T.H.E.M. to Celebrate 20 years of Stick Packaging

MARLTON, NJ | Technical Help in Engineering and Marketing (T.H.E.M.), a provider of packaging solutions in North America, reports that 2016 will mark 20 years since it introduced flexible stick packaging to the North American market.

“We discovered these unique portion packs, which served as alternatives to traditional rectangular pouches, in Japan several years before,” says Neil Kozarsky, CEO and president of T.H.E.M. “Believing stick packs could be of great value to our consumer packaged goods clients, we formed a partnership with Japan’s Sanko Machinery Company, the inventors of stick packaging.”

Initially, says Kozarsky, single-serve applications in the domestic retail market included soluble coffee and cocoa and infant formula, but T.H.E.M. predicted that many other products could benefit from becoming portable and more travel-friendly. The fulfillment of this prediction was evident in the advancement of sugar, non-dairy creamer, and sweeteners during the late 90s, which was due in no small part to the stick pack format, Kozarsky says. “The adoption of stick packaging in these product categories resonates with the principles that our company was founded on. To re-energize tried and true brands, and re-engage consumers through the use of innovative packaging formats.”

Barely into the format’s second decade in North America, T.H.E.M. developed “The Progression of Stick Packaging,” a visual model that reflected its vision of the North American adoption of flexible stick packaging. The configuration was a reflection of consumer behaviors and preferences and based on purchasing trends throughout European and Asian markets.

“We envisioned stick packs steadily moving up the consumer value chain, starting with sweeteners and condiments, and then escalating to soluble products, vitamins, and nutritional products, and finally culminating with pharmaceutical-grade applications,” says Kozarsky.

Driven by the growth of bottled water during this time period, powdered beverage mixes in stick packs became a big success…. Along with vitamins and nutritionals, a host of energy formulations tapped into the portability and convenience of the stick packs.

In early 2011, Kozarsky was asked to offer an outlook on the future of flexible stick packaging in North America. The following represented his five core predictions at the time, all of which have come to pass to a greater or lesser degree.

1. The enduring presence of the stick pack format.

2. The ongoing replacement of traditional pouches.

3. The ascendance of aseptic and dairy sticks.

4. Dissolve-In-The-Mouth (DITM).

5. The unabated advance of manufacturing technology.

Kozarsky forecasts the following three developments that will shape the use of flexible stick packaging in the years to come:

1. A healthy entrance into pharmaceutical and OTC markets.

2. The emergence of upscale quick-serve stick packs.

3. Pets will experience the same stick pack advantages as their owners.

“T.H.E.M. will continue to monitor consumer trends and emerging technologies on a global scale,” says Kozarsky. “While none of us have crystal balls, there are concrete measures and indicators available that can help us see opportunities for game-changers, like the stick pack.”

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