According to Smithers Pira, the flexible packaging industry is expected to reach $231 billion by 2018. Cindy Collins, flexible packaging business development manager at Avery Dennison, states that flexible packaging is the second largest packaging segment, accounting for roughly 20% of the industry.
Foils, as well as metalized films and high barrier films are prevalent in this space. The trends include industrial and hard-to-hold applications. “These types of structure require higher barrier and better performance than other segments of packaging,” says Collins. “They require a much higher chemical resistance in barrier than you would typically need in a food application or general personal care.”
Single-use packaging is growing in popularity too, especially as brands target convenience. Many customers are also seeking transparency with their packaging, which offers a window into the product. “It’s much like the trend in the pressure sensitive arena where labels went from paper to clear because people wanted to be able to see what’s going on inside,” explains Collins. “That’s a trend that followed in flexible packaging.”
Collins also notes the increasing importance of sustainability in the flexible packaging space. The goal is to make the materials thinner while still retaining the integrity of the packaging. “Flexible packaging still provides a total carbon footprint that is much less than a rigid container,” says Collins. “The reality is flexible packaging creates less waste in the manufacturing process, and then there’s also less waste in our landfills.”
One of Avery Dennison's newest launches in the flexible packaging space is its ChemControl Portfolio. The new product line, which was introduced at Labelexpo Americas 2016, is designed to protect hard-to-hold contents. “People typically want to take advantage of all the things flexible packaging brings, being environmentally friendly, the transportation, the storage, the cost; everybody wants to take advantage of that,” says Collins. ‘The problem is having products that are robust enough to hold these types of ingredients. Our ChemControl Portfolio is specifically designed to be highly chemical resistant and hold these contents that tend to be more aggressive, and it’s an area we’re going to continue to focus on and grow.”
The portfolio replaces the Barex resin, and the materials have undergone stringent lab testing to certify applications using harsher ingredients. In addition to offering the equivalent of Barex resins, ChemControl laminations resist permeation and provide excellent barriers to oxygen, moisture, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
The company is also providing customers with an enhanced Stickpak Portfolio. The expansion is designed to help with single-serve packaging. The Freedonia Group cites a projected 5.6% growth rate for stick packaging, which will exceed tube growth–projected at 3.8%–through 2018. Stickpacks can be used for powders, dry goods and liquids, and promotes convenience.
“We’re focusing on this area to provide a host of products, not only for the end use application but also for the equipment that’s being developed and sold,” says Collins. “It’s ease of use for all the people in the value chain.”
The Stickpack’s easy open, no-notch options feature Stickpak Surlyn 350HB, which the company says is an easy to tear OPS film laminated to a Surlyn sealant. The new Cello Stickpak Surlyn 300 HB features a sustainable cellulose face with enhanced printability.
Even though label converters are exploring the flexible packaging space, Collins says that there is a learning curve associated with the transition. “Going from producing labels to flexible packaging is not a slam dunk,” she says. “There are certainly a lot of education and understanding of the process and requirements that’s different from labels. Flexible packaging is actually taking the place of the rigid container that the label would be applied to.”
While it can be a challenge, Collins adds that there is an opportunity for Avery Dennison to work with and educate narrow web converters. "Converters can better understand how to run and sell the materials, as well as how to develop new business," she says.