What is Flexible Packaging?
What is flexible packaging? Your complete guide
Flexible packaging is any kind of packaging that can easily change shape. It’s used in all sorts of industries, from cosmetics to medical supplies, and is widely used in the food industry, where new areas of interest are driving interest and innovation.
With improvement and evolution in materials and design comes an increased need for testing – and full-scale testing solutions. Want to find out more about flexible packaging, its uses and how to test it is fit for purpose? We’ve got everything you need to know right here.
Learn more about our guide to creating the ultimate flexible package here!
What counts as flexible packaging?
Flexible packaging can refer to pouches, containers, or packages. As long as the packaging easily yields and can change shape, even once it’s filled and closed, it falls into the flexible packaging family. It is the alternative offering to rigid packaging, which can’t be readily changed or flexed.
What kind of materials are used in flexible packaging?
From chip bags and juice containers with foil coatings to plastic cereal pouches and candy packets, flexible packaging comes in many different guises. Flexible packaging can also come in single or multilayer forms, allowing the combination of several materials to offer the right kind of protection for the product.
Some of the most common materials used include:
Aluminum foil and metalized substrates
This can provide a 100% barrier against gasses, moisture or light and is often paired with a layer of plastic or paper, to avoid the escape of aroma. It’s commonly used for packaging juice, yogurts, and other foods as well as pharmaceuticals.
A very durable paper with high tensile strength and elasticity, often used in multiwall bags or as a wrapping paper. Popular in construction, food and medical industries for its flexibility and cost efficiency.
Cellulosic and bioplastic film
Easily recyclable, biodegradable and compostable, these films prevent the permeation of oxygen, grease and oils but have poor moisture barrier properties – although this can be improved with lamination. They are currently very popular in the confectionary, snack, food and bakery industries.
Flexible, durable and cost-effective, polymer films are available in many different variations and can offer a selection of properties including good moisture barriers, heat-seal strength, great oxygen barriers and tensile strength. Because there are so many different polymer films with varying properties, it is essential to test each thoroughly and separately.
The rising demand for flexible packaging in the food industry
The rising consumer and manufacturer demand for sustainability across many packaging markets is making itself felt in flexible packaging, especially when it comes to food packaging.
Flexible packaging was also in high demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a massive increase in the number of people bulk ordering goods and also shopping online. This change has been recorded in many countries and the trend is expected to continue. In fact, the global flexible packaging market is predicted to grow from 160.8 billion in 2020 to 200.5 billion by 2025.
The flexible packaging innovations hot right now
Recycled polymer materials are becoming an important area for many food packaging manufacturers, thanks to the demand for low cost, high sustainability alternatives to rigid packaging.
Pouches are currently tipped for rapid expansion in coming months, thanks to their light weights and flexibility, as well as their suitability for prepared, ready-to-eat food.
There is a drive towards reducing the weight and thickness of food packaging while maintaining the same performance, overall. This ties into reducing the carbon footprint for products, by reducing the fuel used to transport them throughout the buying cycle.
As always, any new trend in food packaging requires testing to make sure it meets strict food safety standards as well as protective and tamper-evident packaging.
How Industrial Physics can help with flexible packaging testing
We understand that tight timescales caused by supply chain issues or high consumer demands means you need a testing process that is as smooth and full service as possible. That’s why we offer many multi-functional products as well as support at every step of the way. Just a few of the ways we can help test flexible packaging include:
Melt flow testing
Melt flow testing is a way to determine the temperatures at which materials like polymers begin to lose their integrity. This is a crucial part of flexible packaging QA process, and these machines can help.
Heat seal strength
Essential for ensuring that packaging remains sealed all the way into the customers hands, heat seal testing determines the effectiveness of a heat seal in common flexible packaging materials like polymer or bioplastic films. Machines like the 75-58 Heat Sealer TS-12 and 75-50 Heat Sealer and Hot Tack Base are ideal. Curious about how these might work? Check out our hot tack FAQs.
Ink and coatings
To make sure flexible packaging looks good on the shelf and that any instructions remain legible, ink and coatings testing is a must. We offer a wide range of ink and coatings testing and equipment, from corrosion test chambers to viscosity testing solutions.
Your flexible packaging supplier and support system
Our extensive experience within flexible packaging for a wide range of industries, as well as our connections with trusted testing brands, means we can help you create a lab that tests all applications from a “one stop shop” style setup. All of your testing needs from one reliable and supportive source – sound good? Then get in touch today.