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Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006


Trends in packaging

The main trends are:

  • Continuing reduction of the weight of packages.
  • Growing preference for single materials.
  • Simplifying packaging.
  • Key issue of packaging costs
  • Growing preference for flexible packaging
  • Trends towards smaller size packages.
Weight reduction of packaging

This is a major trend of the nineties affecting all packaging materials and types

Unit weight reduction of selected packages, in grams

  1970 1995
Pallet film, PELD 400 350
Supermarket counter bag, PEHD 23 6.5
Yogurt cup, PS 6.5 3.5
2-liter softener bottle, PEHD 120 67
Beer bottles, 0.25 liter, glass 210 130
Beer cans, aluminium - 19
Tin plate can/kg contents 69 56
Glass bottle, 0.75 liter, glass 480 300
Heavy duty sacks, paper 261 215
Paraffin on paper wrap, per M² 6 3
Corr.board box for 6 wine bottles 175 155

Examples of weight reduction exist with all packaging companies. But technical limits are reached or will be.

For instance:

The average weight of 1.5 liter PET bottles for water went down from 41 to 37 grams in about six years, in some cases as low as 33 grams.

In 1995 Danone reduced yoghurt cup wall thickness by 10 %. The reduction has been 50 % since 1970, from 7 grams to 3.5 grams per cup.

Unilever saved 20 % of PEHD on Dove foam bath.

Yves Rocher, a mail order selling cosmetics, shifted from PET to PP for cosmetic bottles, 15 % cheaper, 25 % lighter, a major advantage for mail distribution.

Lin Pac Plastics making stretch film for primary packaging, like for chickens ready to cook, supplies new barrier films, 25 to 30 % thinner, with the same barrier and mechanical properties, through a clever design of more layers in the structure. Lin Pan also supplies a PVC stretch film, 10 micron thick, 220% stretchable that can resist almost any puncture, such as bones, tomato stems, etc.

BSN Optima glass bottles were launched in 1994 at 380 grams, they now are 290 grams.

For glass containers, lighter weight can be achieved with consistent high quality with the technique of NNPB Narrow Neck Press and Blow. This technique is used by Rockware Glass for lighter weight bottles for spirits, beer, soft drinks, food. The NNPB process allows production of glass containers with weights reduced up to 20 %.

Coca Cola shifted steel cans from 60.3 mm diameter to 54 mm, and saved 1 300 tons of metal per annum. Coca Cola cans have reduced the diameter of the can end by over 20 % since being launched.

Developments in steel technique that permitted the thinning of beverage cans have been transferred to drawn-wall-iron food cans.

Findus changed the shape of aluminium trays from oval to rectangular and saved 8 % of the weight.

Heavy duty paper sacks for cement went down from 5 layers and 250 grams, in 1975, to 3 layers and 220 grams in 1985 and 2 layers and 180 grams in 1995, with the same mechanical strength.

Growing preference for single materials

In fact, most mono-materials are only 90 % mono, as they include minor contents of materials for sealing, for barrier, for printing. The most severe requirement is in Germany, where a packaging material is considered as mono only when it contains 5 % or less of other materials.

There are many examples of shift to single materials.

Continental Can Europe with all PP trays, including reclosable lids.
Nissei all PP bottles, with PP sleeve and closure.
Cobelplast pealable lids all of PS or PP for yoghurt cups, of the same material.

All this may paradoxically lead to even more complex multi-layers for instance 135 microns, containing nylon, EVOH, PET, PP, gravure print up to 6 colors, white opaque, with high strength and puncture resistance (Combitherm of Wolff).

Simplifying packaging

There is a major effort to do away with over-packaging, and to use only one primary package when there used to be two or three, for instance:

Coated cartons without need for inside pouch.
Stand up pouches, more or less rigid, without need for outside cartons.
Lidding material grouping two or more units, eliminating the need for sleeves or multipacks.
Tetra Pak is interested in light weight unformed brick packs, effectively pouches.

All glass to be produced in white form, further color-coating permitting broader user choice, improved surface protection, easier recycling logistics.

Key issue of packaging cost

Costs will increasingly be more narrowly calculated. The function of packaging is to protect, preserve and present the product until its purchase and consumption, all at the lowest cost.

The continuous packaging minimization leads to a trend from rigid to flexible, and to downgauging.

Growing preference for flexible packaging

This is strongly exemplified by the widespread interest for eco-refills, for stand-up semi-rigid pouches, and for large bag-in-box.

The eco-refills for concentrated detergent powder are a major trend, allowing 80 % less packaging than the carton alternative and incorporating 25 % post-consumer recycle contents. Yet they only met with mixed success in some countries like France.

Refill cartons have started being used for water based paints, white vinyl, by Crown Paints from AKZO Nobel. The 2 liter refill packs feature a gable top pouring spout.

Stand-up pouches are seen everywhere, for instance:

In the United Sates, current forecasts give a total number of 7 billion stand-up pouches by 2005.

For liquid cosmetics, a 12.5 fluid ounce pouch reduces the package weight by 75 % compared with the former 10 fluid ounce plastic bottle. Aesthetics and convenience are open to question however.

Stand-up pouches have been developed by Lawson Mardon in UK, for paints, made of 12 micron PET reverse gravure printed film laminated to a 200 micron PELLD web.

Tetra Pak had a 4-liter flat-bottomed stand-up milk pouch, called Tetra Flexible Jug, introduced in Vancouver by Dairyworld Foods, the largest Canadian dairy cooperative. The pouch has a die-cut carrying handle and a resealable threaded PE for spout and closure. The pouch flattens and takes up less space as the milk is used. Output is an average 1 800 FFS pouches/hour.

In Switzerland, where consumers pay for household waste by volume, there is a strong trend towards stand up pouches, either pre-made or Form-Fill-Seal, often of OPP block bottoms, so-called flexible boxes. Carton boxes are no longer used for breakfast cereals, biscuit, and other dry groceries.

The packaging of ready soups, that has tried, and continues, with cans, laminated pouches for dehydrated soups, glass bottles, plastic bottles, bricks, is now starting the Doypack stand-up, reputedly light, microwaveable and easy to dispose of. 

Bag-in-box is a fast growing solution for all types of liquids, including egg and dairy products, in semi bulk packaging. Advantages of bag-in-box for wine, for instance, are to keep the wine from air, as the pouch collapses. Bag-in-box is also of great interest for large volume aseptic processing.

Trends towards smaller size packages

For instance:

Unit-size portions for single households. Two-size portions are also important but there is a decrease of family size contents.

More concentrated products in smaller packages, like powder detergents.

Sampling of cosmetics, in magazines, in shops, by mail.

Outside carry-on consumption, like half a liter water bottles, instead of 1.5-2 liters, for car, sports.

Automatic vending machines requiring smaller unit packages for on-the-spot consumption.

The trend towards smaller packages is particularly noticeable in Japan, or in India, but there it is for economic reasons.

Another minor trend, parallel to the smaller size packaging is that of service packaging like mineral water bottle with a small cup on the closure, to drink, or a small spoon with ice cream and salad cups.

However, this is not a strong trend, as too complicated and expensive.



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