural cheese is a constantly growing category, and it's a category that offers high margins to manufacturers.

Zip-Pak, Manteno, Ill. developed a zipper seal that made the package resealable. It continues to advance the technology with slide zippers that seal more easily and retortable flexible packages, says Robert Hogan, director of Sales and Marketing.

"Retort pouches and bags are gaining popularity worldwide, and so is the demand for multi-served portions," Hogan says. "The addition of a resealable feature enhances the convenience that a package provides. Consumers can now protect and store unconsumed portions of a product in its original package."

While Zip Pak identifies applications primarily in soups, pet food and tuna, cheese sauce applications are not out of the question.

Luis De La Mora, marketing and international sales mgr. for Rovema USA, Atlanta, says flexible pouches (including standup pouches) offer lots of possibilities for dairy processors.

"We see pouches being use for things like salad dressings, cheese, potato toppers, De La Mora says. "For cheese you can do shredded, grated, and cubes."

Rovema has also packaged fresh mozzarella in pouches, and De La Mora says pouches are very useful for dry milk and dry whey products.

De La Mora, says standup pouches are becoming popular because of their shelf appeal, and are sometimes being used as an alternative to other highly-visible packages.

"Standup pouches are becoming big basically because they offer a better shelf image," he says. "You see a lot of packages that just lay on the shelf. A lot of people want to have an upright package because it is more attractive. In Europe they are moving away from bag in box, and using more pouches and we are starting to see more of that here. Ritz Chips, for instance came out in bag instead of a bag in a box.

The sucess of shredded cheese in the resealable pouch should inspire the innovative dairy processors. Let's see what else pouches can do. n

For a full prospectus or to order a copy of Alternative Pouch Formats, call Packaging Strategies at 610/436-4220 Ext. 11 or online at orders@packastrat.com.