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“Not all soup pouches are created equal”

Ever really thought about soup pouches? We spoke to Marion Bichler, Key Account Manager Europe and Richard Aust, Global Key Account Manager at Constantia Flexibles and discovered some interesting aspects.

 

Constantia Flexibles: Probably not many of us have given the „Soup Pouches Market“ a serious thought. Can you give us some facts & figures?


Marion Bichler: If you imagine yourself in front of the long shelves full of dry soup pouches, you can imagine, that the market is pretty huge. Soup is regarded as ‘comfort food’ in many cultures and is very easy to make – especially if you make the instant soups that can be bought at almost every supermarket and store around the world. The largest players in the market without doubt are the Knorr brand of Unilever and Maggi from Néstle SA.


The market size of dehydrated soup has grown from 2.9 billion EUR in 2010 to more than 3.3 billion EUR in 2015, which equals a speed of growth of 2.3%*) over 5 years or € 358 million EUR in absolute value terms. A pretty huge jump.


(Source: Euromonitor … *) the 2.3% refers to CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate)

Constantia Flexibles: A large market. The struggle of the soup producers for customers takes place at the supermarket shelf…How can the purchase decision be influenced by packaging?

Richard Aust: The packaging plays a key role. This is the first thing that catches the consumer’s attention. First of all there are the design features that are important – a matte and glossy print makes the soup pouch look more “sophisticated” and adds value. Also stand-out shapes can catch the attention of the eye. A tactile feel can also influence the customer’s choice. Then there are other features which are important for the consumer: the packaging has to be easy to open and enable easy pouring – depending on the product inside, portion control and a reclosability option might also be important.


Constantia Flexibles: So one soup pouch is not necessarily like the others?

Marion Bichler: Not at all. Of course there are the visible features, as Richard just said – sometimes soup pouches are shaped a bit differently to stand out. Then there are different types of pouches, such as stand-up pouches, 4-side-sealed pouches and reclosable pouches which all look a bit different. Last but not least soup pouches are made of different material structures depending on the needs of the product inside when it comes to barrier or puncture resistance. These different material structures are not necessarily visible to the consumer, though.


Constantia Flexibles: What are the special features regarding the “Feinschmecker” pouch you developed together with your customer a while ago?

Marion Bichler: The Unilever Feinschmecker Pouch is claimed to be the first peelable, bottom gusseted pouch, which offers a new format in dry food applications.


Due to the combination of two flaps and easy peel opening the consumer can open the pouch in a very convenient way without the need of additional equipment such as scissors. Also, as the pack does not get split into two pieces when opening the branding remains intact and guarantees the full readability of the food preparation instructions, content description, shelf life dates and other information.


Constantia Flexibles: Being experts, which trends are arising and what will be important in the future when it comes to soup or sauce packaging?

Marion Bichler: First of all, new printing technologies like HD Flexo and digital printing will start to become more important. Also new coatings are being developed that fulfil requirements like barrier and sealing even better than they do today.


Also new raw materials are being tested at the moment – some that are better suited for recycling or ones that are more cost efficient and lead to cost reductions. There are also aspirations to remove the aluminum foil from the packaging and to replace three layer materials with two layer structures.


When it comes to adding value to the brand, it will become more important to protect and differentiate the brand, communicate with the brand and to improve anti-counterfeiting measures. If you look at the market, the convenience, or ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle will certainly gain a greater influence as will senior marketing, as this part of the population is growing and becomes an even more important target audience.


Richard Aust: At the moment, the market characteristics of dehydrated soup is similar to other processed foods markets such as coffee, although the market size is larger in central and east Europe and Russia if you compare it to the other processed foods markets.


I think that the pack format of soup pouches is unlikely to change in a complete way because it works perfectly. If it changes it will be a slow development, step by step. The print quality and appearance will stay one of the most important differentiators for the customer marketing departments of the key players in the industry which explains why they are very cautious when it comes to changing print technologies.

I think the main developments will be centered on easy opening of the pouches – especially when using film (plastics) laminates instead of an aluminum laminate. Film laminate makes the standard ‘tear opening’ more difficult, so innovations are welcome here.


Constantia Flexibles: Thank you both for the interview.