Americans will be using 32,850 million more rigid plastic and flexible packs in 2017 than they were in 2012, making these the fastest-growing segments in the U.S. packaging industry.
According to the “Latest Trends and Key Issues in the US Retail Packaging Market 2013” study by market research firm Canadean, the requirement for greater convenience and cost-effectiveness will drive the use of lightweight flexible and rigid plastic packaging with innovative pack shapes, closures and dispensers.
“The key advantage of flexible packaging is its low intrinsic weight, which ensures lower transportation overheads and reduces the overall supply chain costs. These incremental weight savings not only provide cost benefits, but also reduce transportation costs and overall breakages,” said Dominic Cakebread, director of packaging services at Canadean.
Although there is a lot of pressure to reduce packaging materials weights and gauges/thickness, the finished pack itself is still expected to have the same technical performance characteristics and functionality as existing packaging formats, which makes the production of lightweight packaging materials ever more technically demanding.
Bio-Plastics made from agricultural by-products is one of the most recent innovations within the plastic packaging industry, the report said. “The new materials can offer manufacturers the opportunity to reduce carbon footprints and better protect the environment through a reduced dependence on petro-chemicals and other mineral rich packaging materials,” the report explained. “Such materials claim to offer important environmental benefits, reducing fuel consumption by 70 per cent per ton and releasing significantly less carbon into the atmosphere. However, there also exists environmental controversy over the use of valuable and often scarce agricultural land for growing bio-polymers instead of food, which longer term could lead to substantially higher food prices.”
But while the flexible packaging industry offers considerable growth opportunities, the Canadean report said, it also faces challenges such as the unstable prices of raw materials and the lack of skilled labor. “Multi-tasking packaging machines enable packaging companies to achieve efficient use of resources and minimise their costs,” the report noted.