Bona’s unique refill pouch enhances the consumer’s experience

Lisa Pierce in Flexible Packaging on June 21, 2017

A new spouted stand-up pouch, typically seen in the wine category, is now adding consumer convenience and user functionality to bulk refills for Bona’s floor cleaners—and minimizes the product’s environmental footprint by replacing a heavier-weight rigid package.

Like nearly every successful packaging development, this project wasn’t just a simple drop-in package replacement. This premade pouch with comfort-carry handles, which holds 160 ounces or about 10 pounds of ready-to-use product, is different in several ways. For example:

• It is made from four webs of film (for several good reasons, outlined below).

• It dispenses the liquid cleaning product from a spout at the bottom of the pouch (instead of the typical top corner position of other refills).

Dan Smith, new product development engineer at Bona U.S., led this package development project in tandem with Bona’s product marketing team, and also worked closely with packaging vendors to ensure quality standards were met. Smith is a consumer product development maven with more than 20 years of experience in leading the creation of innovative products—from napkin sketch to production start-up—for the automotive, telecommunications and consumer product industries.

Smith tells Packaging Digest more about the pouch’s unusual construction and why the spout is at the bottom of the stand-up pouch. Carlos Boku Cornejo, sales director at pouch supplier Innovative Packaging Solutions (IPS), also provides technical details about the pouch manufacturing.


Why is there a need to enhance the refill experience for consumers?

Smith: Consumer feedback revealed that while our large refill-size products were popular due to cost savings, the packaging was cumbersome. Particularly when refilling our mop cartridge, the process didn’t meet our ease-of-use promise to consumers. When the wide mouth of the old 160-oz refill met the smaller opening of the cartridge, it was too easy to spill product. We also tested internally and, true to Bona’s commitment to innovation, we knew we could do better.


Why identify this as a refill pouch? Can’t it be used as the primary package?

Smith: Most Bona products are ready-to-use. We rarely offer a cleaner concentrate because the power of the Bona cleaner is the unique formulation of the solution. It wouldn’t make sense to have this refill pouch as a primary package as we have invested a great deal of innovation into the spray delivery mechanisms of our cleaners and mops.


Why a “soft” package (flexible versus rigid)? Is it better for ecommerce delivery? Is it better from an environmental viewpoint?

Smith: The soft packaging uses less material than a more rigid package. One of Bona’s key tenets is to also take environment into consideration, so this package uses 50% fewer materials (by weight) than our previous package, a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle. That translates into less waste in landfills for those who don’t or cannot recycle.

The soft packaging also tested better with consumers as a better visual appeal of the product.


Copy on the back of the pouch says that it uses 50% less packaging material by weight compared to the previous rigid bottle. Why was this important to include on the package?

Smith: This goes back to our brand promise at Bona. We want consumers to know we are keeping the environment top-of-mind in our packaging and products.


How important was sustainability in the design of this package? More or less so than the consumer experience?

Smith: In this case, we were looking to improve both the consumer experience and the impact on the environment. And I’m happy to say we met those goals.

As mentioned previously, we have a company-wide mission to consider environmental impact on every product and package we product. We also want to make sure that our products offer peace of mind for the consumer. No worries, no mess. This new packaging is a great marriage of both these goals.


Bona already has an HDPE refill bottle. Does that package contain any post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic? Does it hold the same amount of product?

Smith: This current version of the 160-oz refill offers the same capacity as the HDPE refill, which does not contain any PCR plastic. The Bona brand is associated with bright white packaging and when PCR plastics are added to the HDPE, it can add a yellow hue to the white bottle. We are looking into this and hope to incorporate PCR into the flexible pouch at some point in the future.


Are you keeping the HDPE refill package or replacing it with this new pouch?

Smith: We are keeping the HPDE bottle for other channels. Also, we shrink wrap a sprayer as a bonus sometimes onto the 160-oz bottle and we have not figured out how to do that yet for the flexible pouch.


You developed the pouch with IPS. Why partner with them?

Smith: IPS is a great partner and one we hadn’t worked with in the past. However, they came highly recommend and, once we saw their past work, it was a no-brainer to connect with them on this project.


