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U.S. bulk packaging demand to rise to $7 billion in 2009

According to a recently published study compiled by Cleveland-based industrial market research firm, The Freedonia Group, Inc. (www.freedoniagroup.com), U.S. demand for flexible bulk packaging is predicted to increase by 3.4 percent per year to $7 billion in 2009, creating a market for 6.2 billion lb of raw materials, of which some 60 percent will be plastics.

Growth will decelerate from the pace of the 1999 to 2004 period, as price increases from raw material costs moderate. Nonetheless, overall advances will benefit from healthy outlooks for manufacturing and retail activity.

Products offering a combination of cost benefits and increased performance efficiency are expected to see the best growth, Freedonia says, adding that the products will often supplant a variety of alternative formats, both flexible and rigid. The study also says the fastest growth is anticipated for film wrap and flexible intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). The demand for IBCs is expected to leap 5.6 percent annually through 2009, with growth also attributable to a rise in manufacturing activity and advantages of low cost, versatility and excellent performance for the shipping and storage of bulk, dry-flowable products.

Additionally, demand for plastic shipping sacks and plastic strapping will outpace the industry average, with the expansion coming at the expense of paper and steel counterparts, respectively. Plastic shipping-sack demand will be driven by solid opportunities in the agricultural and horticultural markets.

Film wrap accounted for 30 percent of total flexible bulk packaging demand in 2004 and is anticipated to remain a growth segment, the study indicates. Gains here will again be the result of heightened manufacturing activity as well as growing needs for the bundling and protection of goods during warehousing and distribution. Demand will also be influenced by retail trends, particularly the popularity of home centers, clubstores and other mass retailers, the study points out. Nondurable goods markets, such as food and beverages, chemicals, agricultural and horticultural products, paper, textiles, rubber, plastics and petroleum products, represented more than 70 percent of demand in 2004. They will expand in line with the industry average through 2009. The best gains are anticipated in the food and beverage, and smaller nondurables markets based on favorable product shipment growth as well as performance advantages over alternative flexible and/or rigid bulk packaging products. Plastic will remain the leading flexible bulk packaging material, with demand far outpacing other materials through 2009.

The U.S. Flexible Bulk Packaging Demand study, published in June 2005 at 282 pages, is available from Freedonia for $4,200.

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