Flow Wrap Packaging: Benefits, Types of Flow Wrapping & How To Get Started

Known for its versatility, cost-efficiency, and the ability to enhance the visual appeal of products, flow wrap packaging has become an invaluable tool for a wide range of industries. 

Whether you’re a seasoned packaging professional seeking to optimize your processes or a newcomer exploring the packaging landscape, understanding the intricacies of flow wrap packaging is essential.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of flow wrap packaging, unraveling its core principles, exploring the myriad benefits it offers, and shedding light on the types of materials that suit various products.

What is Flow Wrap Packaging?

Flow wrap packaging, often referred to simply as “flow wrapping,” is a packaging technique that has gained widespread popularity due to its ability to meet these essential criteria. 

The Essence of Flow Wrap Packaging

Flow wrap packaging is a versatile and highly efficient method used to package a wide range of products. 

Also known as horizontal form-fill-seal (HFFS), this process involves wrapping a product in a flexible film, creating a tightly sealed package that showcases the item while providing protection and tamper resistance. 

It’s a continuous process where products move horizontally through the machine, passing through various stages, including film unwinding, product loading, sealing, and cutting.

The Key Components

At its core, flow wrap packaging consists of three primary elements:

  1. Film Roll:

The packaging film, typically made from materials like polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), is supplied on a roll. This film is crucial as it forms the protective outer layer of the packaged product.

  1. Product Loading Area:

This is where the product to be packaged is introduced into the flow wrap machine. It can handle a variety of items, ranging from food products like chocolates and granola bars to non-food items like soap bars and disposable razors.

  1. Sealing and Cutting Mechanism:

In this section of the machine, the film is sealed around the product, creating a tight seal. Simultaneously, the excess film is trimmed or cut off to ensure a clean and professional appearance.

A Wide Range of Applications

One of the standout features of flow wrap packaging is its versatility. 

It is suitable for a diverse array of products, making it an ideal choice for manufacturers in various industries. Some common applications include:

Food Products: Flow wrap is commonly used for packaging bakery items, snack bars, fresh produce, and confectionery products.

Non-Food Items: Beyond food, flow wrap is employed for packaging items like toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and promotional materials.

What Benefits Does Flow Wrapping Offer?

Flow wrap packaging is a packaging technique that comes with a host of advantages, making it a preferred choice for many industries. Let’s explore the key benefits it offers:

  1. Cost-Efficiency

Efficiency is at the core of flow wrap packaging. The continuous and automated nature of the process reduces labor costs and ensures high-speed production. 

This efficiency translates to lower overall packaging costs, particularly when handling large quantities of products. 

It also minimizes material waste since the packaging film is precisely cut to fit each product.

  1. Product Protection

Flow wrap packaging provides excellent protection for products. 

The tight seal formed around the item not only keeps it secure but also guards against external contaminants, moisture, and tampering. 

This makes it an ideal choice for packaging items that need to maintain their quality and freshness, such as food products.

  1. Versatility

Flow wrap can handle a wide range of product shapes and sizes. 

From irregularly shaped food items to standard-sized non-food products, flow wrapping adapts seamlessly. 

This versatility allows manufacturers to package various products on the same production line without the need for frequent adjustments, saving both time and resources.

  1. Tamper Resistance

For products requiring tamper-evident packaging, flow wrap is an excellent choice. 

Once sealed, any attempt to open the package is evident, providing consumers with peace of mind that the product is secure and has not been tampered with.

  1. Extended Shelf Life

Flow wrap packaging can also contribute to prolonging the shelf life of certain products. 

By creating a barrier against oxygen and moisture, it helps prevent spoilage and extends the freshness of food items. This can lead to reduced food waste and improved product quality.

  1. Sustainability

As sustainability becomes a more significant concern, flow wrap packaging can be adapted to align with eco-friendly packaging practices

Manufacturers have the option to use recyclable and biodegradable films, reducing the environmental impact of their packaging.

  1. Speed and Efficiency

Flow wrap machines are known for their high-speed production capabilities. 

This rapid packaging process ensures that products can be packaged quickly, meeting demand and keeping production lines running smoothly.

  1. Reduced Labor Requirements

Automation in flow wrap packaging reduces the need for manual labor. This can result in cost savings and improved consistency in packaging quality.

Types of Flow Wrapping Material

Different products have distinct requirements, and the choice of material can impact the packaging’s functionality and appearance. 

Let’s explore some common types of flow wrapping materials:

  1. Polyethylene (PE):

Polyethylene is one of the most widely used materials in flow wrap packaging. 

It’s known for its flexibility, clarity, and excellent sealing properties. 

PE films come in various thicknesses, making them suitable for a wide range of products. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is often chosen for packaging items like bread, vegetables, and textiles, while high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used for heavier or bulkier products. 

Our PE sealants are a blend of both HDPE and LDPE. We have selected these films for their excellent seal initiation and tackability and well as their ability to seal through contamination

  1. BOPP (Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene):

BOPP films are a subset of polypropylene films that have been stretched in two directions to enhance their strength, clarity, and barrier properties. 

BOPP films are commonly used for packaging products like candies, cookies, and greeting cards. They offer a glossy, high-quality appearance that is visually appealing on store shelves. BOPP is also known for its lower cost compared to other film types. 

  1. Polyester (PET):

Polyester films are known for their strength, durability, and exceptional clarity. 

