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Flexible Food Packaging

What is Flexible Food Packaging?

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“Flexible food packaging is wrapping any product using non-rigid and bendable material to provide protection and safety.”

It is a manufacturing and designing process of making bags and pasting layers to store food for extended periods. For days, weeks, or months, the food remains fresh and odorless using plastic films, lamination, paperboard/ cardboard, and other combinations of materials. This includes flexible products like wraps, rolls, mylar pouches & bags, trays, cartons, custom boxes, liners, packaging pouches, etc.

List of Flexible Packaging Materials for Food Products

There are the following materials that are most preferred in food packaging manufacturing:

1- Plastic Films In Food Packaging:

Plastic Films In Food Packaging

Plastic films are thin polymeric material layers that combine to work as a barrier and provide protection for food. These are divided into the following types:

  • Polyethylene:  versatile, high sealing strength, cost-effective, and moisture resistant.
  • Polypropylene: heat-resistant, clear, stiff, and best for frozen food.
  • Polyethene Terephthalate: a barrier to oxygen and carbon dioxide, best for sauces, carbonated beverages and food.
  • Nylon Films are puncture resistant, have an oxygen barrier, are high strength, and are the best for cheese and meat.
  • Polyvinylidene Chloride: The best oxygen barrier coating, increases the shelf life of food, recommended for cheese, meat, and other frozen products.

2- Aluminium Foil Food Packaging:

Aluminium Foil Food Packaging

Aluminium foil is a metal sheet of thin layers of iron and silicon. It is highly resistant to moisture, light, gas particles, and odour. These laminated foil rolls are mixed with plastic films and other papers to preserve sensitive food like chocolates, coffee, and medicines. 

3- Paper Biodegradable Packaging:

Paper Biodegradable Packaging

Paperboard and paper are renewable and recycled materials. These paper sheets are common for dry food, such as cereals, bakery items, grains, and snacks. Lamination and coating layers make these boxes more sustainable, moisture-resistant, and grease-proof. 

4- Lamination in Flexible Packaging:

Lamination in Flexible Packaging

Laminates are a combination of bonded layers of multiple materials with specific properties. These make the surface printable, resistant, and stain-free. Moreover, lamination includes paper, aluminium foil, and layers of plastic film.

5- Bioplastics for Food Packaging:

Bioplastics for Food Packaging

Bioplastics are semi-biodegradable and a new source. They include cellulose, sugarcane, and corn starch to replace petroleum plastics. Bioplastics are eco-friendly and cost-effective. They can be used to pack a wide range of food products and have compostable properties.

6- Recycled Flexible Packaging:

Recycled Flexible Packaging

Industries nowadays mainly prefer recycled materials like paper and plastics. It also uses environmentally friendly post-consumer recycled material. PCR is packaging films that rely on virgin materials.

7- Bio Polymers:

Bio Polymers

Biopolymers are a combination of biomass like microorganisms, plants, and conventional plastics. Bio-compostable bags make the packing sturdy and suitable for the products. There are further three types of Bio Polymers:

  • Polylactic acid
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates
  • Polybutylene succinate 

What are the Types of Food Packaging?

Types of Food Packaging

There are the following types:

1- Flat Pouches:

These are flexible bags with three-sided sealed edges. Flat pouches with zippers provide more protection for the items, and you can re-open the bag after using it once. 

Application: 

Suitable for tea, coffee, dried fruits, and sweet candies.

2- Stand-up Pouches: 

These are flat-bottom plastic and kraft pouches that stand up straight on shelves. They are the most versatile mylar food bags. They are transparent and lightweight, making transportation easier with more products.

Application: 

It is expected to pack pet food, snacks, sauces, granola, and liquid handwash and detergents.

3- Pre-Made Food Pouches:

These are the best mediums for food storage and shelf-life products. The inbuilt sterilization keeps the food items stable and fresh for a couple of days or weeks. The pouches have multiple protective layers, such as plastic films, laminates, foil papers, and other heat-resistant sheets, that help preserve the food for a longer period.

Application: 

Easy to keep bakery products, liquid food, meat, and other ready-made food products. 

4- Zipper Pouches:

These pouches have a unique resealable mechanism that allows you to re-open the package multiple times. These child-resistant bags are also easy to use and manage, as you can store them anywhere away from children. 

Application:

Frozen food, cannabis products, cereals, powder products, cheese, etc.

5- Gusseted Bags:

Polypropylene bags have extra corners and gusset sides to make the space more fillable after opening. The additional gusset fabric adds more space and strength to bags so that you can keep a bulk amount of items in a single bag. 

