3 Tips for Strategically Sourcing Flexible Packaging

Posted by Jim Kurtz on Aug 26, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Sourcing flexible packaging

With roots stemming back to the 1950s, the flexible packaging market is a significant product in the procurement industry due to its efficiency, customizability, and sustainability. 

Flexible packaging is a type of package or container made of flexible material, which, when filled, can still easily change shape. Though there are many examples of flexible packaging, a few examples include:

  • Paper
  • Cartons
  • Blister packaging 
  • Flexible laminates
  • Woven bags 

To ensure better strength with flexible packaging, they are often laminated using a polyethylene film, which can vary in density depending on the product. 

According to a Cision report, the global flexible packaging market will grow by $41.12 million by 2024, with an expected growth rate of 4.42 percent. Though causes for growth are contingent upon a number of factors, many manufacturers and sellers are using flexible packaging due to product superiority over the alternative—rigid packaging. 

In procurement, adopting effective practices for sourcing packaging materials drives efficiencies and cost reductions in your supply chain. This article provides several tips for strategically sourcing flexible packaging as a cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable alternative.  

What are the benefits of flexible packaging? 

Rigid packaging and flexible packaging both have their advantages. It comes down to what you are packaging and how you plan to use the packaging. Rigid packaging tends to be stronger and offers better protection for the products inside. However, rigid packaging is heavier and limited in terms of which products it can ship.

On the other hand, flexible packaging provides several benefits, including: 

  • Cost savings. Compared to rigid packaging, flexible packaging is cheaper both as a product and in terms of the resources required to manufacture the product. 
  • User-friendliness. Not only does flexible packaging have better handling capabilities and portability, but it can also be tailored to fit the specifics of any product regardless of shape and size. 
  • Maximum shelf life. The polyolefin shrink films are made from a high-quality material that the Food and Drug Administration approved to increase shelf life. In the same vein, the flexibility of the packaging increases shelf space. 
  • Design attractiveness. Attractive package branding is far easier to manage through digital printing. 
  • Higher consumer demand. With a consumer base that’s more concerned with human impact on the environment, flexible packaging requires less energy to manufacture and transport and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions on the way to market. 

The demand for flexible packaging isn’t going anywhere, which means manufacturers need to ensure their packaging procurement provides long-term benefits and cost savings. In the following three sections, we identify three areas for assisting with strategically sourcing flexible packaging. 

1. Identify areas of cost reduction 

Any manufacturer’s top priority should be to identify areas of cost reduction. These areas can be identified in the product, specifications of the product, use of the product, and reduction of product footprint. 

Material changes and film width

Though it may seem insignificant, the type of protective shrink film used on your flexible packaging can be an area of cost savings. For example, switching from a PVC to polyolefin film can reduce the packaging material required to protect the packaged product. Polyolefin shrink films are more durable and offer a larger yield per roll, resulting in a reduction of your packaging costs. 

Newer, stronger, thinner film gauges have also reduced costs. Newer films as thin as 35 gauge can protect products as well as 60-70 gauge film can without compromising durability.

The same benefits can be achieved by addressing materials such as corrugated cardboard packaging, stretch film, and blister packaging. 

Reduce packaging footprint

Being mindful of the exact specifications of your flexible packaging can help reduce packaging costs without reducing visibility on the shelf. 

Reducing packaging size can create a more desirable, easily placed item for retailers’ limited shelf space. This can also help reduce the price paid for product placement in the store. 

Though a great benefit of flexible packaging is that a variety of products can fit despite complex dimensions, finding the flexible packaging that best fits your product will ultimately reduce superfluous packaging and reduce your costs. 

2. Keep sustainability in mind 

With 67% of consumers environmentally aware and 54% of consumers reporting that the sustainability of their packaging is a factor in their selection of a product, sustainable, flexible packaging is a strong factor when considering procurement.

Sustainable, flexible packaging is no longer only about the recyclability of the packaging but the complete life cycle of the materials. In many cases, flexible packaging requires less energy to manufacture and transport. Here are three sustainability factors of flexible packaging:

  • Transportation. When it comes to transporting packaging, flexible packaging weighs significantly less than rigid packaging, which means more can be delivered each truckload. In turn, fewer deliveries need to be made, which means a reduction in CO2 emissions from less gas emitted by the vehicles. 
  • Waste reduction. The light weight of flexible packaging contributes to source reduction because flexible packaging uses less material overall, thereby reducing waste.
  • Recyclability. Flexible packaging plastics are becoming increasingly easy to recycle through in-store drop-off programs. They can also be chemically recycled or used as energy feedstock. 

Given the combination of decreasing transportation costs and the 73% of consumers who are willing to spend more on sustainable products, manufacturers can experience cost savings and increased profitability by procuring sustainable, flexible packaging.  

3. Ensure supplier product variety

If you intend to consolidate your packaging procurement to a single supplier, identify the different types of packaging as well as the solution’s customization. 

Depending on your products, your supplier should have the following flexible packaging options: 

  • Stand-up pouches
  • Roll stock
  • Flat-bottom box pouches
  • Pinch-bottom box pouches
  • Single-web quad bags
  • 3-side seal pouches

In addition to these packaging options, the packaging company should accommodate its customers' specific needs and requirements. 

To fully understand your packaging needs, identify the more minor details, such as the package’s ease of access, whether it needs to be resealed after the initial opening, or if it is a single serving with a tear opening. Your packaging company should be able to provide these solutions. 

Flexible Packaging Supply Research and Recommendations from Consulting Experts

SRM (Strategic Resource Management) provides manufacturers with a team of consultants who have the deep market insight to find the right flexible packaging solutions to reduce costs, increase profitability, and address customer demands. 

Ready to find the most cost-effective flexible packaging? Request a consultation today.

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Topics: Manufacturing, Strategic Sourcing, Packaging