What You Should Know About Flexible Barrier Packaging

It is no surprise that flexible packaging is one of the packaging industry's fastest expanding categories. This solution provides unrivaled performance by combining the greatest attributes of foil, paper, film, and plastic to suit specific applications while using minimal materials. Whether you want to reduce your carbon impact, get creative with branding, increase product shelf life, or achieve other profitability and efficiency goals, flexible packaging is worth considering.

"What You Should Know About Flexible Barrier Packaging" - Pouch Me Blog Title Slide

Product packaging not only protects your product; it also communicates your brand message and benefits to consumers.

Remember that this is the first time buyers are coming into contact with your product, and if you fail to make a strong first impression, they will not purchase your product over the competition.

Consumer behavior has shifted considerably, and people no longer interact with a brand in-store before purchasing. According to studies, buyers only take approximately 20 seconds to determine whether or not to purchase an item. Make the most of this opportunity!

Your product may be terrific, but shoppers are unaware of that at the onset. The only way to entice them is to use distinctive and high-quality packaging, where flexible barrier packaging comes in. You can check out our complete guide to custom packaging for more detailed information.

What is Flexible Barrier Packaging?

Flexible barrier packaging is a type of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). This term refers to any packaging that affects the atmosphere within itself to protect the products it contains.

An excellent example of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is canning, which began in wine bottles and was inspired by seeing monks produce champagne. They started with pasteurization and then maintained a modified environment in the jar to keep the champagne from spoiling.

Aluminum cans were the subsequent development, and they quickly became popular. However, they are being phased out in favor of flexible barrier packaging.

Flexible barrier packaging plays a vital role in food packaging as it extends product shelf life by protecting package contents and preserving them.

Custom Flexible Packaging Guarantee Product Protection and Quality Preservation

A combination of paper, aluminum, flexible plastics, and coating work together to keep light, moisture, and oxygen out while keeping your products fresh and safe. Oxygen and other external contaminants are key contributors to the deterioration of taste and appearance of food products.

Flexible barrier packaging arose from NASA's search for ways to reduce weight while maintaining freshness during the space race. MREs were among the first items to utilize this packaging. The barrier is the main differentiating factor between plastic bags and barrier packaging.

Plastic bags lack an improved barrier, which is often constructed of multiple materials bonded together for added strength.

Common Materials Used in Flexible Barrier Packaging

Thanks to advancements in packaging technology, you can choose from various flexible barrier packaging materials. These include:

  • Aluminum Foil Combined with PE, PET, and MOPP

Choose this form of flexible barrier packaging when maximum shelf life or barrier is required. When used as part of a barrier lamination structure, aluminum foil transforms into a flexible "aluminum can."

three different sizes of silver foil stand-up pouches with no print

Aluminum has an extremely strong moisture and oxygen barrier, with moisture and oxygen transmission rates as low as .0006 grams per 24 hours. This is a meager migration rate that presents a formidable barrier.

  • Polyethylene

Even when employed in high build or mil thicknesses, polyethylene is a poor barrier on its own. On the other hand, when mixed with other polymers, polyethylene helps to bring everything together.

PE is primarily utilized as a food-safe, heat-sealable inner layer since it increases elasticity and has a natural "stretch" to it. Polyethylene is chemically inert and can tolerate strong acids and bases.

  • Polypropylene  

CPP, MOPP, BOPP, and OPP are common barrier materials that differ from PE, PET, and metalized materials in terms of performance. First, OPP is typically less expensive, and it may also be used to generate a matte lamination, resulting in a matte bag.

Finally, when utilized as a cast material, polypropylene has a greater melting point than other polymers frequently used for interior liners. This allows for the creation of bags that can both heat seal and be sterilized or boiled at temperatures exceeding 100℃.

  • Co-extrusions and Nylon Laminations

Nylon laminations often mix polyester or foil with nylon to improve barrier strength and bag strength, preventing the bag from breaking or ripping. Depending on the product, the lamination procedure is typically varied. 

