Packaging machinery experts evaluate the applicability of the patented Easy Pour Bag for form/fill/seal machinery, which also reveals f/f/s machines’ capabilities and limitations.
Our story on the Easy Pour Bag from inventor Alan Olin, A 90-degree twist on reclosable packaging, mentioned the inventor’s findings into the machinability of the patented packaging that were based on input from several suppliers of bag-making systems used by converters.
We wanted to dive a little deeper into that aspect in considering the viability of producing the bags in-line on form/fill/seal machinery common to many brand owners’ production operations.
Olin encouraged our effort as he, too, wanted to broaden his contacts and gain useful information for the machinery that could potentially be producing Easy Pour Bags inline at these operations.
We solicited about a half dozen f/f/s vendors—one of which, Matrix, was willing to go on the record—as well as Ray Kondracki, owner of The Kondracki Group, LLC, a consultancy for trade show exhibitors. Ray is a former marketing manager at vf/f/s machinery builder Triangle Package Machinery and has also worked at Yamato Corp., a supplier of computerized multihead weighers that are often used with f/f/s systems. Because he was the first to respond and his input was so thorough, we lead off with his assessment.
In short, Kondracki sees some difficulty in running this package style on a vertical f/f/s system. He also shared the following details to which we have added Olin’s responses in bold:
Replacing standard bag-in-box cereal packaging: If you walk through any grocery store, you’ll notice the box is still king in this market. One of the few cereals that are already using flexible packaging to replace BIB is from MOM (Malt-O-Meal). The bags use a pour-spout-type zipper—basically a half zipper—in the top left corner of the bag top.
“There would be significant investment in consumer education such as through focus groups to get them to see the benefits of this new package,” opines Kondracki.
Olin: I disagree—I think the advantages of my Easy Pour Bag designs will be obvious to consumers and they will like the greater functionality because it will pour better with more control.
Headspace: In evaluating the video demo from the article link, Kondracki says it appears that there is a lot of head space in the bag. “That seems like wasted space and extra bag material,” he points out. “That’s not being sustainable from a ‘use-less-material’ mindset.”
Olin: The bag on my website video was for demonstration purposes only. In reality, the bag could be filled closer to the top. Also, if one were to stand up any pillow bag, such as Malt-O-Meal's, there would be a large "head space" too. The sustainability of my Easy Pour Bag, as compared to conventional bag-in-box cereal packaging, comes from reducing overall packaging material and food waste.
“Yet headspace is crucial on a VFFS to permit having a good seal on the bag,” says Kondracki. “A taller bag could result in using a taller VFFS machine, which many end-users (food manufacturers) will have issue with in their facilities. It's not an easy swap out current machines because of all the up/downstream equipment. Costs to a consumer packaged goods manufacturer could be significant.”
Olin: The bag could be made with a vf/f/s machine that makes wider bags by using pre-applied zipper material and running the printing/artwork/zipper at a 90-degree angle compared to a typical production. So, in a sense, the bag would be made sideways and filled/sealed from above, like all other bags, into the long side of the bag as it goes through the machine. When the bag is finished and rotated, the filled side would actually be on the opposite side of the bag from the zipper. This should decrease the amount of time to fill each bag.
Angled top seal: “It also appears on the website that some package renderings had angled top seals. I do not see a VFFS being able to do those. I also do not see how a VFFS machine could create the handles, as depicted in the video.”
Olin: I agree, these Easy Pour Bag variations might not apply to vf/f/s operations.
Filling: “If you think about a typical cereal application—or any vertical f/f/s application for that matter—there is usually a multihead scale or weigher above the bagger. The scale deposits product down a tube and into the top of the bag. I am not seeing a 'top' opening on this bag in the video; it’s hard to tell if the top is sealed or if it's just folded.
“I'm not saying the package style doesn't have validity, because it could. But again, there will need to be both consumer research and education to truly understand its validity. That’s before a food manufacturer even decides to adopt the new format. And only then would an OEM typically invest time and costs in determining how to create the package – once a customer says this is the bag style they are interested in.
“There are certainly vertical baggers that produce bags with some of the features (zippers and gussets, but not die-cut handles) shown in this particular package. Doing several of these features on the same package, in the manner they are shown in the video, could take some engineering. Some OEMs will have more engineering capabilities than others. Speed could be an issue as well. The more features you add, the slower speeds you have to run.
“In the end, I see this more as a premade bag style package to run on a horizontal f/f/s machine.”
Olin: While the vf/f/s version of the Easy Pour Bag would probably not include handles or angled tops, the main features, such as the reclosable opening along the side of the bag and the self-supporting capability, are achievable.
Next page: Two contrasting reviews