Flexible packaging is a method of presenting goods in a more affordable and adaptable way by using flexible packaging materials that aren’t rigid. When compared to traditional packaging, it is a relatively new technique in the packaging industry, but it has gained popularity because of its great effectiveness and low cost.
This form of packaging makes pouches, bags, and other pliable product containers out of a range of flexible materials, including foil, plastic, and paper. Flexible packaging is especially valuable for sectors like the food and beverage, personal care, and pharmaceutical industries that need adaptable packaging.
Types of Flexible Packaging
Flexible packaging is often made in either formed or unformed configurations and comes in a number of materials, sizes, and forms. Unformed items normally arrive on a roll and are delivered to co-packers for forming and filling, whereas formed products are pre-shaped with the option of filling and sealing yourself in-house. Flexible packaging is made of materials that are simple to modify and combine in new and unique ways to create styles like:
- Sample Pouches: Made of film or foil and heat-sealed, sample pouches are tiny packages used to hold samples. Typically, they are pre-formed for simple internal filling and sealing.
- Printed Pouches: Sample pouches with printed information about the brand and the product are used for marketing.
- Sachets: Sachets are flat packets comprised of multiple layers of wrapping. For single-use pharmaceutical and personal care goods, they are often utilised. When distributing samples at trade shows, these are fantastic.
- Printed Roll Stock: that has been printed with product information is made up of unformed bag material. Sending these rolls to a co-packer for shaping, filling, and sealing
- Stock Bags: Stock bags are straightforward, blank-form bags or pouches. You can use these as plain bags or pouches or you can attach a label on them to advertise your business.
Benefits of Flexible Packaging in the Food Industry
1. Extended Shelf Life
Image source: Packaging Strategies
One of the main benefits of flexible packaging for the food industry is that it extends the shelf life of food products. By creating a barrier between the food and the external environment, flexible packaging helps to prevent spoilage caused by exposure to moisture, air, and light. This can help to reduce food waste and increase the profitability of food manufacturers and retailers.
In Malaysia, food waste is a major concern, with an estimated 15,000 tonnes of food waste generated daily. This waste not only represents a loss of valuable resources but also has negative environmental impacts, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
To combat food waste and improve food packaging in Malaysia, the government has introduced initiatives such as the Food Loss and Waste Reduction Action Plan and the Malaysia Food Bank Program. These initiatives aim to reduce food waste and improve food packaging and distribution to ensure that food is delivered to consumers in a safe and sustainable manner.
Flexible packaging is easy to handle, store, and transport as compared to rigid packaging. It is lightweight and can be shaped into a variety of forms, making it ideal for both retail and industrial applications.
Essentially, it is ideal for a wide range of ready-to-go foods due to its convenience, portability, and ability to maintain freshness. Some examples of ready-to-go foods that are commonly packaged in flexible packages include:
- Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn are often packaged in flexible packaging such as foil-lined bags or stand-up pouches. These packages help to keep the snacks fresh and prevent them from becoming stale.
- Ready-to-Eat Meals such as soups, stews, and pasta dishes are packaged in flexible pouches or cups. These packages are often designed to be microwaved, making them a convenient option for consumers who want a quick and easy meal on-the-go.
- Sandwiches and Wraps are often packaged in flexible wraps or bags. These packages help to protect the contents from moisture and air, keeping them fresh and preventing them from becoming soggy.
- Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can also be packaged in flexible packaging such as mesh bags or resealable pouches. These packages help to protect the contents from damage and extend their shelf life.
- Dried Fruit and Nuts: Dried fruits and nuts such as raisins, almonds, and cashews are often packaged in flexible pouches or bags. These packages help to keep the contents fresh and protect them from moisture and air.
Image source: Flexible Packaging Europe
Determining the most cost-effective type of food packaging depends on various factors, such as the type of food being packaged, the distribution method, and the target market. However, in general, flexible packaging is considered the most cost-effective type of food packaging when compared to traditional rigid packaging.
Packaging products with flexible packaging requires less material to produce as compared to other types of packaging such as glass or rigid plastic. Due to its cost-effective nature (lighter), this means that it is cheaper to produce and transport, hence resulting in lower production and shipping costs.
4. Branding Opportunities
Flexible packaging offers a variety of branding opportunities that other types of packaging may not be able to provide, making it a popular choice for many food manufacturers and retailers in the packaging market.
This is because it can be printed using a variety of techniques, including flexographic printing, rotogravure printing, and digital printing. This allows for high-quality, eye-catching designs that can help to differentiate a product from its competitors.
Flexible packaging can be customized in a variety of ways to suit the needs of a particular brand or product. For example, it can be designed in different shapes and sizes, and can be printed with unique patterns, logos, or messaging that reflects the brand’s identity and values.
Image source: Flexible Packaging Europe
Many types of flexible packaging are recyclable or made from renewable resources, which can help food manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Moreover, it can also be made from recyclable materials, such as paper and certain types of plastic, which can be reused or recycled. Flexible packaging can be made from biodegradable materials, which decompose quickly and safely when disposed of.
New, sustainable materials are constantly being developed and tested for flexible packaging. For example, plant-based materials like PLA and PHA are emerging as eco-friendly alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics, and offer a more sustainable option for flexible packaging.
6. Food Safety
Flexible packaging can be designed to provide a high level of food safety. For example, it can act as a barrier to protect food from external factors such as moisture, oxygen, light, and microorganisms. This can help prevent spoilage, contamination, and microbial growth, which can compromise the safety and quality of the food.
More importantly, it can be utilised to package food in individual portions, which can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of foodborne illnesses. This is especially important in settings that require versatile packaging such as hospitals, schools, and workplaces where many people may share a common food source.