Flexing the Packs: The Future of Flexible Packaging

In recent years, flexible packaging has boomed due to the industry's potential for user-friendly, economically-efficient, and environmentally-friendly (especially on the production level) packaging solutions.


As an affordable, lighter, and easily assembled/disassembled alternative to rigid packaging[1], flexible packaging is becoming what the rigid market could not have evolved into: a flexible, expandable convenience[2]. In the food industry, flexible packaging prolongs shelf-life. In the transportation sector, a lighter load means more products are shipped for the same weight limit. Flexible packaging also remains the number 1 sought-after packaging for pharmaceuticals[3].

After a dip during the 2007-2009 recession, the American flexible packaging industry, one of the largest in the U.S., declined alarmingly, especially the paperboard sector[4]. Today, though, it has picked itself back up to pre-crisis levels and is ever-expanding towards a prosperous future. In fact, this business’s projected growth for 2018 is currently at approximately $99,621.9 Million[5], due to steady growth, with annual sales at a probable 28.2 billion in 2014[6].

Despite these estimates, marketsandmarkets.com suggests that, due to the saturation of the market in the US and Europe, the Indian, Chinese, Russian and Brazilian markets are eventually becoming the largest centers for flexible packaging production. Indeed, a report published by PCI Films Consulting Limited in 2012 entitled “The Asia Pacific Flexible Packaging Market to 2016” states that the “total demand for flexible packaging in the Asia Pacific region is valued at US $24.5 billion in 2011, representing approaching 36% of the global total of around of around US $67.6 billion…. Over the last five years flexible packaging growth has been 4.9% in Central & East Asia and 12.4% in South East Asia & Oceania.”

Flexible Packaging Trends[7]:

  • Convenience packaging, such as re-sealable packages that allow consumers easy-access to the pack’s interior
  • Right-weighting, through which the weight and quality of the package is assessed based on its constituents. Right-weighting helps balance user satisfaction while optimizing production and transportation costs/time.
  • Replacing classically rigid packages, such as substituting glass jars with plastic containers or flexible pouches, making the production process cheaper and less polluting
  • Increasing shelf-life of packaged foods and beverages using technologies such as vacuum packs [1]
  • Reducing carbon footprint, by which the production and transport has less of an environmental impact and is cheaper to produce
  • Transforming Waste-to-Energy or WTE, which uses wastes and end-of-life packages and converts them into energy in order to create a sustainable production process that is not as harmful to the environment
  • Using biodegradable technology in order to encourage sustainability and decrease waste products by recycling
  • Focusing on Retail-Ready Packaging, Point-of-Purchase Packaging, Printable Packages, and Interactive Packages, all of which allow consumer attraction and interaction, new package designs and shapes, and speeding up operations for both the supply and retail sectors.

References:

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