At the end of February, AAA reported that the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline at the pump reached a record high of $3.65 for the month, surpassing the previous record by more than 10 cents. Most analysts predict the price of fuel will continue to rise over the next few months.
It seems that the price of everything in our business is increasing – fuel, food, even the raw materials used in the manufacturing of packaging. So why would a packaging materials and equipment supplier even want to bring this up? Because we’re in the business of helping our customers to improve their business and operations with packaging solutions that increase quality, address consumer demand and improve operational efficiencies.
As the price of fuel and raw materials (including tin plate) continues to increase, we think it is time for many food processors using #10 cans to consider flexible pouches. Previously, processors had few alternatives to the #10 can, the commercial-sized shelf stable format most commonly used in foodservice operations worldwide. However, today our cutting-edge flexible materials provide can-like barrier protection in shelf-stable, clear, non-metalized pouches, which are less prone to flex cracking and pinholing than metalized films.
There are a number of operational benefits associated with using flexible pouches instead of #10 cans:
- Space-savings during storage (flexible pouches occupy 40 percent less space)
- Reduced package weight resulting in less fuel usage during transport
- Increased product yield
- Easier disposal after use
However, it also is important to consider that there is limited competition in the canning market. I recently met with a customer who had two separate tin can suppliers give him nearly the same price quote. A market with low competition, high demand and rising materials costs can be particularly difficult for food processors to navigate at a time when their food costs and additional operational expenses are going up.
Flexible pouches can even compete with #10 canning equipment speeds now. Our newest vertical form fill seal (VFFS) system, The Onpack 3002, features advanced sealing technology that allows for the fast sealing, cooling and cutting of pouches. Depending on the size, this system can produce 50+ pouches per-minute.
To date, we have even helped customers with extremely sensitive products, such as whole peeled tomatoes and diced tomato, switch to flexible pouches. Our testing has shown that these flexible materials will preserve color and can offer a two-year shelf-life for these products. With speed and barrier protection that can rival #10 cans, in addition to the waste reduction and operational benefits of pouches, it’s clear that flexible pouches have become a viable alternative to cans.