Pouches Flex Their Marketing Muscles

Good looking and functional, too, pouches are taking on rigid packaging.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) spout is heat-sealed to the corner of each Maison Le Grand pouch. The spout helps reduce oxidation after the package is opened by restricting the flow of air back into the pouch. After opening, the products do need to be refrigerated.

In addition to their functional attributes, the pouches make a splash on-shelf. Like Campbell's pouches, Maison Le Grand's are decorated using reverse-print rotogravure. This technique provides excellent print quality, and because the printing is on the inner side of the film's top layer, graphics and text are protected from scuffing.

Although it's difficult to quantify the sales effect of switching to pouches, the change has helped the company build brand awareness. "The impact for our company has been enormous," says Claudia Maciocia, Maison Le Grand's sales and marketing director.

She adds, "Thanks to the packaging, we immediately stood out in our category, and the packaging offered a way for us to advertise. Catchy and immediately visible on the shelf, [the pouches] draw attention and communicate to our consumers in the few seconds that they have to make a decision. The change to Flair's stand-up pouches was undoubtedly a major turning point for Le Grand and is a major contributor to the brand recognition that we have."

Pick a pouch of produce
Pouches are gradually infiltrating the produce department, as well. Freshline Foods Ltd. (www.freshlinefoods.com), Mississauga, Ontario, has switched from rigid plastic cups to breathable stand-up pouches for various fresh fruits and vegetables, including sliced apples and root vegetables.

Freshline's resealable pouches hold 400g, on average, and the pouch material is engineered with gas transmission properties suited to each product's respiration rate.

"Produce is a naturally breathing item. Having a breathable bag actually helps with the shelf life," says Noel Brigido, vice president of operations at Freshline. "We can custom tailor the OTR [oxygen transmission rate] to the product" to achieve the proper respiration rate.

Compared with rigid cups, the pouches extend the products' shelf life by about 20 percent, Brigido says, but notes that this percentage is a "great average. Some have been upwards of 40 percent," while others are already at, or near, maximum shelf life in the cups.

In addition to helping with shelf life, Freshline's pouches provide merchandising and consumer benefits. The sliced-apple pouch, for example, has a transparent window to showcase the product, and its colorful, high-end graphics are superior to those on rigid produce packs. Plus, the pouch makes a convenient snack pack and fits into a consumer's refrigerator more easily than a cup.

Switching to premade pouches also made sense operationally. Brigido reports that rigid cups take up five times more space than pouches; therefore, with the pouches, transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions are lower and Freshline can use its warehouse space more efficiently.

Foodservice operators say YES
In the foodservice market, demand for ease of use and improved yield are pushing brand owners to get more creative with pouch designs. Earlier this year, Kraft Foodservice (www.kraftfoodservice.com), Glenview, Ill., introduced an innovation called the Kraft YES Pack for foodservice operations ranging from college cafeterias to fine-dining restaurants.

Kraft Foodservice Yes Pouch
Click on the image
for an enlarged view

The squared-off pouch, designed with dual handles and a rigid plastic mouth, holds one gallon of salad dressing. The package is made of a high-strength, flexible nylon-polyethylene blend film.

The Kraft YES Pack was developed to replace traditional rigid one-gallon jugs, says Barbara Pritikin, senior manager of Kraft Foodservice, Integrated Marketing Communications. "Its design is based on ... operator needs for increased yield, ease of use and sustainability," the three benefits to which the YES acronym alludes.

The yield benefit, which Kraft quantifies as an extra 2 oz. of dressing per two-pouch case, is a function of the package's squeezability. According to Kraft, kitchen workers can dispense up to 99 percent of the product from the pouch.

Product handling is where the "ease" comes in. The pouch's handles provide a controlled, accurate pour and easy carrying. As a side benefit, the mess of scraping residual dressing out of a jug is eliminated.

With regard to sustainability, Kraft reports that transporting the pouch film generates 70 percent fewer carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) emissions than transporting rigid jugs, and the pouches require 50 percent less energy to manufacture.

Currently, Kraft offers eight dressings in the YES Pack, and the pouch is piquing foodservice operators' interest. Pritikin says they're attracted to the package design, and when they hear about its yield, ease and sustainability features, they "often ask why someone did not introduce this type of concept sooner."

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