Custom flat pouches, as their name states, differ from stand-up pouches because the package is literally flat and cannot stand up on a shelf. The ability to stand requires the addition of a gusset, an extra piece of material that is inserted horizontally on the bottom of the bag creating a platform when the bag is expanded by being filled with product. While stand-up pouches have many benefits, not every product needs to be or even should be packaged in a stand-up pouch. Flat pouches provide other benefits and drive towards different markets, different products and different protective requirements of the product being packaged. The following are examples of some of those applications and benefits.
Benefits and Types
Custom flat pouches provide an excellent solution for efficient, cost-effective packaging. Using flexible packaging, in general, provides savings in time and money compared to rigid packaging, in part due to its lightweight nature and fewer resources required to produce it. The relative simplicity of design and manufacture of flat pouches vs. stand-up pouches still provides construction and feature options for flat pouches that are summarized below.
While flat pouches are indeed flat, one option provides a little more material between the edge seals for more room in the flat bag. This style is a “pillow pouch”, which is often considered the most common style of flat pouch and was given this name because its shape resembles a pillow. It has a bottom seal, a top seal and a back seal. During manufacturing, the film is initially guided across a tube. The outer edges overlap across the tube and a vertical seal is applied to the edges producing a back seal. Horizontal bars then create a bottom and/or top seal, then the bag is filled and the remaining open end is horizontally sealed, closing the bag for packing and shipping.
Whether a pillow pack or a true flat pouch, these are available in many different materials and sizes and can be customized to suit any type of product or application. The sealed nature of the flat pouch shows obvious tamper evidence and provides a protected environment for the product being packaged. The construction of the pouches allows easy insertion of the goods while the materials used allow for a wide variation of protective properties to be engineered into the packaging. And regardless of the materials used to make the bag, it can be printed. At LPS Industries, we can print in up to 8 colors.
Flat pouches are also available with other features such as punch holes to allow for vertical hanging in a store, tear notches for easy opening or the bags can be supplied on wickets. They are available in a variety of film, foil and paper laminates.
Applications and Markets
Custom flat pouches are seen everywhere – the wide range of retail outlets include the grocery and hardware store, lawn and garden centers and department stores, just to name a few. They are an extremely versatile type of flexible packaging and while a zipper can be added for convenience and protection, they are often found containing a single use product or when a multiple use product does not require the protection a zipper delivers. They are often used for “single serving size” packaging of products, such as coffee packs in a hotel room or snack packs for school lunches. They can be manufactured from the same multi-layer film and/or foil used to protect larger size portions of products from moisture or oxygen. Compared to rigid packages of the same size, flat pouches will be lighter and provide cost savings in shipping. Also, pouches will take up less space in a box allowing for more product to be shipped per dollar spent on freight costs.
Some common applications and markets include:
- Aerospace – If you remember the last time you were on a plane, the flight attendant probably asked if you would like “free” earplugs. These are packaged in flat pouches made from a single layer of polyethylene because the contents do not require long-term protection from moisture or oxygen slowly migrating through the packaging material. In a much different way, many parts used to manufacture airplanes are very specialized and will normally be packed individually in flat pouches made from multiple layers of flexible packaging materials, e.g., film and foil, to protect the parts from oxidation while they are waiting to be used in the construction of the aircraft.
- Sporting goods – think back to playing soccer as a youngster and buying your first pair of shin guards. These were likely packaged in a flat pouch to offer basic product protection, to package in the desired sales unit and to use the front and back of the bag as a platform to communicate brand information, benefits, attributes, instructions for use and other product and manufacturer specific information.
- Agriculture/chemicals – This is a market segment where resealable stand-up pouches are becoming more prevalent for smaller packaged volumes, e.g., 10 pounds or less. Pillow pouches are commonly used for larger packaged volumes, e.g., pool chemicals, lawn and garden chemicals, asphalt patch compounds, etc.
- Photographic products – Flat, hermetically sealed pouches are ideal for films and other photographic supplies where oxygen or moisture could have a negative impact on the chemicals the products contain.
- Cosmetic and personal care – Many high-end cosmetics are now packaged in flat pouches where better protection can be provided with barrier, multilayer constructions.
- Food and snacks – Flat pouches have made the production of prepackaged snacks and lunches for children safer and more convenient. Instead of portioning and re-packing in zippered polyethylene bags at home, flat pouches are pre-packaged within a larger package for ease to grab and go into lunch boxes or for the next soccer practice.
Differences between Flat Pouches and Stand-up Pouches
The most obvious difference between flat and stand-up pouches is its positioning in the retail environment – stand-up pouches sit vertically while flat pouches lie horizontally. The print capabilities, material composition, weight and protective properties are identical; only the presentation and convenience features may vary. Flat pouches are an excellent vehicle for “overpacking”, putting a number of smaller packages within a larger package and in applications where space savings is a top priority. Flat pouches are not as effective as stand-up pouches as “billboards” for eye-catching graphics because they typically are lying flat so only the graphics on the front are seen when the consumer walks by. However, if your product lends itself to being hung on a peg board at the retail point of sale, a top-centered hang hole can easily be added to a flat bag so the bag presents vertically to optimize the impact of the graphics on the front.
The adoption and growth of uses for bags and pouches made from flexible packaging continue to increase worldwide. To determine which type of pouch to use, a brand owner needs to evaluate their specific needs and compare the pros and cons of the various options. Custom flat pouches stand out in their design simplicity where other packaging options may be more than what a brand owner needs at a particular point in their product’s development cycle. Talk to your packaging manufacturer expert to review your options to make sure you’re making the best decisions to protect and promote your product.