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Innovations include the first national organic baby food packaged in transparent pouches.
Happy Family's new Clearly Crafted transparent baby-food pouches
If there was one packaging takeaway from March’s Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, CA, it’s that pouches are still hot-very hot. Indeed, the Freedonia Group estimates that U.S. pouch demand will grow 4.4% annually through 2020 to $10.1 billion. Food and beverage makers were responsible for nearly 80% of the U.S. pouch-packaging demand in 2015.
We spoke to several pouch innovators at Expo West about how they are taking pouches to new heights-and new consumers.
“Quite simply, the pouch format is extremely convenient,” says Stephen Schultz, senior brand director of Andros Foods, owner of the Fruit Me Up! brand of fruit and vegetable pouch products. At Expo West, the company highlighted its Naturally Better and Boost pouches, with Boost offering enhanced levels of nutrients like calcium, fiber, and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
Now for Adults
Puree pouches first gained attention as a unique and convenient delivery system for baby and toddler foods. Today, however, pouches aren’t just for kids; they’re for teens and adults, too.
“Our Fruit Me Up! products are geared towards kids, but we believe the Fruit Me Up! Boost pouches also appeal to adults who are active and need a quick nutritional boost,” Shultz says. “When you look at the market right now, many of the energy products out there come in a pouch format. It's because you can enjoy them while you're bike riding, exercising, grab them for a quick snack when you're walking between classes, running errands, searching for a mid-afternoon snack at work...the list goes on. Anyone can quickly pick up a pouch.”
Fruit Me Up!'s Boost pouches contain added nutrients for the active adult.
Squeezable pouches aren’t the only option for adults, either. Big Slice Apples has carved out a piece of the pouch-snacks market with convenient, single-use pouches containing fresh, ready-prepared apples mixed with sophisticated flavors like green tea and raspberry hibiscus, as well as superfoods like hemp seed and chia. Users tear off the top of the pouch and then proceed to eat the fruit inside or sprinkle the fruit on cereal, waffles, yogurt, granola, etc. At Natural Products Expo West, the company unveiled the latest addition to its Fit Collection, Honey Berry Chia, featuring apples mixed with boysenberries, honey, and chia seeds.
“Big Slice is a sophisticated snack for those looking for something more than a squeezable puree,” says Regina McCoy, vice president and co-owner, Big Slice Apples. “You can eat it with a fork and actually taste and see the individual ingredients. This is unlike anything else on the market.”
“Our customers love our uniquely designed, glam pouches,” McCoy continues. “They appreciate that they can easily be carried in a bag or purse to provide a healthy snack on the go.”
Happy Family, a company that helped pioneer the organic baby-food pouch category, offers its Happy Mama squeezable-pouch line for women’s prenatal nutrition containing nutrients such as choline and omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
For the general adult population, Happy Family also created Shine Organics, fruit and vegetable pouch snacks featuring sophisticated flavors like passionflower, turmeric, green tea, and parsley. Products aim to meet the consumer’s need, including the Calm pouch (to sooth the body and mind) and Elevate (for “when you need a pick-me-up,” the company says).
“We had friends and consumers tell us how they were eating our baby and tot pouches themselves as a way to fit organic fruits and vegetables into their diets on the go, and we’ve been enjoying them ourselves around the office for years, so we wanted to bring the pouch format to the adult market,” says Happy Family CEO and founder Shazi Visram. “We knew there was a wider audience as well, with Millennials increasingly looking for healthy snack options on the go, and that was the inspiration for Shine Organics, our adult line of super ingredients in a pouch.”
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Big Slice Apples' sliced-apple pouches both look and taste sophisticated,
Taking Transparency to the Next Level
Happy Family highlighted yet another pouch innovation at this year’s Natural Products Expo West show: the first national organic baby food packaged in transparent pouches.
In 2013, several baby-food pouch companies faced product recalls and negative press, including consumer claims of tainted products. Visram says Happy Family launched its new transparent pouches to address product-integrity worries. “We definitely heard from parents that there was a concern in terms of not being able to see exactly what is inside a pouch, especially when feeding to a small baby,” Visram says. “Introducing transparent packaging to the mix seemed like the logical next move for Happy Family.”
The new transparent-pouch line is called Clearly Crafted, and the product is transparent in other ways, as well. “With Clearly Crafted, parents can now see what they are feeding their baby. They can also get all the information from us about the farms we partner with and the exact measurement of each ingredient in the pouch. We are proud to be the first organic brand to share the recipe story directly on the pouch and hope we set a new high standard within our industry,” Visram says.
The company found a way to enhance visibility while still ensuring the package’s graphics stood out against the transparent background. “We wanted to make sure the vibrant colors of our recipes would stand out on shelf,” Visram says. “Printability was also essential so that our beautiful, ingredient-specific photography at the bottom and top of pouch would stand out.” An aluminum-oxide layer in the pouch maintains the proper barrier to meet shelf life and oxygen transmission rate (OTR) requirements.
Ingredient Suppliers Help Expand Pouch Options
Ingredient companies are also lending a hand to expand possibilities in pouches. Take Ganeden Biotech (Cleveland), a probiotics supplier whose hardy Ganeden BC30 Bacillus coagulans strain can withstand harsh processing conditions, including the extreme pressure exerted by high-pressure processing (HPP), a sterilization method seeing more demand in the pouch category.
One pouch company, Nomva, is among those looking to replace pasteurization and high-heat options with HPP sterilization. In addition to being right on trend with HPP and pouches, Nomva is infusing its fruit and vegetable pouches with an effective dose of Ganeden BC30 probiotics. (The start-up company was cofounded by Caroline Beckman and Nina Church, daughter of Jeff Church, the CEO of successful HPP beverage brand Suja.)
Ganeden Biotech’s senior vice president, Mike Bush, explains why the Ganeden BC30 strain stands up well to HPP sterilization. “HPP is designed to basically explode the microorganisms to help reduce pathogen loads,” he says. “Because Ganeden BC30 is a dormant spore, pressure doesn’t affect the organisms. We have very little loss” of the active culture, he says.
“Any traditional lactic acid bacteria, any type of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium-the cells would burst under the pressure,” Bush says.
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