Packaging provides protection to the contents in a variety of ways and starting from bottles during the early stages of development of food industry there has been a phenomenal change in the type of packs used through years. Even to day glass bottles are the most ideal form of packing material for food as it is neutral to reactions under all conditions with the constituents present in most food materials. Its only limitation was vulnerability to easy breakage under stress conditions and low tolerance to high temperatures often encountered during thermal processing. To day there are special quality glass that can resist breakage, withstand high temperatures and are light weight. Still glass has lost out to plastics some where on the way probably because of rapid developments in plastics with a wide range of them emerging with versatile performance quality.
Cans which ruled the roost at one time got its boost during the wars as they were found ideal with high tolerance to extreme conditions, often encountered during hostile operations. "Ancient" sanitary cans based on steel have given way to modern cans with more neutral qualities and improved closure capabilities and canning is not completely obsolete as some believe it to be. Here again plastics have made inroads and there are high quality plastic cans being made for use in packing mostly powdered products like baby foods. In spite of all progress made by food technology, Armed forces still prefer metal cans, especially for use in forward areas where hostilities persist. Composite cans were once preferred by the industry but it has to yield place to plastics because of cost and other considerations.
In the packaging field one of the fast growing sectors is film based packs which are at least a dozen in number using different combinations. From the earliest and simplest polyethylene film to the most sophisticated multilayer laminates with fantastic range of functional performance, almost equaling metal cans, packaging industry has come a long way and food and pharmaceutical industries are increasingly embracing these new materials for their packaging needs. The cause of flexible packs is helped significantly by design of machines for forming and closing pouches with very high productivity unrivaled by any other packaging format.. Tetrapack company developed one of the most amazing packaging materials based on paper laminate for aseptic packing of practically any food with some flowing characteristics. If milk, juices, beverages, soups, curries, dals, etc are being produced with long life, it is because of the versatility of Tetrapack machines and the packaging materials pioneered by the company.
According to recent reports a new trend is seen to be emerging in the food industry which is increasingly opting for pouch packaging, weeding out their traditional formats due to many reasons. Imagine traditional products like soups, ketch ups etc are now being offered in special pouches with attractive presentation which otherwise was not possible with bottles or cans. Many food producers are gravitating towards pouches as their preferred packaging this year for a variety of products and it is believed that there are "weighty" reasons for this new trend emerging. Savings on packaging and shipping costs due to pouches' lightweight nature and lack of relative bulk, are important consideration, while improved protection afforded by pouches is a bonus. New technologies in pouch packaging are ensuring that the average shelf life of products is literally doubled while cost of packaging is reduced by about 15% in many cases.:Another feature of pouch packing is that they are amenable to trendy designs and convenient dispensing liked by the consumer who relishes it because of the fatigue generated by the old style caps and closures. Besides pouch materials are suitable for highly attractive multi color printing, graphically intensive to compel attention of the consumer. Most importantly these attractive pouches are compatible with the new aspirations and moods of the younger generation. Pouch packing using material that is microwave compatible has the added advantage of convenience in serving.
Interestingly while talking about pouch packing which is now getting international attention, India is considered the pioneer in small pouches. One of the earliest products, chewing tobacco was made popular almost two decades ago deploying this marketing mode. To day there are scores of products in pouches with price tags of Re 1 to Rs 10 available to Indian consumers which are made not by small players but by reputed brand leaders churning the market to no end. Look at the Dairy industry in India which distributes millions of pasteurized milk pouches each with 100 ml to 1 liter capacity serving a large segment of middle class and poor population across the country. This singular action by the industry has enabled millions of Indians to avoid consumption of spurious, adulterated and contaminated milk vended by the proverbial and unscrupulous milkman!
A social aspect that is intimately linked to pouch packing is that costly products which were sold in larger packs hitherto are offered in small pouches at easily affordable prices for mass consumption. These include high cost products like Complan, Boost, Horlicks, Instant Coffee, Tea, Badam drink powder, snacks like potato chips etc and low cost items such as soft drink mixes, pickles and pickle mixes, Ketchup, Sauce, soup powder, curry powders, spice powders, biscuits, candies, chocolates etc. It is amazing that these low priced small pouches are offered even in street corner kirana shops while larger packs are sold mostly in super markets and high end shops. Government of India which moderated the tax incidence on food packing materials some years ago to make them affordable and the ever innovative packaging industry, both deserve appreciation for the revolutionary changes taking place in food retailing in the country.