Bags and pouches are handy in almost any situation. They’re adaptable, easy to use, and becoming more common in the presentation of meat and poultry products.

The environments in which these products are often used — from freezing to broiling — can create some challenges. But making the right choice can overcome those challenges.

“The key attributes would be abuse resistance and seal integrity, in order to maintain product integrity throughout the distribution chain,” says Tim Lawlis, director of technical services for Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms Inc. “Ease of opening and graphics, especially for retail, are two other attributes that are next in line for importance.”

While commonly used in both retail and foodservice, there are somewhat different demands placed on these bags and pouches, Lawlis says.

“Primarily graphics are the key to a good retail package along with functionality and easy opening,” he explains. “Foodservice packages must be durable, maintain their integrity and be able to carry clear coding information for traceability.”

Lawlis says that freezing can be detrimental, especially with retail packages, for two reasons. One is failure due to flex cracks and brittleness. The other is the relaxation of the material if the package in brought back into refrigeration for sale.

Bags and pouches have become more common, especially as consumers and companies look for more convenience in the items available at stores.

The highlights

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) highlighted bags and pouches with its achievement awards for 2008.

One bag, made to hold rotisserie items such as chicken was selected for the Gold Award Winner in Environmental & Sustainability Achievement. The pouch was a flexible all-in-one package that is designed to aid consumers by giving them value-added features like a built-in handle for easy carrying, a resealable zipper for reclosing and a slim profile for saving leftovers. The pouch is microwavable and resists leaks. Compared to rigid containers, the pouch uses 92 percent less fossil fuels, produces 84 percent less CO2 emissions and reduces solid waste by 66 percent.

Many companies have taken the step of both looking for recyclable materials and educating consumers on how to recycle the packages.

“On current rigid packages, we try to make certain directions are clear to the consumers as to their options for recycling,” says Lawlis. “[Bob Evans] has not designated one material or system over another in regards to sustainability.”

The FPA’s Silver Award Winner was a cook-in pouch made to be puncture resistant with the convenience of a pre-printed laminated pouch. The package stays tightly sealed through cooking and distribution to ensure an outstanding consumer experience.