MARKET TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
IN PACKAGING, EMAP, BRUSSELS 2001
Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006
Packaging is the largest application of polymers, in all countries,
at all levels of development, 30 to 40 % of total plastics consumption,
boosted by very strong facts and trends.
Past, present, and forecast figures show diversified plastics growth
in packaging, and new competition between plastics.
The narrow link of packaging with food products makes packaging
a stronghold of resistance, even in recession.
The fast development of emerging countries generates demand for
improvement of the food supply and packaging.
Research goes on, for smarter, simpler, thinner packaging, of higher
performance and easier on the environment.
Packaging is older than history. Back to the most remote times,
the first hunters-gatherers needed some sort of packaging to keep
the foods for the long winters. In fact the first handicrafts of
mankind must have been weapons, ropes and baskets.
Up to this century, packaging was re-used. It is only in the last
fifty years, that packaging became a major industry, actively part
of all others, particularly in the most industrialized areas, until
1980-1985, and everywhere in the last twenty years.
There are several particularities of packaging, valid everywhere,
in various states of advancement
Short of instantaneous and magical availability of goods, in space
and time, packaging has been closely associated with the progress
of civilization, to preserve perishable crops for increasingly longer
periods and permit consuming them in places far remote from where
they originated. In the last decades, the role of packaging was further
enlarged, developing downstream into ever multiplying outlets, from
the field, to the plant, and to the restaurant and the household
kitchen, ever widening the division of labor and offering ready meals
as an ultimate service to the consumers.
Packaging is also one of the industries with the fastest machine
outputs, because of the large numbers involved, and where technical
innovations continue to play a determining role, as multiple and
diversified as its protean nature.
And yet, packaging is only of second interest to its industrial
users, it is less important than "what is in the package",
and a packaging change, however momentous, is only a fake product
In commercial and sales terms, packaging plays a crucial role, in
competition with similar products displayed on the self-service store
shelves. While the general message of food products is the reassuring
safety of tradition, the message of packaging is the eye-catching
flash of novelty.
There are several particularities of packaging, valid everywhere,
in various states of advancement.
Packaging is four main materials,
- Metals, tin plate and aluminum,
- Paper and board,
Plastic packaging is four main types,
- Flexible, film, of paper, metal, plastics, sacks, bags, pouches,
wraps, lidding, labels
- Rigid, cans, trays, cups, dishes, crates, containers, of metals,
plastics, cardboard, cartons
- Bottles and containers
- Other, twine, strapping, cushioning
Packaging is three main applications/functions
The oldest, to carry and store, wholesale, industrial packaging,
or tertiary packaging.
The most recent, the unit consumer packaging, primary packaging,
in direct contact with the contents, developed with supermarkets
and self-service retailing.
The consumer secondary packaging, either on primary packaging, or
collating a number of consuming units into sales units as multipacks.
Packaging is part of all industries:
However, because of large numbers and unit multiplication, food
products and disposable non food consumer products, household/maintenance,
cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, account for the largest share of packaging.
Out of the 600 liters/year of liquids, an average per capita of
350 to 480 liters, other than tap water, for coffee and tea, is sold
in a wide range of container sizes and types. With few exceptions,
most liquid food products are now sold in one-way packages, ranging
from 15 cl to 2 liters. This bulk calls for a theoretical number
of unit packages, for the 500 million people of Europe, of over 700
billion units for solid foods and of about 400 billion units for
liquids, plus the secondary packaging needed for these numbers of
There are few other end-use markets for packaging which can compare
with these numbers. Industrial products account for much fewer packaging
units and non food, non durable consumer goods are not as much a
daily, universal consumption as foods and beverages are.
All in all, the very large packaging markets are those of non-durable
products regularly purchased, foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics,
various chemicals, packaged into small, from 20 grams to 5 kg, consuming
units, the tonnage of the packaging demand originating from their
overall volume and their fragmentation into small size containers.
Share of food packaging in the total market of main packaging
materials in % of total packaging material tonnage
Total consumer disposable product packaging split
|Cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries
|All other disposables
Except for a few food products, the most elaborate, high added-value
and newest types, the overall growth of food products is limited,
often stable or declining for all large volume basic products like
bread, pasta, meat, vegetables, potatoes, preserves, oils and fats,
sugar, milk, beer, wine and spirits. These trends indicate both the
decrease of raw, traditional foods, those considered less "dietetic",
in favor of more sophisticated and prepared foods, increasingly elaborated
upstream at the factory rather than at home from basics.
About the globalization of food habits, in Europe and elsewhere,
food still is one of the last strongholds of market nationalism tied
to national diets, cooking and eating habits. But the new successful
products outside of basics are becoming global at least in the richer
- Soft drinks.
- Frozen and chilled ready dishes.
- Ethnic recipes.
- Fresh/chilled prepacked fruit and vegetable salads.
- Breakfast cereals.
- Fresh desserts.
Altogether, the very market for packaging, food and drink, is not
to grow much in volume terms, in the industrialized countries, where
the average food intake is already too much. Among the dire forecasts,
some will say: "The future of packaging? People should cut their
average food and drink intake by at least 30 % to stay in good health!".
But there is a silver lining. Packaging industries and package value
will continue growing, because of more sophisticated packages, and
higher value. This is where the new materials come in.
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