The pouch design is a bit unusual, even for a premade pouch, in that it uses four webs of material and has a bottom and top gusset. Explain how this design came about and why. 

Smith: We wanted this large capacity pouch to be sturdy on shelf and at home. It was also important that the consumer could see when the pouch was empty. The clear top and bottom gussets allow for both a sturdy package and for it to be easy to see when it’s time to reorder.


How is this pouch made?

Boku: Similar to a standard stand-up pouch with a bottom gusset coming inline as a third piece…with this pouch, there are two gussets—top and bottom—folded at the same time, coming inline and meeting the front and back panels as the pouch is being sealed.

The challenge of it was, the top gusset is smaller compared to the bottom. We wanted the front panel of the pouch to be nice and flush—flat. If we made the top gusset too big, a lot of the material would be wasted because it would not expand all the way. And it would create a huge wrinkle. So we sized the top gusset according to the expansion of the bottom. The base of this pouch is close to 8 inches in depth.

Because the product fills so high, without the top gusset, it would have created too much stress on the side seals and started to collapse the pouch. As soon as we opened up that top gusset, the pouch just formed right.

We tried to keep the top of the pouch nice and square, but then it flared out too much because the top gusset is as big as it is. So we decided to taper it. We wanted to make sure the taper at the top of the pouch was just enough to give it the expansion needed without using any extra material and while giving it a flatter look. When you fill this pouch up completely, you’ll notice how perfect the pouch looks from the front and in profile.


Near the bottom, the pouch is shaped like brace punctuation marks {}. Why that design?

Boku: We did it out of necessity, but it turned out to be a clever idea. We were just trying to find a way for the pouch to stand with more stability. But it creates a window from the side.

The product has a color tint to it. On the front and back panels, we used a white polyethylene sealant for opacity. The top and bottom gussets are the same thickness but we used a clear base film so consumers can see the product from the top and bottom.

But, when the pouch is full, where that gusset goes upwards, you can see a peek of the product from the side, which is interesting.


What’s the benefit of having the clear bottom gusset showing the colored liquid inside?

Smith: We have different cleaners that are different colors. This allows the consumers to see the type of cleaner, as well as the liquid level inside.


Trimming the bottom corners like you did didn’t affect the pouch’s stability?

Boku: Because the bottom gusset is so big, we thought the pouch should be able to stand on its own weight without having to have that side seal all the way down. Sure enough, we cut it off and it worked out fine.

But when we cut off the bottom corners, there wasn’t enough stability to the pouch. So we made a thicker bottom seal, about 10 to 12 mm. That’s a huge reason why this pouch stands so well. When the product sits on a table, you’ll see those seals snap up. The design gives it some rigidity.


When consumers dispense the liquid, does the pouch collapse?

Boku: No. It maintains its billboard for the entire life of the product because the top gusset serves as a skeleton of the pouch. If it was just the front and back panels welded together, it would start collapsing.

This pouch dispenses, say, all but 20 milliliters of product. But then the consumer tilts the pouch—which is now very light—forward a little bit, presses the dispenser and gets everything out of the container.

But what’s nice about this pouch and having a dispenser at the bottom is, rather than having to lift or tilt a full pouch, you can just put it at the edge of a table or shelf, put the refillable container beneath it and press the button. Huge convenience factor.


Why is it important that consumers don’t have to tilt the pouch too much to get all the product out? Convenience, right?

Smith: It’s much easier for consumers to only need one hand to refill their smaller bottle or cartridge. This refill experience makes it all easy.


Why is a package design that enables nearly 100% product evacuation important?

Smith: There’s nothing worse than purchasing a product and leaving some of the solution or product in the packaging. We want Bona consumers to be thrilled, and that means they get every last drop of solution.


The design of the pouch helps keep it erect, even as it gets close to being emptied. Why is that important?

Smith: Again, it comes back to making the refill experience easy for consumers. We know consumers won’t use all the product at once to keeping it sturdy, and upright makes storage easy in a closet or on a shelf.


NEXT: Design and engineering challenges and solutions


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