Application:

Candy, meat, bakery items, bagels, cookies, ice, coffee, etc.

6- Lidding Films:

These are temperature-resistant sealing films that serve as a barrier between food and the atmosphere. They have lids for cups, trays, and other containers to seal over the product. They keep the freshness and shelf life of stored items very well. Also, customers can open the packs easily.

Application:

Yogurt, frozen dinner items, fresh meat, dairy products, pet food trays, salads, dips, oatmeals etc.

7- Vacuum Packaging Bags:

The airtight bags with a vacuum create a no-air environment to store food. In this, the food products get no direct contact with oxygen, so you can preserve them for a longer period. Also, it extends the storage life so you can store it for a longer period.

Application:

Cheese, meat, seafood, salads, etc.

8- Pillow Bags: The Most Economical Pouches

These are also known as T-shape pouches or back-seal pouches. The most preferred bags have a bottom, top, and extended back seal. They are preferably used to store and protect daily-use items. 

Application: 

Nuts, powders, candies, cookies, biscuits, chocolates, and snacks.

9- Shrink Sleeves:

These are flexible and printed labels that use heat-shrinkable material to make the shape exact to the product when heated. They are mainly used for decorating containers and jars.

Application: 

Sauces, beverages, and spices. 

Food Packaging Manufacturing Process: How Is It Made?

Food Packaging Manufacturing Process

Food industries vary from product to product. Therefore, the manufacturing process depends on the food choice. Additionally, the process involves all the stages, from choosing the best raw material to recycling the end product. So, have an overview of manufacturing process:

1- Selection of Raw Material:

The first step is picking the right and suitable material for the right product. The most common materials are Plastic Films, Laminates, Aluminium Foil, Paperboard, bioplastics, and other recycling materials. 

2- Extrusion: Making The Shape of Packaging:

The material, specifically plastic films that cover the majority of food packaging industries, is put into the resin pellets. Then, these get melted and pass through the die to make a proper sheet. More metals can be added to increase the functionality of cold-pressed sheets.

3- Printing Onto The Surfaces: 

After balancing the thickness of the sheets, the selective design is printed onto the surface of the pressed films. This involves the following processes: traditional and latest, such as Flexography and Digital Printing. It prints all the informative and decorative elements on the products.

4- Lamination –  Making A Composite Structure:

Lamination is a process of bonding multiple layers of materials to make the structure sturdy and sustainable. Materials with desired properties are chosen, such as Aluminium foil for temperature control, silicon for zippers for sealing, etc. Moreover, it works as an adhesive coating for smoothly pasting the layers.

5- Additional Coatings To Make It Sturdy:

Additional layers, such as Aqueous Coating, UV Spot Coating, etc., can be applied to the packages. These effectively increase their protection properties, such as oxygen barrier, heat sealing, and moisture resistance. 

6- Slitting and Conversion of Big Sheets:

Large sheets are not easy to manage; therefore, cutting machines cut them into narrower rolls according to product requirements. These rolls now have the appropriate length and width for the product quantity and size. 

7- Cutting and Shaping the Flexible Packages:

After slitting the larger sheets into smaller ones, it’s time to convert them into shapes. According to the demands of the products, the format is designed, and accordingly, equipments cut the sheets into the final structure.

8- Shaping a Flexible Package:

After edge-to-edge cutting, the process continues to assemble the final flexible product package. It involves inserting products, pasting labels, and sealing the package for protection. 

9- Quality Testing To Ensure High-End Bags:

Throughout the procedure, quality checks must be conducted to ensure the consistency of colours, the integrity of the material, and the performance of sheets. This includes seal strength, thickness checking, labelling, stamping, additional coatings, and fine-end cutting of packages.

10- Recycling To Minimize Waste:

The final step is utilizing the raw material left behind after shaping and cutting the pouches. It promotes the use of waste and the recycling process to keep the environment clean and easy to breathe.

Conclusion:

Flexible food packaging rules the food world with compatible, weight-bearing, sustainable, preservation, and protection characteristics. From thin aluminium foil to thick fibres, every layer keeps the food items fresh and ready to use. Moreover, these bags are economical and affordable, not to add more coins to the food storage.

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About Stephen Fowler

About Stephen Fowler

Meet Stephen, our skilled writer at IBEX. With a degree in Packaging Sciences, Stephen brings expertise in simplifying every industry detail more efficiently. His years of experience in R&D and technical expertise have always been helpful for our audience. The best part about Stephen is that he has always provided consistent and valuable insights into the packaging industry, ensuring that our reader is always up to date with the latest practices.

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