Flexible packaging refers to packaging containers made of easily flexible or yielding materials that readily alter shape when filled with goods. It is one of the most rapidly growing segments of the packaging industry, and combines the best qualities of aluminum foil, paper, film and plastic to deliver a wide range of protective properties while using a minimum quantity of material. They are broadly used for institutional and consumer products and in industrial applications, to market, protect, and distribute a vast array of products. Different innovations and changing trends in the packaging industry have led to the growing demand for flexible packaging. Materials such as plastics, paper, aluminum foil and cellulose are majorly used in flexible packaging. Factors such as increasing demand for food products, technological innovation in the packaging industry, rising disposable income of the individual, and changing consumer lifestyle are primarily driving the market. Moreover, flexible packaging is increasingly being preferred over rigid packaging due to several advantages such as less raw material requirement, low storage space, and lower shipping cost. However, fluctuation in crude oil prices which leads to change in prices of its downstream chemicals is expected to slow down the growth of the market. Focus towards R&D activities on flexible packaging technologies is expected to provide new opportunities for the growth of the market.
Plastics were the highest consumed materials in flexible packaging in 2012, owing to their significant properties over other products. They have the ability to be modified by co-polymerization and use of additives to match the precise packaging demands of the product to be packed. However, cellulose is expected to witness the fastest growth over the forecast period owing to its high durability, protection from external environmental factors such as sunlight and high aesthetic value. These factors are expected to contribute significantly to the growing demand for cellulose.
Food & beverages was the largest application segment for flexible packaging in 2012. Changing lifestyles and eating habits of consumers has led to a growing demand for packaged fast foods over the past few years and the trend is expected to continue over the next few years. However, the demand for flexible packaging is expected to be highest from pharmaceuticals over the next few years. The pharmaceutical market is expected to grow significantly over the next few years as a result of various factors including governmental initiatives, rising consumer awareness regarding general health, increase in disposable income, rising number of chronic diseases and growing ageing population among others. Presence of stringent regulations regarding packaging of pharmaceuticals to prevent presence of fraudulent drugs in the market and maintenance of the chemical properties of the drugs is expected to boost the demand for flexible packaging over the next few years.
Demand for flexible packaging was the highest from Asia Pacific in 2012 and is expected to witness the highest growth over the next six years. Several factors such as rising demand of packaged food, changing lifestyles and eating habits, growing demand for retail non-food and pharmaceutical products are expected to drive the demand for flexible packaging in this region. Demand for flexible packaging is expected to be steady in developed markets of North America and Europe in the next few years with respect to applications such as confectionery, cheese and dairy, dried fruits, and medical pharmaceuticals.
Companies such as Amcor Ltd., Bemis Company Inc., Huhtamaki Oyj, Mondi, Sealed Air Corporation and Sonoco Products are key players present in the flexible packaging market. In addition, the flexible packaging market is highly fragmented due to presence of several medium and small scale flexible packaging manufacturers on a global as well as regional level.
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