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A Clear and Pleasant Flexibility: The Supermarket and Flexible Films

What the supermarket can tell you about flexible films

February 2014 By Noel Ward
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You can learn a lot about flexible packaging trends by going to the grocery store. So let's take a walk.

Stroll down the pet food aisle and look at the sizes and shapes of packages and you see fewer and fewer paper bags of dry dog and cat food and more and more colorful flexible film containers from smaller size standup pouches to bags big enough to feed a kennel of Great Danes. A couple aisles over in the baking needs section, many mixes for cakes and muffins and brownies are also wrapped in flexo printed films. The purveyors of these products and more are increasingly eschewing paper and chipboard containers in favor of flexible packaging films.

"Flexible films are growing and continuing to grow," affirms Steve Crimmin, U.S. director of sales and marketing for RKW Dana Films. "And most of that growth is at the expense of rigid packaging like chipboard, rigid plastic, glass, metal. Flexible is hot and it's not going to cool down."

And it's not just in packages that hold an entire product. The use of films extends to wraps on bottles and to labels, especially in the food and personal care sectors.

"With continued growth of squeezable containers in the food and personal care sectors, we see a need to offer films with the squeezability of polyethylene and the superior print and conversion characteristics of polypropylene," notes Kim Hensley, product manager for MACtac Printing Products. "Squeezable containers require label materials that will accept deformation at low force and recover completely."

Look and Feel

With eight- and 10-color flexo presses being the norm for most flexographic shops, the ability to make what is basically a plastic surface look like just about anything you want is a key advantage of flexible films. "The versatility of these substrates is a big deal," notes Crimmin. "You can make a polyethylene container look like paper, and that can be part of the brand or product image."

Take Clif Bar for example. The energy/protein snack bar company wraps its products in an extruded film that looks much like a plain paper wrapping. Does this better entice core "outdoorsy" customers who may be more inclined to purchase a product wrapped in paper? Maybe. But the distinctive flexible wrapping stands out on shelves and conveys an image that's appropriate for the product and its market. Will the company next lose its chipboard boxes and put wrapped bars in flexible pouches? Time will tell, but don't be surprised if it does.



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