Flexible packaging trends 2016

 

Flexible packaging trends 2016

Flexible packaging can be designed with barrier properties tailored to fit products being packaged and their end user. Flexible packaging can be made in a wide variety of innovative shapes, sizes, and appearances.

The global market for flexible packaging is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 3.4 percent over the next five years, and is expected to reach $248 billion by 2020. This dynamic packaging sector offers huge potential for technology suppliers, packaging converters and brand owners.

Flexible packaging is the most economical method to package, preserve and distribute food, beverages, other consumables, pharmaceuticals and other products that need extended shelf life. It can be designed with barrier properties tailored to fit the products being packaged and their end uses, whereas other barrier packaging formats generally provide a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible packaging can be made in a wide variety of innovative shapes, sizes and appearances, and can include components such as handles, and opening and reclosing features such as zips and spouts.

1. Downgauging

Flexible packaging uses fewer resources and less energy than other forms of packaging. It provides significant reductions in packaging costs, materials use and transport costs as well as certain performance advantages over rigid packaging. A key trend for flexible plastic packaging is continued downgauging as the combination of environmental pressures and high polymer prices make customers demand even thinner films.

2. High-performance films  

At the other end of the spectrum to thinner films is the rise and importance of high-performance films. The trend in food packaging films is toward high-performance film structures that are less permeable to increase shelf life and enhance flavours. Growth is occurring from the transition of items packaged in rigid containers to high-quality flexible packages. Non-food packaging applications are industrial and agricultural.

A growing share of premium products — including products sold in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) — is also favourable for flexible packaging in baked goods. Some of these products are gluten-free bread; breakfast goods such as croissants, pancakes, partly baked bread and rolls; specialty bread; and cakes.

Two other favorable trends are increased pressure from retailers to extend shelf life, and a shift in foodservice sandwich bread from frozen to MAP-packaged bread.

The ongoing success of flexible packaging as a replacement for glass and metal packages, particularly retorted and hot-filled products, can be attributed directly to the substantial improvements in barrier properties of plastic films and clear plastic films in particular.

3. Consumer convenience

As more and more consumers lead increasingly busy and hectic lifestyles, they do not have the time to cook meals from scratch, opting for convenient mealtime solutions instead. This puts ready meals in new flexible packaging formats in a prime position to take advantage of current social and economic trends.

Packaged fresh meat, fish and poultry consumption will grow at a faster rate than unpackaged produce to 2020. This trend is explained by consumer demand for more convenient solutions and the growing dominance of the large supermarkets where packaged foods provide longer shelf life.

4. Bio-derived and bio-degradable technologies

In the past few years, a number of new product launches involving bio-based plastic packaging have taken place. The proliferation of bio-based plastic films continues with polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and poly-trimethylene terephthalate (PTMT) showing the most promise on the truly materials side of the equation, and thermoplastic starch (TPS) films on the petroleum replacement side. 

 This research is based on Smithers Pira’s report The Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2020

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