Aptar Food + Beverage Talks Trends and Functionality in Flexible Packaging Fitments and Closures

This article was originally published in Plastics Today on May 6, 2019.

Though caps, closures, spouts and fitments may be physically small, they are a large and growing portion of the overall packaging market: valued at $52.23 billion in 2017, the worldwide market for caps and closures market is expected to reach $97 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 7.1%, reports the Caps & Closures – Global Market Outlook (2017-2026).

Closures and fitments are also hugely influential when it comes to consumer convenience and satisfaction, which points to their crucial role in helping brands differentiate products by adding value through packaging.

PlasticsToday gets an inside view of this dynamic market through the insights of Dave Johnson, Director of Business Development – Flexibles AptarGroup (Crystal Lake, IL). Johnson, who has been in the position since 2008, has an emphasis in new market and product development for food segments. In this exclusive interview, he discusses trends and technology in fitments, closures and spouts in the $228 billion flexible packaging market.

Comment on the overall fitments market for pouches and other flexible packaging.

Johnson: A couple of things come to mind…

  1. The kid’s market remains the largest spouted pouch market and is still growing. Larger consumer packaged goods companies are already entrenched in stand-up pouches, and now we are seeing more and more smaller-medium size companies adopting the stand-up pouch format to bring their brands to the children’s section of the grocery aisle.
  2. Many brands continue to seek innovative technology that enhance their package, product and brand perception. Aptar is receiving more and more requests to bring differentiation through closures and fitments, including:
  • Improving safety through enhanced tamper evidence that does a better job conveying to the consumer whether or not the package and product has been compromised. There’s an emphasis in providing tamper evidence that is visual and can be easily seen on the store shelf. Tamper evidence where you can feel and hear the difference when you open it by breaking the seal. Designed right into the cap or spout design conveys confidence to parents, the integrity of the package and to the brand’s image. Aptar’s patented child-friendly tamper-evident designs deliver on these attributes.
  • Providing convenience when opening and handling pouches. The emphasis is on no-spill innovation. Aptar’s SimpliSqueeze valve technology has been incorporated into closures and spouts on packaging for more than 25 years, bringing flow control and no-spill value to many packages and brands. Aptar’s valves are incorporated into the pouch spout to prevent kids from spilling product whether it’s used in the back seat of the car or on the living room’s white carpet. It’s a great way to prevent the mess that can come from these accidents!
  • We are receiving more and more requests for added functionality beyond the kid’s market. Flip-top convenience in the Ultrasound medical market: as the market leader in flip-top dispensing closures, Aptar has 40 years of experience with flip-top hinge technology from our closure line for bottles and brought it to the stand-up pouch market. Our Quick Flip spout with valve is being used on HR Pharma’s Ecovue stand-up pouch for the Ultrasound Gel market—the first of its kind for the U.S. market that offers one-handed convenience and no risk of loose overcaps.
  • One-handed dispensing is also in the laundry detergent aisle. Another example of flip-top functionality in the stand-up pouch market can be seen with the Detergel brand that uses Aptar’s EZ Pour spout for laundry detergent in Mexico (shown below). EZ Pour’s 22mm x 25mm pouring spout makes it easy to pour granulars, powders and larger particulants. The easy-to-open and reseal flip-top spout also provides more precision and less mess with its oval pouring design. Like Quick Flip, EZ Pour is a lightweight, sustainable design compared to other two-piece spouts and overcaps.
  1. The inverted pouch is another disruptive example of a flexible pouch bringing functionality and differentiation.

The Daisy Squeeze Sour Cream pouch revolutionized the sour cream tub market. Now, inverted pouches like the premade StandCap Pouch from Glenroy (Menomone Falls, WI) with Aptar Sierra closure and fitment is making its way in improving consumer experiences in other markets such as sauces, condiments, honey and many more. Aptar is leading the inverted pouch charge with many of the dispensing features already mentioned such as the flip-top convenience, product flow control and package cleanliness using our SimpliSqueeze valve, and improved tamper evidence with Aptar’s ring-pull technology. Our unique Sierra closure has been designed to enable the inverted pouch to remain standing, even when all product has been evacuated from the pouch.

[Ed. Note: You can read more about the commercialization of the innovative StandCap premade pouch here at sister publication Packaging Digest and read about its Life Cycle Assessment here.

What trends do you see in designs and polymers?

Johnson: The majority of spouts are made from polyethylene resins. For retort applications, polypropylene spouts and overcaps are required to withstand the higher sterilization temperatures needed during the filling and sterilization process.

Choosing the right resin grade is very important in the design and functionality of Aptar closures. Our EZ Pour pouch spout is a great example where the one-piece dispensing feature incorporates an easy-to-remove tamper-evident ring pull, while still providing the rigidity and strength that allows the hinge to perform optimally. In addition, the resin choice needs to be compatible with film laminates to improve security and seal integrity to the pouch.

With the use of special resins, Aptar has been successful in significantly reducing part weight by moving from a common, two-piece overcap and spout design to a one-piece, functional design.

A well-known challenge in the flexible supply chain is that multi-laminate film structures will undoubtedly need to move to a mono-polymer structure to enable pouches to be more accessible to downstream recycling. Moving to a monolayer structure will influence how fitments are welded to the new structure and may influence the type of resin we use in our fitments. We are in partnership with resin suppliers, laminate and pouch converters on multiple existing recycling initiatives.

Final thoughts?

Johnson: I believe that what sets U.S. consumers apart from other regions is that we may be a little more scrutinizing when it comes to convenient and functional packaging. A brand wants to introduce a flexible format needs to meet or exceed the functionality of the rigid package it is transitioning from.

Consumers are always looking into saving money on grocery bills, but if the new spouted flexible format does not perform the same or better than the legacy rigid bottle, a $0.20 savings may be overlooked during the consumers’ next visit to the grocery store.

I am convinced that the right dispensing solution plays a significant role in making a stand-up pouch a successful launch.

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