Consumer perceptions of the beverage pouch as a 'kid’s format' is restricting the growth of flexible packaging in the sector, market research firm Mintel claims.
Speaking with BeverageDaily.com, Mintel global packaging insights director, Benjamin Punchard, said that the strong association between beverage pouches and children's brands such as Capri Sun and Minute Maid Coolers is limiting adult interest in the format.
“The majority of beverage products in pouches are targeted at parents that want a convenient packaging format that can be thrown into a bag for their children,” said Punchard.
“Many adults still have this perception that beverage pouches are designed for children.”
“Adult consumers still prefer rigid packaging formats.”
Punchard added, however, that this could change very easily.
“There is a lot of interest in flexible packaging formats from beverage brand owners,” he said. “They know there is an opportunity to adopt this packaging format. It just needs the right product launch to help its image transition from a child to an adult format.”
Hierarchy of needs
Despite significant growth in sectors such as health and personal care, flexible packaging remains a niche format in the beverage industry.
According to US market research company Freedonia, flexible packaging containers account for a relatively small segment of the overall beverage packaging mix – around 4bn units. Meanwhile, plastic bottles account for more than 100bn units.
Mintel analyst Punchard has put this down, in part, to the environmental failings of existing beverage pouches.
“In most categories, there is a hierarchy of needs,” said Punchard. “With beverages, the environment comes very high up.”
“Liquid cartons tend to be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-stamped, and a lot of beverage manufacturers make claims about the environmental benefits of their product packaging."
“Pouches tend to be multi-layer, which makes then more difficult to recycle. That can cause a barrier for some consumers," he said.
Few technical barriers
But aside from the aforementioned recycling difficulties, and current consumer perceptions of the format, few technical issues that could restrict the growth of flexible packaging in the beverage sector exist, according to Punchard.
“Technically, there aren’t a lot of restrictions,” he said.
“Carbonates are out, but anything that can be pasteurised can go in a pouch.”
“Liquids that tend to be hot-fill are also less-likely to be packaged in pouches, but if there is pressing consumer demand, technical solutions can be found.”
“There are a few technical barriers, but there are always solutions if consumers demand it,” Punchard added.