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Common flexible packaging performance descriptions

Historically, packaging professionals have thought about the functions of packages in major ‘buckets;' one set of buckets is comprised of Protection, Utility, and Motivation...

In this construct, a package protects a product (and itself) from the rigors of shipping, distribution, storage and use, with the objective of minimizing waste through the entire chain of production and use of a product. A consumer pays for a product and expects to receive full value - packages play a crucial role in delivering that value.

Packages provide utility to consumers and users by doing more than containing the product to the point of use; opening and reclose features, detailed instructions or tips for using the product, ability to perform as a cooking device or reuse possibilities are examples of functions a package can provide to simplify the consumer’s experience of extracting the value they’ve paid for the product.

Before consumers realize the value of the product/package combination, a positive purchase decision must take place. Packages help motivate these decisions by presenting the product and its desirable attributes to consumers in a way that the product/package standout from the cacophony of choices available at the store. Appearance and style connect the consumer’s needs and expectations to the product, and in this respect in particular, the package truly is the product. 

Getting beyond the big buckets, let’s think about some, but by no means all, of the more detailed functions that film packages provide. The remainder of this article will help you focus on which attributes.

Physical Containment

• Able to achieve hermetic seals that completely contain the product, protecting it from spilling or gross contamination from the environment.
• Opening and reseal features that facilitate multiple package accesses/uses while securely containing the product;.
• Toughness that prevents breaching of package walls by outside physical forces or abuse.
•Tamper-evident features that help ensure the product integrity for use (or that its even there!).
• Bundling multiple objects, including packages, together for transport or sale.

Tailored Transmission

• Able to customize the rate of transmission of gases through the walls of sealed packages.
• At the high barrier end of the spectrum, providing extremely low rates for long term storage of sterilized food at room temperatures or medications in humid environments.
• At the low-barrier end, very hight rates for breathable produce packages, with the ability to create customized levels for individual produce items.
• Controlled venting of steam released in microwave heating to speed cooking while maintaining product moisture and avoiding leakage.
Package Appearance
• Provide smooth surface for high quality printed images, including the ability to bury the print beneath the outside package layer for extra gloss and sparkle and resistance to abrasion.
• Easily incorporate pigmentation to provide uniformly colored packages that protect products against damaging light frequencies.
• Easily fabricated into a variety of label varieties, including whole body labels that shrink to conform to complex primary package shapes.
• Able to customize force required to slide packaging material or package against other materials, optimized for packaging machine ease of operation or to prevent items from sliding relative to each other in distribution.
• Able to customize package sealing response to a wide variety of package machine sealing methods and conditions, permitting fast dependable production of sealed packages.
• Able to withstand post fill processing, from freezing through high temperature & humidity or radiation sterilization.
Consumer Performance
• Pop corn or brown and crisp foods in the microwave.
• Vacuum pack food or personal items for long term storage (shelf life).
• Cook roasts, whole turkeys, etc. in conventional ovens (ovenability).

Specializing in flexible packaging, the author spent 30 years leading package development at several prominent packaging converters.


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