Demand for converted flexible packaging in the US market is expected to rise 3.5% pa to more than US$21 bln in 2017, as per Freedonia. Growth will be driven by the packaging market's ongoing investment in specialty film and advanced materials for higher-value offerings. These offerings emphasize longer shelf life, performance features, source reduction and protection from outside contaminants. The converted flexible packaging market also is boasting greater acceptance from major brand owners. With a proliferation of new products on the retail market in a variety of niche applications, high volumes of a single package are not as critical, diminishing the advantages of rigid packaging and its ability to produce more packages at lower cost. Furthermore, consumer buying behavior also is playing a role, as shoppers demand packages offering portability and ease of handling. Recent market penetration in such categories as soups, condiments, baby food, noncarbonated beverages, foodservice containers, fresh-cut produce, and snack food bode well for continued gains.
The pouch market will continue to showcase above-average gains, penetrating segments that had once been considered hallmarks of rigid packaging. Standup pouches offer the most promise for growth in converted flexible packaging, and a large variety of new pouches with specialty features has entered the retail market. Bolstering the pouch's repeated gains over rigid alternatives have been new technology introductions that include innovative fitments and closures and more sophisticated reseal features, which bring higher value to pouches. The use of thinner film, fewer coextrusion layers and laminates, and a new focus on recyclable materials are driving sustainability efforts and lowering production and freight costs. Many producers are considering mono-material structures that avoid the use of foil or other barrier materials, helping enhance production and potential recyclability. Advances in metalized and oriented films have improved both barrier and decorative qualities. The pet food market, once considered the province of multiwall bags, has become a key area of emphasis, as are snack foods, frozen food, confectionery, and meat and poultry. Pouches are expected to continue their rapid acceleration and take share from rigid packaging.
Bags, both in plastic- and paper-based materials, will not grow as quickly as pouches but represent the largest segment of converted flexible packaging. Many applications in this segment are stable and face limited competition from other materials, but they are also in maturing market sectors. Higher barrier and reclosability features and the high graphics appeal of certain films will help plastic bags record gains from multiwall paper alternatives, especially for pet food, home improvement, and lawn and garden products. New medical and pharmaceutical applications also offer ripe opportunities for bags. Paper bags will remain a stable, healthy format, and the material's recyclability advantages and use of natural materials will help them continue to carve a strong niche among environmentally minded consumers. In overwraps, the advent of modified atmosphere packaging, perforated, and breathable structures has led to newer applications in meat and poultry and cheese packaging, helping stem the issue of food spoilage and align with safety concerns.