Demand for plastic caps and closures in Europe grew by 1.6% pa in the review period 2007-2010; a much weaker overall performance than 2004-2007; as a result of market saturation in West Europe as well as the economic recession, as per AMI Consulting. AMI estimates that the total demand for caps and closures reached 222 billion units which was equivalent to 813,000 tons of polymer. The economic pressures of 2008-2010 have forced the whole supply chain to look at costs, which reinforced developments focusing on optimising production efficiencies through three basic elements:
• Raw material reduction (lightweighting) - allowing for lower material cost
• Cycle time reduction - allowing for higher output at improved speed
• Energy reduction - allowing for lower resources cost and efficiencies
In light of current trends encompassing lightweighting, cost and energy reduction, commodity grades of polymer are losing share in favour of commercial, innovative grades with superior mechanical properties necessary for light weighted caps and closures. Most active competition comes from HDPE and PP block co-polymer, which is resulting in an industry shift from two-piece PP standard beverage caps into single piece HDPE caps. That change is triggered by necessary, yet gradual, industry investment in the bottling lines to accommodate the lightweight bottle neck standard, PCO 1881. The industry favours the single piece HDPE cap and the growth is coming from this solution. Single piece standard beverage caps increased their market penetration from less than 64% in 2007 to 73% in 2010. It is expected that within the next 5-7 years, the standard caps will completely change from two-piece into the single piece for cost reasons.