They are often chosen for packaging products that require a high level of transparency, such as fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, and salads. PET is our typical print film for its excellent clarity

PET films provide an excellent barrier against moisture and oxygen, preserving the freshness of the contents. PET doesn’t have much OTR barrier and is also not great on MVTR barrier. We use PET for its clarity and dimensionally stability as printing web for graphics. We also laminate PET with a more functional film such as PE (to add sealing) or METPET/EVOH (to add oxygen and moisture barrier)

  1. Cellophane:

Cellophane is a biodegradable and compostable packaging material made from wood pulp. 

It offers a unique, natural appearance and is often used for wrapping items like chocolates, gift baskets, and artisanal products. 

While cellophane is less common in industrial packaging, it is favored for its eco-friendly properties.

  1. Metallized Films:

Metallized films are used to add a metallic or reflective finish to flow wrap packaging. Mainly they are added for barrier properties, metallic finish is a secondary use.

They are often seen in products like snack bags and specialty food items, giving them an eye-catching appearance. 

Metallized films can also provide added barrier properties, protecting products from external factors like light, moisture, and oxygen

  1. Recyclable and Sustainable Films:

As environmental concerns continue to grow, manufacturers are increasingly turning to recyclable and sustainable flow wrap materials

These may include films made from bio-based plastics or recycled materials. (We don’t have bio-based ready to go at a commercial level). in choosing such materials can align with sustainability goals and appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Our Recyclable PE/PE structures and our PCR (post consumer recycled) structures can fall into recyclable and sustainable films 

  1. Laminated Films: 

All of the film we sell is laminated and made up of 2 to 3 films. 

They are suitable for products that require tailored packaging solutions.

When selecting a flow wrap packaging material, consider factors like the product’s characteristics, required barrier properties, and desired shelf presentation. Our sales team will help answer any questions a customer has and walk them through what kind of film they need for their application 

It’s also important to ensure the chosen material complies with any regulatory requirements specific to your industry.

What Types of Packaging Is Suitable for Flow Wrap?

Understanding which types of packaging are best suited for flow wrap is essential for optimizing your packaging process. 

Here are some common packaging formats that work well with flow wrap:

  1. Single-Unit Packaging:

Flow wrap is particularly effective for packaging single units of products. 

Whether it’s a chocolate bar, a soap bar, or a hardware component, flow wrap can efficiently encase individual items, creating a protective and visually appealing package.

  1. Multi-Pack Packaging:

Flow wrap can be used to create multi-packs or bundles of products. 

This is common in the food industry, where items like snack bars or cookies are often sold in multipacks. 

Flow wrap efficiently groups multiple items together while maintaining their individual integrity.

  1. Pillow Bags: 

Flow wrap can be used to create pillow bags, which are ideal for packaging items like candies, nuts, and small toys. 

Pillow bags are created by folding a single sheet of film around the product and sealing it on both sides. 

They have a distinct shape that makes them stand out on store shelves.

  1. Gusseted Bags: 

Flow wrap gussets generally takes away space but gives the package a cleaner look 

Gusseted bags are formed by folding a flat film into a shape that provides extra volume, making them suitable for packaging bulkier items. 

Flow wrap can create gusseted bags for products like bread, fresh vegetables, and clothing.

  1. Perforated Tear Strips:

In some applications, flow wrap can incorporate perforated tear strips, making it easy for consumers to open the package without the need for scissors or other tools. 

This feature is often seen in snack packaging and is designed for user convenience.

  1. Promotional Packs:

Flow wrap is a versatile choice for creating promotional packs, such as including a free sample or a bonus item with a main product. 

This can be an effective marketing strategy to attract customers and boost sales.

  1. Variety Packs:

For products with multiple flavors or variants, flow wrap can create variety packs that showcase the range of options available. 

This is commonly seen in the snack industry, where assorted flavors are bundled together.

In the final section of this article, we’ll guide you on how to get started with flow wrap packaging, providing essential steps and considerations for a successful implementation.

Getting Started with Flow Wrap Packaging

To get started successfully, consider the following key steps and considerations:

  1. Assess Your Product Requirements:

Begin by thoroughly assessing your product’s characteristics and packaging requirements. 

Consider factors such as product size, shape, weight, shelf life, and any special handling or storage requirements. 

This assessment will help you determine whether flow wrap packaging is the right fit for your products.

  1. Select the Right Packaging Material:

Based on your product requirements and industry regulations, choose the most suitable packaging material. 

As discussed earlier in this article, options include polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), BOPP, polyester (PET), and others. 

If sustainability is a priority, explore eco-friendly materials.

  1. Design Eye-Catching Graphics and Branding:

The visual appeal of your flow wrap packaging can significantly impact consumer buying decisions. 

Work with a graphic designer to create compelling graphics and branding that not only protect your product but also attract potential customers. 

Ensure that your packaging design aligns with your brand identity.

  1. Sustainability Considerations:

If sustainability is a priority for your brand, explore eco-friendly packaging options. 

This may include using recyclable materials, reducing packaging waste, or implementing recycling programs for your customers.

Flow wrap packaging offers a multitude of benefits, from cost-efficiency to product protection and visual appeal. 

By understanding the types of materials available and the packaging formats that work best for your products, you can make informed decisions and take advantage of this versatile packaging technique.

If you have any further questions or need assistance with specific aspects of flow wrap packaging, don’t hesitate to reach out to industry experts or packaging suppliers who can provide guidance tailored to your unique needs.