Take one look at the baby food aisle of your natural product store and you’ll realize that pouches are definitely a trend.
But with so many brands adopting the pouch, are consumers and retailers growing tired of this packaging method?
“I think pouches are just now fully being realized with lots of other food items being ‘pouched’ in time,” says Blake Mitchell, partner at Interact, a Boulder-based food packaging design firm. “Pouches work better than jars when the product or serving size is aimed at an ‘on the go’ consumer who wants a smaller portion and doesn’t want to carry a jar around.”
For example, food pioneer Justin’s Nut Butters revolutionized the peanut butter category by offering flavored nut butters in single serve, flexible pouches. Baby food manufacturers like Plum Organics, Happy Family, Peter Rabbit Organics and Ella’s Kitchen further improved upon the pouch design by adding a resealable plastic nozzle, ideal for pacifying hungry small children throughout the day.
The pouch is a handy delivery system for semi-solid or liquid foods like fruit, nut or veggie blends -- foods that have traditionally targeted eaters age eight and under. But some new product offerings packaged in pouches are now catering to adult consumers.
“I think that the consumers that are aware of this newly developing trend might not understand the versatility of using a pouch in packaging,” says Mollie Star, production artist for Interact. “With a package that seems like it denotes baby food, will older consumers still want to buy it for themselves?”
Given the pouch’s success in food categories aside from baby food, it’s clear that the answer is yes.
The desire for improved, faster meal preparation is one factor driving pouch growth. FIG Food Co. for instance, makers of low-sodium soups, recently transitioned their boxed organic soup to a microwave safe, BPA-free pouch. Shoppers can “open and transfer the soup from a can to a bowl then into the microwave," Starr explains. "You simply place the entire package into the microwave.” Likewise, Imagine Culinary Creations Simmer Sauces are packaged in easy-open pouches, in foodie-friendly adult flavors including Thai Coconut Curry and Portobello Red Wine.
“Saying there are too many squeeze packs out there is like saying there are too many jars out there,” explains Josh Kahn, co-founder of Fruigees, a squeezable fruit and veggie blend for consumers of all age. The nutrient-rich packs sell particularly well for active people who want a quick burst of natural energy before workouts like yoga, bike rides or hikes. “[Pouches] align with an active lifestyle because they allow people to feel good about eating fruits and veggies, without worrying how to carry that spoon around,” continues Kahn.
There are a few drawbacks to pouched foods, of course. Namely, they are difficult to recycle. Most pouches are made of laminated, fused polymers that recycling centers cannot separate. Though some programs like TerraCycle have the capacity to recycle or upcycle pouches, consumers must mail used pouches to facilities. Plus, you can't refill old pouches, like many do with glass jars.
Yet packaging experts across all fronts say there is unlimited potential for pouch innovation—especially as companies attempt to make eating healthy more accessible for busy consumers. “You can imagine the brands that would use a pouch for messy foods to create a better product experience,” says Starr. “But there is so much more potential with liquid form, shelf stable products such as pasta sauces and crushed tomatoes.”
Do you think the pouch has legs for the future? Let us know in the comments below!