The State of Packaging: Trends We Saw at Pack Expo 2016

Danielle Ohl

Pack expo.jpgA record-breaking four-day exposition in Chicago featuring the latest and greatest in processing and packaging solutions, Pack Expo 2016 featured 2,500-plus exhibitors and over 1.25 million net square feet of exhibition space. It was a show for the books, and with insight from company President and Owner Rick Leonhard and National Sales & Key Accounts Manager Nick Roelse, we're excited to report on the top trends we saw at Pack Expo this year.

Demands for Equipment Versatility

Flexible-packaging-options-from-Viking-Masek.pngThe number one demand from machinery end-users was the ability to package multiple SKUs, and often multiple bag styles, on a single machine. With the proliferation of SKUs in the marketplace increasing every day, the ability to package multiple items on a single machine is an increasingly attractive option. Not only can it add to the company's bottom line, but versatile vertical machinery can also streamline production and increase available floor space for other projects.

This was especially apparent in the cheese and dairy industry, with many booth visitors looking for the ultimate in packaging versatility. These companies sought innovative equipment that can easily package their dairy products into a variety of bag styles, with main interest being in Doypacks with zippers and quad seal bag types. 

For the above reasons, Viking Masek's VFFS MS400 received a lot of attention at Pack Expo. With its ability to package almost any bag type and featuring easy, tool-free changeover, this packaging equipment model is perfect for manufacturers, packagers, and co-packers that desire versatility without sacrificing speed. 

Nviro_flexible_pouch__square.pngConvenience and Sustainability Above All

By and large, convenience packaging dominated the show floor. Largely driven by the Millennial demographic's demands for convenient and on-the-go packaging, this market segment is booming. From stick packs to tetrahedron packages to pour spouts, it's all about making packaging uncomplicated and easy to use wherever a consumer may be, whether it's at work, at home, or traveling.  

While emerging generations desire convenience, they also desire sustainability in production throughout the entire supply chain, from farm to table. The main area of focus as related to the packaging industry is green and eco-friendly packaging materials. Since by its very nature, single-serve and convenience packaging produces more waste, consumers are increasingly aware of the impact their consumption has on the environment and desire packaging materials that are responsibly produced and disposed of. Recyclable, compostable, and reusable packaging films and pouches are becoming the norm instead of just a passing fad, and material suppliers are responding with increased gusto.

Liquid Packaging Machinery Makes a Splash

Historically, flexible packaging equipment hasn't been the first option considered when desiring an automated solution for packaging liquids. Rigid packaging like cans and bottles have been the go-to solution for liquids packaging for many generations. However, innovative new flexible packaging solutions have been taking the market by storm for packaging products like soup, gravies, and even sour cream. Often featuring fitments like flip caps, resealable options like zippers, or convenience options like pour spouts and tear notches, flexible liquids packaging is gaining on its rigid counterpart day by day.

liquids-in-bag_425.jpgPackaging fluids can be unruly and messy, and a proper flexible packaging solution was often hard to come by in the past. That all changed this year with the introduction of Viking Masek's new Liquid Sigma packaging machine.

Featuring a servo-driven squeegee sealing system, this VFFS machine expertly forms, provides an air-free fill, and cleanly seals liquid products of all viscosities like water, creams, and thick sauces. This packaging solution was especially appealing to those end-users looking to package bulk soups. Often a messy undertaking that produced inferior seals, the packaging of bulk liquid soups (with or without particulates) can now be performed without worry. From initial packaging to shipment to use in consumers' homes, the VFFS Liquid Sigma ensures proper seal integrity and product freshness throughout the entire supply chain.

Keeping it Fresh: Home Delivery Meal Kits

The home delivery meal kit business model is experiencing sustained growth as consumers discover that they can now have fresh food delivered to their door in the exact amounts necessary to create a delicious and nutritious 'home-cooked' meal without all the hassle and food waste. The packaging industry is responding in kind by offering machinery and materials that are not only functional but attractive as well. 

meal_kit_home_delivery_ingredients.jpgWhen fresh food is packaged for the purpose of shipping direct to consumers, the importance of seal integrity becomes even more so. One leaky package can make a mess of the entire shipping container, not to mention even the smallest of leaks can dramatically affect product freshness and safety.

Machinery manufacturers are responding by focusing increasingly on the sealing jaws of the equipment. After all, this component is what produces the sealed barrier that separates the product from its environment. The best flexible packaging machinery features sealing jaws constructed from one solid piece of material, as this creates even and reliable heat transfer to create a solid and strong seal.

Premade Pouches For the Win

Preformed bags have been increasing in popularity, especially in niche markets that produce smaller-batch gourmet products. Companies in this market produce premium products with premium price tags and are quickly realizing they must provide premium packaging to match. Product packaging must align with a company's brand proposition, image, and values. In these unique markets, preformed pouches are a great move for both marketing and operations.

Pack_Expo_2015_rotary_premade_pouch.jpgFor these reasons, Viking's rotary premade pouch machine was the center of attention at Pack Expo. Not only is it a great piece of equipment to watch in action, but the equipment offers small, niche companies a great solution for their packaging needs in the following ways:

  • Packaging with a premium look and feel with premade, custom flexible pouches.
  • Ease of use with simple machine build and controls.
  • No requirements for highly skilled labor to operate the equipment.
  • Provides mid-range packaging capacity for those companies not looking for high-volume packaging equipment.
  • Small machine footprint for smaller operations with limited floor space.

While the premade pouch filling machine is a perfect match for niche companies, it can also satisfy the needs of multi-national corporations looking to elevate the look of certain packaged products to a more premium level. With available models that can package up to four premade pouches at once at speeds of up to 150 bags per minute, premade pouch filling machines are versatile enough to satisfy demands for higher-volume production as well.


Missed our equipment at Pack Expo? Not to worry. Check out our extensive video library, featuring videos of packaging machines like the Liquid Sigma, VFFS MS300, and rotary premade pouch machine.

Have questions about how the latest trends in packaging and packaging equipment can revolutionize your business? Request a free packaging equipment consultation today.

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