ATLANTA — When Dennis Calamusa started in the flexible pouch and machinery business more than 20 years ago, he could point to one example of success on supermarket shelves.
“And there was nothing else except talk and discussion,” he said at the Packaging Conference in Atlanta.
But, certainly, times have changed. And he credits that now iconic pouch with laying the groundwork for what is now a fast-growing pouch market around the world.
Pouches provide an opportunity for cost reduction compared with other packaging options, he said.
But they also have a familiarity with a generation of people who grew up sipping their Mountain Coolers through those little yellow straws.
And now those kids are turning into adults with children of their own. They are ready to embrace the pouch for many goods beyond kids' drinks.
“They don't think twice about using a pouch now with a spout on it. And the young mom that's buying for them also doesn't think twice about preferring that over a box or a can,” said Calamusa, who is president of AlliedFlex Technologies Inc., which sells standup pouch machinery for different manufacturers.
“We're also seeing pouches offering that opportunity to reduce costs as well as have good and positive marketing advantages,” he said.
Pouches provide an opportunity for enhanced graphics compared with other packaging and can serve as a product differentiator.
“You invent or you create or you develop a new product and you put it in a package that's been around for 100 years — doesn't create a lot of excitement,” he said. “If you put a new product in a new package, the success ratio of that product introduction dramatically improves.”
Not only are new brands looking to break through the clutter by using pouches to stand out on store shelves, but stores themselves are migrating to pouches to help boost sales of their own private label goods, Calamusa said.
“All of these are having an opportunity now to create deployment differentiation,” he said, about retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, club stores and even convenience stores. Stores “are looking for a new and different opportunity for the consumer to experience a different shopping experience verses a traditional supermarket. So they're embracing new and different formats in packaging to create that shopping experience.”
Pouch use is growing around the world, and Calamusa said they are the dominate packaging in Asia and Pacific countries, where they account for 55 percent of the packaging. “We're still in the area of 12 percent in North America. The reason for hat is we have existing infrastructure, so we have bottling lines, canning lines, cartoning lines,” he said.
“It's very difficult for these companies to change from what they've done for 150 years to something new and different. They have a lot of existing assets,” he said.
“But change is certainly occurring anyway. We see these numbers continuing to grow. From nothing, they're growing. The magic is being able to put a reclosable feature on that package. Put a zipper in the pouch, put a spout on the pouch, and make it functional and convenient. And that has really created an opportunity,” Calamusa said.
The company president pointed to one very traditional food to prove the power of the pouch.
“One of the oldest commodity products in North America. How do you sell more applesauce? You reduce the price and you compete like crazy against the competition. Or you change the game, you reinvent the category. And that's what happened in the applesauce business,” he said.
“Today, we have about 25 to 30 [pouch] lines in North America that are costing applesauce companies millions and millions of dollars to integrate into their operations,” he said.
“But do you know what the funny thing is? We're running out of apples because people are using applesauce more than ever,” he said.
“We're creating and inventing new products and growing the business,” he said.