Bend and flex13 November 2019
Versatile and functional, flexible packaging is, as its name suggests, flexible. Brands love flexible packaging as it allows them to package their products with few disadvantages. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to fans of flexible packaging from across the value chain to learn more
There's not much that flexible packaging can't do, so it's no wonder brands love it. From sachets to wraps, pouches to packets, flexible packaging can be made from a range of materials including polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride. You can add zip locks, spouts and resealable closures or attach it to card stands and other POS features. Basically, any packaging whose shape is able to be easily manipulated can be called flexible packaging, all with low investment and minimal use of materials.
For disruptive snack brand The Snaffling Pig Co., flexible packaging has proved to be a steadfast contributor to its rapid growth. Offering easy redesign to a brand that loves change without compromising on quality, flexible packaging was chosen by founder Nick Coleman when he launched the brand in 2015 and continues to be its packaging of choice.
“The Snaffling Pig Co. is all about awesome flavoured porky snacks,” Coleman says. “We hand cook premium pork scratchings in such delicious flavours as Marvellous Maple, Perfectly Salted, and Hot to Trot Habanero Chilli. Plus there's our flavoured nuts, our gammon and our porky puffs. Everything we do is driven by our goal to get people talking. We know that pork scratchings are not the world's healthiest snack, so we're all about making ours the most delicious, the most indulgent and the most joyful; we know that some of the best moments in life are when you're sharing a great drink and a great snack with great friends, so that's why we do what we do.”
The Snaffling Pig Co's enthusiasm is infectious. Coleman's passion for pork was prompted when he decided he needed more of a 'purpose-lead' business to run alongside his successful medical business. He explains, “I wanted to create something that supports being in the moment, being together with people you love, having a great time. I looked around and saw the revolution in craft beer and wanted to make something that didn't compete but would reflect what was good about it. I realised that pork scratchings needed a rebrand – so The Snaffling Pig Co was born.”
With Coleman's business brain, he was able to create a profitable start-up that could be 'an evolving beast', with his marketing experience appreciating that packaging plays a key part in the brand experience. He says, “Our branding has always been an integral part of our business; we're an indulgent brand that pushes premium away from posh. We're accessible but intelligent. We looked at successful crisp brands like Pipers and Tyrrells, who were often in the types of pubs and bars we were targeting, and realised their packaging really stood out from the 'traditional' bar snacks, so we took inspiration from them.”
With all The Snaffling Pig Co's flexible packaging manufactured by Clifton Packaging in Leicester, Coleman is clear that keeping the flexible packaging engaging and inviting is crucial. He says, “We could have paid a branding agent to develop our design but we like to do it ourselves; it means there are some plate costs but we can keep tweaking, add new messages and change what's not working. As a purpose-lead business, we like to engage directly with our consumers, so attractive flexible packaging allows us to do that; we have a lot of fun with our packaging to make sure that porky snacks from The Snaffling Pig Co continues to surprise and delight.”
Two Farmers Crisps is another proudly British snack brand that is harnessing flexible packaging to keep its delicious hand-cooked crisps fresh and appealing to customers. Using 100% compostable bags called NatureFlex from packaging manufacturer Futamura, Two Farmers Crisps' packaging is an extension of its promise to 'protect this wonderful countryside while producing hand-cooked crisps that celebrate the flavours of Herefordshire'.
Founded by two farmers called Sean Mason and Mark Green, Two Farmers Crisps offers a complete farm-to-bag experience, working with suppliers and growers locally. The company maintains control throughout each process and is committed to producing an end product that is as sustainable as possible, so reducing food miles and packaging impact are core values.
“As a potato merchant, I am inspired to protect the countryside around me,” says Sean Mason. “The countryside sparked my desire to be the first crisp brand in the UK to launch a 100% compostable bag. We are proud to be as responsible as possible throughout the entire production process; we use renewable energy, we grow our potatoes to be healthy, happy and delicious. We believe there is no point making wonderful potato crisps and then packaging them in irresponsible bags, so our packaging is very much part of our ethos. Two Farmers Crisps are made to be enjoyed.”
Two Farmers Crisps are available in locally-inspired flavours including Hereford Bullshot Beef and Salt & Cider Vinegar. All flavours are available in two sizes, 40g for snacking and 150g for sharing, as well as 300g tins for catering customers. Mason continues, “We use 100% compostable packaging for our flexible packaging bags; the packets are made from cellulose and sustainably-grown eucalyptus trees from managed plantations. This means that they are entirely compostable and will compost in a home-composting environment in a little over 26 weeks. The home-composting element is important to us; we want our customers to know that our products and their packaging have been made to be as light on the planet as possible. There's no need for searching out particular recycling schemes, they can be easily composted at home, bringing nutrients back to the soil.”
Committed to 'working hand in hand with nature', Two Farmers Crisps aims to close the loop with its sustainable production methods. The flexible packaging also uses plant-based foil and biodegradable ink and, in independent tests, was shown to biodegrade in home composting at ambient temperatures in just six months and in industrial composting in less than 12 weeks. Mason adds, “Our packets break down into water, carbon dioxide and biomass. Once turned into compost it can be used to improve your soil.”
Worth a packet
Flexible packaging producer Futamura is justifiably proud of its NatureFlex range and loves working with the brands that embrace it. Futamura's sales and marketing manager Andy Sweetman explains why this range of speciality packaging films is performing strongly. “NatureFlex has been developed by Futamura to offer packaging material options that give strong environmental support towards increasing consumer demand for more environmentally responsible packaging,” he says. “NatureFlex provides brands with the reliable functional properties of flexible packaging with a wide range of end-of-life options, helping us all to optimise the sustainability of our raw materials and reducing our environmental impact.”
Sweetman explains how the flexible packaging revolution from Futamura gives exciting options to its customers. He says, “The shelf differentiation is terrific from NatureFlex; every brand wants to stand out so by choosing 100% compostable packaging, they can stand out for the best reason. It's a fantastic marketing tool, there's no downside. NatureFlex was actually launched in 2003 and this is a reengineered version that means the cellophane will break down naturally at its end of life. This innovation marks a key part of Futamura's mission for 2025; as we move most of our production to NatureFlex, we are highly motivated by our focus on producing more compostable films and flexible packaging.”
Sweetman adds, “The fresh food market essentially drove the demand for compostable packaging, particularly the organic sector, so by harnessing the best of the lessons learned we can continue to deliver innovative flexible packaging that offers excellent shelf life and strong marketing opportunities, and can be easily transported. We are delighted to have created a sustainable packaging product that performs brilliantly in every way. It's packaging we can be proud of.”
Flexible packaging offers a great many opportunities for growth, development and innovation. For all companies large and small driven by a desire – and often a regulation – to do things better from an ecological standpoint, building brands that use flexible packaging makes perfect sense.