There's a particular life cycle that is common in food and beverage packaging. Things begin as an innovation, then become part of a trend, advance to the level of a craze, and eventually become the norm. We've seen it with mason jars, tin cans, twist-off caps, aluminum cans, resealable tops, zip packs, and more.
Stand-up pouches, which were innovative just a few years ago, are now approaching the final stage of the cycle. The pouches are suddenly everywhere. And they're being used for everything.
Unit volume of stand-up pouches has grown 50% in the past five years to 17 billion units, according to a report by PCI Films Consulting, a research firm specializing in flexible packaging.
Food and drink manufacturers like the pouches because the low-weight materials can save costs in production and shipping. Consumers like them because they offer convenience, look "new," and are easier to recycle.
Here's a look at four sectors of the eats-and-drinks business where stand-up pouches are already close to being the new standard.
In the early 1960s, beverage companies started putting juices into the first aseptic cartons. Suddenly, the milk man with his truck full of drink-it-before-it-spoils glass bottles was an anachronism. And just as suddenly toddlers around the globe developed a near-religious affinity for juice boxes.
But over in Germany, a little juice and flavorings company had a different idea - pouches. By 1967, the technology was in place. And in 1969, the first pouches of Capri Sun rolled off an assembly line in Germany.
Now, you can find stand-up pouches filled with drinks that are advertised as good for children and drinks that are illegal to give to children. Capri Sun has added a clear bottom to its pouches as a way to fight mold, and agribusiness giant ADM has bought the company behind Capri Sun.
You can still find those adorable little glass jars full of baby food at your local grocery store. But once your kid starts feeding himself, he's probably doing so by squeezing a fruit-and-veggie goop into his mouth. Squeezable pouches are the packaging choice of the sandbox set and their parents, offering a perfect combination of soft-mushy food favored by toddlers and the builds-dexterity actions of "finger food."
The two most recognizable brands in toddler food pouches are probably GoGo Squeez, owned by France's Materne; Stonyfield's Yobaby brand; and Plum Organics, which was purchased last year by Campbell Soup.
When Campbell Soup announced its decision to buy Plum Organics in May 2013, the deal seemed to be driven by Campbell's interest in expanding beyond its core market. Plum was already the fourth-largest baby food brand in the nation, and it looked like Campbell wanted to be a major player in that space.
But the folks at Campbell's headquarters in Camden, NJ, may have had more on their mind than just toddler food. Just months before buying Plum, the soup company rolled out its first stand-up pouches of soups.
By August last year, soup in a pouch was starting to look like a very good idea, as Campbell's rival Hain Celestial pronounced that canned soup was dead.
Analysts agreed that soup in a can was passe, and began to speculate that stand-up pouches might be the answer.
You'd be hard-pressed to name a sector of the food industry that produces more packaging waste than the world of chewy sweets. For decades now, a pack of gum has been a small box containing not just gum, but individually wrapped pieces of gum.
Miniature pieces of candy were packaged the same way. If you bought a bag of 25 tiny chocolate bars you also got 25 tiny chocolate bar wrappers.
But that's changing. According to a survey of 72 confection companies by the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, flexible stand up packages are proving very popular with candy makers.
Mars is one of the latest candy makers to move to stand up pouches for its bite-sized candies. And for the makers of sweets, the key attraction of stand-up pouches is the use of barrier packaging to preserve freshness without the use of all those individual wrappings.