Vacuuming is the primary use for nylon co-extrusions, and the film may stretch without breaking and adapt to the contour of your items when vacuumed around them, thanks to the co-extrusion.

  • Metalized Barriers

Metalized barriers were introduced as an affordable alternative to aluminum foil which is often costly. Although aluminum is the most commonly used metal for this type of barrier, chromium, and nickel are also viable options.

These barriers are coated polyester with metalized vapor or thin metallic films to reinforce the barrier and make the package surface reflective.

  • Polyesters 

Polyester is widely used because it is both effective and cost-efficient. It's made of a high-quality film ideal for packaging machine components, food packaging, and bags with see-through windows.

Polyester also offers a high weight-to-strength ratio and a built-in barrier. It has outstanding dimensional stability and is typically heat-resistant and tear-resistant.

Things to Consider When Choosing Custom Packaging Materials

Essentially, the type of flexible barrier packaging you select should match the product that needs to be packaged and preserved.

Is it a fresh food product? Is it necessary to keep it for a lengthy period? Do you want consumers to be able to peek at the product?

Other aspects are also essential, but the product requirements are still the most critical.

It would be best if you also considered the following factors:

  • Availability

After receiving your order, the packaging material should be easy to restock promptly. Any delays in obtaining packaging materials may influence the manufacturing process and, as a result, your sales.

  • Durability

The flexible barrier packaging material must stay in good condition for lengthy periods to ensure product freshness.

  • Sustainability

The material's qualities should be sufficient to meet your packaging requirements.

  • Price

You should choose a barrier packaging material that achieves the perfect mix between your budget and the qualities you want.

  • Physical Capacity

The flexible barrier packaging material you pick should be capable of holding your products in place.

A physical test should be performed to assess how well the packaging protects your product from external factors like air, heat, and dust.

  • Sensitivity to Oxygen

When exposed to air, most edible products lose their flavor and texture, thus requiring packaging materials that protect them from oxygen.

They prevent oxygen transmissions inside the bag and extend the shelf life of your product.

  • Sensitivity to Moisture

Some products, such as nutritional supplements and dry food components, are very moisture sensitive and should be packaged in materials with a solid moisture barrier.

This contains high-density polyethylene and foil laminations, which help keep moisture out of the bag.

  • Product Shelf Life

You should use low or medium barrier materials if your products have a short shelf life. Because such products are typically low-cost retail items that are consumed fast, the focus should be on cost-effective packaging.

High-barrier packaging materials are ideal for products with a longer shelf life. They are incredibly sturdy and will keep your products fresh for an extended period.

Benefits of Flexible Barrier Packaging

Here are the advantages of flexible barrier packaging over other types of barrier packaging.

  • It is cost-effective
  • Lightweight
  • Adaptable to a wide range of applications
  • Convenient portions
  • Protection comparable to that provided by most rigid containers

Typical Applications for Flexible Barrier Packaging

The following is not an exhaustive list of food product types, and products within these categories may differ in terms of their requirements, but it serves as a good starting point:

  • Frozen foods
  • Coffee 
  • Tea
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Cosmetics 
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Cannabis
  • Herbs and spices

Flexible Barrier Packaging Is The Future!

A product's packaging has a significant impact on a customer's purchasing choice. According to studies, consumers make over 70% of all purchasing decisions at the point of sale. Your packaging is the most essential factor in determining whether they choose your products or walk away.

Solo shot of flat bottom pouch with pouch logo

Flexible barrier packaging comes in various shapes and sizes, and it may be tailored to fit the demands of your target audience. It's also suitable for a wide range of products, making it a preferred packaging option for many businesses.

Good design is vital in enticing customers to buy, but they will only buy again if the design's promise is matched by the quality of products within the package. Only by choosing a high-quality packaging film and matching the film's capabilities to the product's protection requirements can the quality of the product within the package be assured for the course of its shelf life. If you get that step correctly, the product will arrive in the state that the manufacturer intended.

If you need help deciding on the right flexible barrier packaging material for your product, our Pouch Me packaging tailors and production specialists can help!

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