Breaking Down Barriers: What are barrier bags?

Over the last few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of barrier bags that are now common in the market such as stand-up zipper pouches, coffee bags and quad seal bags. In today’s competitive landscape, companies are continuing to look for ways to cut costs while extending the shelf life of their products. Many have sought flexible plastic packaging as the answer, but it’s not always an easy solution. There are many different types of barrier films available in this type of packaging.
All plastic bags provide some kind of barrier. Typically, in the packaging industry, plastic packaging known as barrier bags provide a higher level of protection against moisture, light and oxygen; however, it is not always the thickness of the material that provides the improvement in barrier properties. While a thicker bag does offer more protection, a bag that is half as thick that includes additional barrier layers, will result in much better protection. Certain materials eliminate, or severely limit, the amount of light that penetrates the bag. Other materials reduce or eliminate the amount of moisture that is transferred through the bag. Some materials will either restrict oxygen or allow more oxygen, depending on the needs of your products.
Most often we see the use of barrier bags with food packaging because of the increased ability needed to extend the shelf life of food products, which can be compromised by light and oxygen. Depending on the needs of your products, there are several levels of barrier films.
We’ve broken them down into low, high, higher and highest barriers.
Highest barrier primarily contain foil, which offers the best protection. This is most often used for coffee bags, but can be used in any application that requires the highest level of protection.
Higher barriers often include the use of metallized films, which improve barrier properties. These materials have excellent moisture, light and aroma barriers, and they are a very versatile packaging film.
High barriers include multi-laminate films that offer good protection for a very good price.
Low barriers can still protect your product well and come at a cheaper cost, but allow more light, oxygen and moisture through. While this might be a good option for some products, a higher barrier could be preferred for others.
Below are some of the most popular barriers our customers are using:
Highest moisture, light and oxygen barrier
Metalized Polyester
Excellent moisture, light and aroma barrier. Good low temperature resistance
Very versatile for different food products
Saran Coated Polyester
Excellent moisture barrier, good oxygen/aroma barrier
Snacks, tea, pastries
High moisture barrier, moderate oxygen barrier
Snacks, candy, tea
High temperature resistance, good seal-ability, good vacuum retention
Powders, liquids, sauces, spices
Good moisture barrier, good low temperature resistance
Popsicles, dry products, chocolates
Good moisture and aroma barrier, oil resistance
Tea, confections, nuts, pet food
Multi-layer structure bags are very common in today’s marketplace. Bags made with a combination of different layers of material can add extra protection, make a bag food safe, make it smell proof, etc. These bags can also add to the appearance of the final product, as an example, a kraft bag could be foil lined to give it an earthy feel while maintaining the highest barrier protection.
While high barrier bags are often used to improve the shelf life of food, there are several other types of bags that provide barriers for non-food products. For example, Crystal Clear Bags are made from acid-free/archival plastic which helps to eliminate the yellowing or fading of art and photography (BOPP). Plastic art and photo sleeves are also durable, offering protection from finger prints, spills, dust and inclimate weather.
We understand there are many ways to protect your products. If you have questions about which barriers would be best protection, please give us a call. We always have someone here willing to help (during normal business hours of course :)).