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Flexibles are still leading the pack

When the Flexible Packaging Association (www.fpa.org) delivered its State of the Industry report last spring at its annual meeting, the news was certainly reassuring to its members. The flexible packaging market is growing at about 3.5 percent per year, and “value-added” packaging clearly dominates the market. From a total of $21.8 billion in sales during 2005, 78 percent of that revenue came from complex, colorful and creative packaging concepts. Take this year’s DuPont Awards top Diamond Award winner as an example. Tetra Pak, Inc. (www.tetrapakusa.com) gains top honors for its Tetra Wedge™ Aseptic Clear 200 Slim, the world’s first clear, aseptic standup pouch (see page 52).

FPA chairman Peter B. Schottland, American Packaging Corp. (www.ampkcorp.com), pointed out in his report presentation that retail food dominates the flexibles market, at nearly half of the total revenue (see chart at right). What markets do converters see as opportunities for 2006 and beyond? At the top of their list is beverages, confectionery and pharmaceuticals. For suppliers, they also agree on confectionery and pharmaceuticals, but add petfood and supplies and snacks to the list. While generally optimistic about 2006 sales, the flex-pack market also harbors some concerns, Schottland said, specifically in rising raw-materials costs and ever-tightening margins. Nevertheless, 61 percent of converters plan increased capital equipment spending this year to boost capacity, and another 6 percent say they are looking at business acquisitions.

John Durston, vice chairman of Flexible Packaging Europe (www.flexpack-europe.org), also addressed the FPA audience. “While Western European demand is mature at around one percent annual growth, new EU entrants in Central and Eastern Europe have five percent growth; Turkey is growing at eight percent, and Russia and Ukraine are growing at more than ten percent,” Durston says. “A more integrated European flexible packaging industry is coming as material specifications are being made on a global basis versus by country.” Competition, he says, will surely intensify.

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