Worldwide growth in flexibles will outstrip rigid packaging over the next few years, says a new report, with Europe seeing stronger demand for barriers which provide extended, medium-term shelf-life.
Author Françoise Pardos of Pardos Marketing says: "We will see much more use of barrier flexibles, not so much to keep food forever (in which case you'd specify a can), but to provide a safer margin on the shelf, maybe up to three-to-five weeks for some foods." There has been much talk in the past about creating the 'flexible can', she notes, but this is not really in line with the needs of most food manufacturers.
A key conclusion for the report is that: "The strongest driving force for films is the growing preference for flexible over rigid packaging, a trend that is just beginning." Pardos highlights two reasons for this: the lower cost of both the materials themselves and logistics, and the reduced impact on the waste stream. She does not believe that problems with identifying or collecting films for recycling will have a major impact on their acceptability.
While film packaging growth is put at just 2-3% in developed economies such as Europe, rates in some developing markets such as China are reaching around 15%, says Pardos. These developing countries currently account for some 40% of consumption. Even in these markets, concerns about protecting food in transit and storage are not likely to affect the broad preference for flexible over rigid formats, she predicts.
Estimates put total global plastics consumption for 2003 at 165mt, rising to between 170 and 175mt in 2004. Of the 2003 figure, some 34mt was accounted for by polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). In the films market, as in rigid plastics, Pardos singles out PP as being the subject of sustained growth in coming years.
The report, Plastic films: situation and outlook, is published by Rapra Technology, and includes profiles of 200 film companies.