If you walked into a grocery store prior to 1809, you would find all of the food stored in cloth bags, wood crates, and glass jars. In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte offered 12,000 fracs to any packaging developer who created a transportable way to preserve food for the French military. This is when canned goods entered the market. Soon, all mass-produced foods were packaged in tin cans, or paper goods such as cardboard boxes and paper bags.
In 1953, the development of plastics created a flexible, lightweight, and airtight way to package, store, and distribute food. Although plastic packaging has existed for over 60 years, the last decade has ushered plastic developments that have led to a domination of plastic material in the food packaging market. A few trends in plastic flexible packaging products that are here to stay include:
- Pouch Packaging
Pouch packaging is lighter weight, easier to transport, and makes a more visually appealing display than that of cans and jars. This has given pouch packaging the opportunity to quickly take the place of traditional packaging. For example, non-perishable meats such as tuna and cooked chicken used to be strictly stored in aluminum cans. Now, it is more common to find these items in flexible pouch packaging. Likewise, glass baby food jars that were a staple of the baby food industry just a decade ago are quickly disappearing and being replaced with pouch packaging that are safer, remove glass from an area that babies are in, and make feeding times more convenient.
- Resealable Packaging
Advancements in resealable zippers have become widespread in the food packaging industry. You’ll find that the cereal aisle now displays resealable bags for cereal packaging both for high-end organic cereals and the cost-effective generic brands. The resealable feature maintains freshness of the food for far longer than the classic bag-in-a-box set up that is not airtight. Other areas that resealable flexible packaging has made an appearance in include detergents, cosmetics, grains, and even pet food.
- Sustainable Packaging
Flexible packaging has become popular with environmentally conscious people, as the flexible plastics have greater potential to be made from recycled material than rigid materials. Additionally, the compact shipment of flexible packaging containers saves massive amounts of energy in production and shipment. Studies show that one truckload of flattened flexible pouches equals the same holding capacity of as many as 25 truckloads of rigid containers and require 60% less energy to create. The sustainability aspect of flexible product packaging makes it a an appealing option for health food stores and environmentally conscious food distributors.
- Creative Packaging Design
The manufacturing of flexible packaging offers a more broad range for creative options than their glass, cardboard, and aluminum counterparts. For example, it is fairly simple to create flexible packaging in a custom shape that promotes a product’s branding. Other popular flexible packaging options include stand-up pouches and packages with spouts that make them more convenient for using. The diverse functionality and design potential for flexible product packaging makes it a trend that is not going away.
With the invention of tin cans, Napoleon Bonaparte created a packaging trend in 1809 that permanently replaced all conventional packaging solutions, as they were less expensive and provided a longer shelf-life than wood crates and cloth bags. This used to be the greatest development in food packaging, until flexible plastics hit the scene. Now, flexible plastics are more sustainable, convenient, cost-effective, and diverse than any packaging trend we’ve seen before.