US demand for food containers is projected to climb 2.9 percent per year to $27.6 billion in 2017, reaching 307 billion units. Growth will be fueled by an expanding population base; improved real growth in disposable personal income; smaller household sizes; heightened consumer demand for foods offering a combination of convenience, quality, and value; and the use of value added packaging that provides enhanced freshness protection and convenience of use. These and other trends are presented in Food Containers: Rigid & Flexible, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.
Among major food container segments, plastic containers, and bags and pouches will record the fastest growth, the result of further supplantation of paperboard, metal, and glass containers. Plastic container gains will be driven by advantages of light weight, clarity, and shatter resistance, along with the increased presence of containers with enhanced barrier and heat resistance properties. Competition from flexible packaging such as pouches, which provide greater source reduction capability as well as reduced shipping costs, will moderate advances somewhat.
Bags and pouches will make further inroads into rigid packaging applications due to cost and performance advantages. Moreover, the inherent environmentally friendly characteristics of bags and pouches — such as reduced material requirements and shipping costs — will be key advantages, especially in light of pressures by major retailers making purchasing decisions based on sustainability factors. Bag demand will increase more slowly based on maturity of many applications as well as competition from pouches.
Although slower growth is expected in the more mature paperboard, metal, and glass food container segments, areas of opportunity will exist. For example, favorable graphics and sustainability qualities; enhancements such as higher wet strength and moisture resistance; and the capability to improve microwave oven performance in certain uses will support continued demand for paperboard food containers. Despite further unit declines, metal cans will remain an important segment of the food container mix due to their long shelf life and positioning as a means of controlling food expenditures. Prospects for glass containers will be aided by a premium image along with safety concerns surrounding the presence of bisphenol-A.
Food Containers: Rigid & Flexible (published 04/2013, 451 pages) is available for $5100 from The Freedonia Group, Inc.