Packaging key trends and strategies explained

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Global Packaging Manufacturing Industry


The global packaging material and machinery industry generates $500 billion yearly, accounting for between 1% and 2% of gross domestic product in industrialized nations, according to the World Packaging Organization. There are 100,000 packaging manufacturing companies in operation, representing 5 million jobs.


Packaging technology has been undergoing rapid development over the past few decades, with consumers reliant on packaging for food safety and transportability in particular. The explosion of supermarkets and convenience foods would not have been possible without developments in packaging.


Recent advances in environmentally friendly packaging are helping packaging manufacturers meet demand for recyclable products as consumers seek to reduce waste and limit the harmful impact of modern living on the environment. Sustainability is a major issue for the packaging industry moving forward as companies reliant on the industry are obliged to comply with changing government legislation encouraging recycling. Producing lightweight alternatives to traditional packaging is also key as companies seek to cut transport costs.


Role of Packaging


Packaging is not an end product but a mode of transport and protection for other products. Companies choose from a host of packaging options for their own products with the aim of keeping transport costs to a minimum and delivering their products to the customer with minimal or no damage. One constant challenge for packaging manufacturers is producing increasingly lightweight packaging. Over the past three decades, the weight of glass bottles and steel cans have effectively been halved, reports the UK Packaging Federation.


Apart from protecting products such as foodstuffs, and facilitating transport, packaging also plays a role in attracting customers through aesthetic display. Packaging must strike a balance between minimizing additional weight to a product and protecting the product, particularly in the case of perishable food products. Regions with inferior packaging and distribution networks pay the price in terms of waste. In certain parts of Eastern Europe for example, up to 50% of food products become waste before reaching the consumer; whereas less than 3% of food is wasted in Western Europe due to a better packaging system, according to the UK Packaging Federation.


Packaging also fills the function of labeling products, for example setting out how the product should be stored or used. Packaging must be increasingly adaptable, providing for different environments such as products that must be frozen or cooked without removing the product from its packaging.


Safety requirements must also be respected in the manufacture of packaging; for example certain products, such as cleaning products or medicines, may necessitate childproof opening devices.


Key Segments


  • The US market for converted flexible packaging is forecast to reach over $18 billion in 2015, according to Freedonia. Market growth will be fuelled by economic recovery along with a cost and performance advantage over rigid packaging, and rising demand for processed food products necessitating packaging that maximizes shelf life. Converted flexible packaging is becoming a favorite as consumers and governments go green to protect the environment.


  • The world tin packaging market is estimated to reach almost $32 billion in 2011, according to research from Visiongain. Growing demand for convenience foods in ready-to-eat format with accompanying demand for lightweight, aesthetically pleasing packaging are fuelling tin packaging market growth. Advantages afforded by this type of packaging include sustainable packaging, re-sealable containers and the convenience of single-serve food products.



 Global Retail-ready Packaging Consumption by Pack Type, 2010



Market Outlook


The global market for packaging materials is intensely competitive, comprised of mostly large and medium-sized companies. Future industry innovation is likely to come from overall restructuring and consolidation. The industry is expected to see continued growth, fuelled by demand for more expensive films to extend the shelf life of food products. A growing move away from bulk formats in the food industry in favor of single-serve products also calls for more packaging. According to Freedonia, beverages, snack foods and meat products will lead food packaging market growth. Packaging for medical and pharmaceutical products will also spur growth in the packaging industry.


Demand for tin packaging is growing at a faster rate in developing countries than in developed nations. The soft drinks industry is continuing to fuel growth in the metal can segment of the packaging industry.



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