The stand-up pouch (hereafter, the pouch) has lately become the darling of both brand owners and retailers alike. Applications include food & beverage, yard & garden, home improvement, fishing & gaming, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals—the list goes on. With so much going for it, the pouch deserves analysis, not just for its applications, but also for its examples about the power of packaging. Restated: what does the pouch stand for?Standing for protection
The pouch can be constructed from a range of materials, in accordance with a product's protection requirements. From single-material constructions to those incorporating barrier plies (i.e. foil and metallized), pouches can protect against moisture, light, oxygen, aroma loss, odor pick-up, puncture, and abrasion.
As is always the case, protection should be pursued with an eye toward cost. Too much protection can waste money just as surely as too little. Start with thorough knowledge of the product itself. Once product knowledge is converted into protection requirements, it makes sense to consider whether those requirements can be fulfilled by stock pouches rather than pricier custom designs. Stock is available in various sizes and constructions. If custom is determined to be the way to go, be aware that protection is a function of materials and of gauge, and a balance between the two is the way to achieve optimal cost-efficiency. Standing for communication
Regarding shelf impact, the bottom gusset that enables the pouch to stand gives it a leg up, so to speak, on non-freestanding flexible packaging. It also allows the pouch to compete against rigid packaging. Additionally beneficial is the geometry of the pouch: front and back panels make up the vast majority of the total area, providing twin billboards for carrying product communication and for conveying brand image.
Keep in mind that elements to be considered range beyond colors, depictions, and text. Shape is important, too. Instead of the conventionally-paneled pouch, the brand owner can choose a customized die-cut shape. It carries a cost premium, which should be weighed against the brand-building potential of such customization.
Should the brand owner order printed pouches or unprinted ones and afterwards apply labels? Printed is better at communicating a quality, upscale brand image. Moreover, the quantities at which printing becomes economically justified are modest and well within the reach of even small companies. As such, no company needlessly should forego the printed option, given its ability to add punch to communications.
As for printing method, there are two to speak of: flexography and rotogravure, requiring investments in plates and cylinders, respectively. Flexography (traditionally the cheaper) yields credible results but those from rotogravure are sharper. The decision comes down to considerations and trade-offs, based on desired shelf impact.
Unprinted areas can communicate, too, especially when there is an advantage to being able to view the product. In that circumstance, a clear pouch or one with a "window" can be the answer, provided the product is not subject to damage from exposure to light.
Regardless of printing method, take advantage of the time-saving opportunities made possible by the computer age. These days, artwork can be developed, sent, evaluated, and approved, digitally, using programs (Adobe, for example) in combination with conveyances as simple as an e-mail attachment. Standing for convenience
Retailers prize the convenience of easy stocking that the pouch provides. Shelves can be stocked speedily, without the annoying slowdown of packages toppling or of having to position non-standing packages inside a display rack. Some products are meant to be displayed on peg racks, so consider designing the pouch with a peg hook or hole at the top.
As for the consumer, the convenience of uprightness carries over to the cabinet, refrigerator, counter, table, ground, work surface—wherever. Beyond the feature that gives the pouch its name are other conveniences. Ease-of-opening is one, in that the pouch can embody a notch at the top for tear-opening. For larger sizes, where contents won't be consumed in one use, there's the resealable zipper. And for even larger sizes, handles (either attached or die-cut) can be incorporated for ease-of-transport.Standing for sustainability?
As for sustainability, the pouch has pluses and minuses. On the plus side is the pouch's lighter weight relative to rigid packages. That advantage is parlayed into savings in transportation costs most notably; and since the pouches are stored flat, warehousing space savings also accrue. Also citable are savings in fork-truck operating costs because more empty pouches can be handled per trip than with rigid packages.
On the minus side, the pouch is vulnerable to criticism for its use of plastic. Furthermore, a pouch that is a lamination can be decried for not being readily recyclable or reusable. Okay, no package is perfect. More instructive than that cliché is that the pouch is an example of the priorities that often rule in these types of evaluations; namely, functionality and convenience can go a long way in countering alleged deficiencies relative to greenness. Standing in the wings
In forecasting the future of the pouch, one can start with its compatibility with products across a wide range of characteristics: liquid, powder, granular, particulate, and discrete shapes. As such, brand-owners from a variety of industries and product categories, looking for a proven way to differentiate, will consider the pouch. The rate of adoption will accelerate with advances on the machinery front, as increased filling and sealing speeds make the pouch even more attractive.
Another impetus will be the growing ranks of contract packagers equipped to run the pouch, providing production options. Brand-owners can satisfy test markets and new launches, for example, while meeting speed-to-market requirements and postponing capital investment until it's economically justified.
In summary, for all the reasons given herein and for those not mentioned due to space limitations, the pouch will continue to experience a respectable rate of growth and evolution. At least that's how it looks from where I stand. Sterling Anthony
is a consultant, specializing in the strategic use of marketing, logistics, and packaging. His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-176, Detroit, MI 48243; 313-531-1875 office; 313-531-1972 fax; [email protected]