The Stand-Up Pouch Conundrum: Why So Many, & Why Not More?

The Stand-Up Pouch Conundrum: Why So Many, & Why Not More?

If the last store you visited had shelves – a likely bet – it probably also had stand-up pouches on those shelves. Stand-up pouches are flexible containers that can stand upright unsupported, and commonly feature a resealable zipper or track, and increasingly, a spout. Consider the newer applesauce, baby food, and granola containers – or the Capri Sun you might’ve had in your lunch box as a kid (or today – no judgment). Those are all examples of stand-up pouches. 

With those visuals in mind, you’ll probably realize that you’ve noticed more products in stand-up pouches than ever before. Coffee beans, refills for hand soap, pet treats, and baked snacks are all increasingly packaged in stand-up pouches. In fact, according to a recent study from The Freedonia Group, US demand for stand-up pouches will grow almost 6% annually through 2022 to $2.9 billion. So why is that?

Will the Next Big Pouch Product Please Stand-Up?

One reason stand-up pouches have seen their popularity take off is that the manufacturing process uses significantly less material than for rigid containers with the same fill capacity. This means that the firms packaging the goods are 1.) often paying less for packaging materials and 2.) saving on transport costs because of the lighter weight. This results in lower carbon emissions, since it takes less fuel for trucks to deliver those pouches and goods within them.

Stand-up pouches also provide convenience features that consumers are expecting on an increasing scale. These features include handles and spouts, which provide ease of use; and resealability, which prolongs freshness and limits food waste. Innovation in the films used in the manufacture of stand-up pouches also deliver benefits such as:

  • maintaining stiffness even when partially full
  • clear windows to view contents
  • recyclability (a common problem with stand-up pouches)

With those benefits to consumers, firms, and the environment, you could be forgiven for asking, “Why aren’t even more products converting to stand-up pouch containers?” 

Manufacturing Challenges Restrict Wider Adoption of Stand-Up Pouches

One chief roadblock is the capital investment required to install stand-up pouch packaging machinery. But in addition to the cost of the machinery, there are efficiency drawbacks as well.

A case in point is breakfast cereal. For cereal boxes to shift over to stand-up pouches, the filling efficiency (line speed) of stand-up pouch machinery would have to be comparable to that of current equipment. Strides are being made in pouch filling machinery, but not quite to the point where large-scale shifts are economically viable.And some products are just not suited to stand-up pouch packaging. Consider a carton of ice cream or sherbet. The rigid sides are crucial for spooning out the contents. Soft-serve ice-cream might have a future in stand-up pouches, but the majority of the frozen treat aisle is likely to see pouches only as secondary packaging for ice cream novelties.

Looking forward, brand owners will find additional applications for stand-up pouches to capitalize on their cost-saving characteristics and popularity with consumers. This will be more emphatically true once the efficiency gap between stand-up pouch filling machinery and current packaging machinery narrows. Then, you can expect to see even more stand-up pouches on the shelves during your next trip to the store.

Want to Learn More?

For more information on pouch products, markets, and suppliers, be sure to check out Pouches in the US, a recent study from The Freedonia Group.

About the Author:

C. Vernon Henry is an analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he writes studies focused on the packaging industry.

  Industry Studies      Packaging