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Packaging Digest's white paper resource center is opening in the middle of this month at www.packagingdigest.com . Anyone with a white paper related to packaging materials, machinery or technology is invited to upload the paper to our website. See our ad on page 63 for details and instructions. Already on the site are white papers such as Brand Protection—Another Lifeline for Patient Safety, GenNext Technology and Industrial Printing and Coding, among many others. There is no limit to the number of white papers each company can upload.

The Internet can be a valuable tool for conducting research and finding information from reputable sources. For example, in early December, Kline & Company (www.klinegroup.com ) held a webinar to discuss the findings of a recent study, High-Performance Barrier Packaging Films USA 2005: Business Analysis and Opportunities. Their research reveals that food applications represent a $1.1 billion market for barrier packaging film in the U.S., with an overall $3 billion market for flexible packaging that incorporates barrier films. According to Kline's analysts, barrier packaging films are forecast to grow at nearly 15 percent annually, as film suppliers and converters invest in process improvements in order to reduce costs and remain competitive.

According to Kline's study, the market for barrier films in packaging for perishable food is growing at about 5.3 percent annually, while growth in dry food applications is lower. Perishable foods represent an impressive 80 percent of the value of barrier films in food applications. This is mostly due to the higher barrier requirements typically achieved using film structures with more layers, which increases the value of the film significantly. "Convenience food is one of the fastest-growing segments of consumer packaged goods," says Sharon Derbyshire, senior associate in the Chemicals and Materials practice for Kline's research division. "The demand for products that cut down on meal preparation, such as value-added meat, heat-and-eat entrées, and products packaged in microwavable pouches, is expected to intensify, and this presents some significant opportunities to film suppliers and converters."

Food companies have resisted attempts by film suppliers and converters to pass along price increases that have been driven by jumps in resin and energy costs, the study says, but newer coextrusion technologies allow for higher performance at a lower cost. In addition to reduced material costs, food packagers favor flexible packaging for its reduced freight and means of source reduction. All of these trends bode well for a market that is poised for continued growth.

Derbyshire also notes that dry mixes, confections and snack bars, and petfood segments are growing quickly and offer attractive opportunities for growth. As a result of trends toward health consciousness and the demand for portable food, there has been a 20-percent spike in the growth rate of adult-oriented functional bars over the last few years. Metallic films are particularly favored for their high graphic appeal.

As U.S. consumers are focusing more on portion control, they are also depending on food packagers to help them determine a true single-serving size.

For information on purchasing this study, go to www.klinegroup.com/Y381a.htm or e-mail [email protected] .

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