Find out what equipment suppliers are doing to provide customers with the best of the best when it comes to flexible packaging.

These days, it’s all about the next best thing, whether it’s quieter, faster, cleaner, more efficient or just plain better. That’s why many equipment manufacturers are developing machinery that offers  more flexible options.

Dairy Field Reports interviewed a few suppliers about their flexible packaging lines; here are their answers.

DFR: What are dairy processors demanding from flexible packaging?

Steve Gosling, president, Cheer Pack North America, Plymouth, Mass.: I believe the dairy industry is looking for the next new packaging system. The present packaging formats (yogurt cups, small pet bottles) have not seen any major changes in some time. Other food packaging categories have started to switch over to flexible pouches to expand their markets and meet customer demands. Flexible packaging with spouts offers reclosability, convenience and new marketing opportunities.

Scott Bossong, marketing director, dairy packaging, Sealed Air – Cryovac Food Packaging, Duncan, S.C.: Processors are looking for savings to be competitive, be it through materials or processing efficiencies (automation). They continue to look for convenience at the consumer level – easy-open/recloseable or any feature that makes life easier for the consumer. Sustainability – anything that meets the green scorecard and is better for the market.

Jim Mallon, vice president, sales and marketing, MRI Flexible Packaging, Newtown, Pa.: Speed (new product to markets and service on existing SKUs [stock-keeping units]), lower costs consumables and total applied costs, sustainability, graphic appeal, more SKUs and tech support.

DFR: What are the latest innovations and trends in flexible packaging, i.e., new technologies?

Gosling: Spouted flexible pouches are the latest trend in flexible packaging. Flexible pouches offer many benefits over traditional dairy packaging, such as reclosability, better shelf appeal and travel and use convenience.

Bossong: I think we will continue to see strides in sustainability – material down-gauging, materials that are biodegradable and packaging features that reduce product and food waste (better storage) without sacrificing protection of the product. I think we will see more emphasis on convenience for the consumer with better easy-open mechanisms that are more efficient.

Mallon: Lighter weight gauge films and sustainability.

DFR: What types of products have you developed or are you developing to meet industry needs?

Gosling: Cheer Pack North America supplies spouted flexible pouches to a wide range of dairy products. Ice cream, yogurt, pudding, custard and whole milk product can all be packaged with Cheer Pack pouches and filling equipment. This technology is new to North America, but has been used in Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim for over 18 years. To date, a single source for flexible pouches, filling equipment and knowhow was not available in North America until recently.

Bossong: We continue to enhance our easy-open bag materials – Grip & Tear, Portion Pull – these packages allow the consumer to consistently open the cheese package without damaging the cheese or using a knife.

Our new portion pull package allows the consumer to minimize product waste by exposing only what they plan to consume.  Our bags are extremely tough and now we’ve found a way for the consumer to benefit from the toughness without fighting to get the package open.

Multi-seal product line that allows the consumer to reap the benefits of a true easy-open/recloseable package. In the past, the adhesives couldn’t be trusted for multiple closures. Our new technology confidently assures that the package will open and close multiple times. We continue to expand this product line for multiple applications such as sliced, cubed and chunked cheese. We have even branched into flexible bottom webs that allow the customer to use existing rollstock equipment without costly tooling changes. Renew-a-Pak is a biodegradable tray, which is made from a bamboo/tapioca base.  The tray is completely compostable and can be disposed in the paper recycling stream. The tray is microwaveable and comes in custom shapes, sizes and colors.

BLX-F1 loader allows the processor to automatically load cheese in sizes ranging 6 ounces to 5 pounds. The new loader can run up to 60 pieces per minute depending on the cheese size and configuration. We can actually conduct a “Total Cost of Ownership” analysis in the customer’s plant to help justify the savings associated with integrating the equipment into their packaging line.

Mallon: C-FiT [an easy-to-apply no-heat shrink sleeve label] and C-PaK Sleeve, new heatless shrink sleeve look via stretch sleeve technology.

DFR: What kinds of challenges do dairy processors face when dealing with flexible packaging? What are you doing to help them overcome these challenges?

Gosling: The main challenges dairy processors face in dealing with flexible packaging is the investment in new machinery and technology and coordinating everything involved with the transition. Cheer Pack North America is an all-in-one solution for brand owners looking at production capabilities for their flexible packaging requirements. All aspects of the involved in bringing the spouted pouch to market can be handled by one single source.

Bossong: Sustainability and environment – we continue to develop materials that improve storage and reduce waste. The net effect is less packaging going to the landfill and less food wasted. We are also constantly researching technologies that allow us down gauge materials without compromising package integrity or product protection. Lower processing costs to stay competitive – we continue to develop and offer automation as part of a systems approach to reduce labor costs and improve efficiencies. Our BL110 and BLX-F1 loaders allow processors to do this.

Mallon: Timeliness, service and new projects. [We provide] state-of-the-art in-house prepress digital direct, speed and flexibility, inventory programs, multiple SKU combination runs and partnerships with application machine equipment suppliers for seamless new project start-ups.

DFR: What’s next on the horizon for flexible packaging?

Gosling: I foresee the development of aseptic filling equipment and packaging as being next on the horizon of flexible packaging. Our business partner, Gualapack in Italy, is at the R&D stage of testing and is confident of a new solution for early next year.

Bossong: I think you will see an expansion in convenience features that allow the consumer to easily access and store product. Products such as multi-seal will branch into other areas where consumers are frustrated with zippers and inconsistent closures. Sustainability will continue to be of strong interest as mentioned above. I think companies will continue to come up with ways to reduce waste.

Mallon: Post consumer recycled content, increasing print graphic expectation and the environment – sustainability, real solutions, innovative thinking.

Cheer Pack North America
MRI Flexible Packaging
Sealed Air – Cryovac Food Packaging