The reasons are simple: Consumers demand the convenience, quality, functionality and value that flexible packaging can provide. In addition, flexible packaging substrates help cut costs and can offer sustainability advantages by reducing the amount of materials required to cut package weight and lower transportation costs. Flexible packaging also is finding increasing favor for food and beverages, whose consumption continues to grow.
Three recent studies by Pira Intl. , PRIMIR and the Freedonia Group indicate that flexible packaging is likely to continue gaining market share. The recent Pira study forecasts that the global flexible packaging market will grow from $127.1 billion in 2009 to $137.5 billion in 2014. The PRIMIR study places US flexible packaging at $28 billion last year, and forecasts growth of 2 to 3 percent annually through 2013.
The Freedonia study predicts world demand for converted flexible packaging will increase 3.5 percent a year to more than 19 million tons in 2013.
Flexible packaging can be easily tailored to meet demanding specifications for a wide range of products, the Pira study states, citing development over the years from simple paper wrappings and bags to sophisticated, multilayer and multimaterial packaging for barrier protection and shelf-life extension.
Studies detail benefits
According to the studies, key market drivers and trends identified for flexible packaging include:
- Biodegradable and recyclable flexible materials gain favor as retailers and brand owners seek to improve packaging's environmental footprint.
- Flexible films and bags are continually downgauged to reduce costs and minimize waste. However, this will restrain volume gains.
- Flexible packaging allays growing concern about excessive packaging being disposed of in landfills.
- Standup pouches are replacing glass bottles and other traditional package types for a range of food and beverage products.
- Laminated structures using high-barrier resins along with foils and paper are being designed to preserve product freshness and extend shelf life. Specialized coatings also are under development that may enhance packaging performance.
- Convenience features such as microwaveable pouches, peel-off lids, zippers and pouring spouts will help steal share from folding cartons and boost sales in developed countries.
Plastics make inroads
The Freedonia study says plastics will continue to make inroads due to a superior price/performance profile along with developments in biodegradability and high-barrier resins. One concern, PRIMIR points out, is that many plastics are petroleum-based, and this raw material cost has proven to be quite volatile.
Meanwhile, the studies agree that the growth of flexible packaging will be greatest in the developing regions of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. China already has surpassed Japan as the second-largest market for converted flexible packaging.
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