Challenges and forecasts in the packaging barrier films market

Sustainable packaging

There is mounting public pressure on brand owners and retailers to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. Food and beverage manufacturers are also responding to consumers' environmental concerns by reducing the amount of polymer to lower the pack weight but without impacting pack performance. Light-weighting is also driven by a need to reduce packaging costs following sharp increases in polymer prices. 

Some companies are taking the need for sustainability one step further by creating biodegradable and renewable cellulose-based barrier films. Innovia Films and Sappi Fine Paper Europe, for example, have combined their individual compostable substrates, Innovia's 'NatureFlex' and Sappi's 'Algro Nature', to provide a packaging solution that offers the potential for either industrial or home composting or anaerobic digestion. Both NatureFlex and Algro Nature are manufactured from wood sourced from managed forests. According to the companies, these natural materials provide the essential barrier requirements of coffee, snack bars and single-serve drink packs. 

Barrier film producers often state that barrier films will play a vital role in more sustainable packaging. Many argue that they are more environment-friendly because they help packagers use lighter plastics to replace much heavier materials such as glass, metal and rigid plastics. Flexible plastic packaging requires less energy to transport products than does metal and glass. 

Retail trends

High barrier packaging film demand is benefitting from the growing market share of the large retail chains. These chains have expanded the market for packaged food with their focus on cost reduction and shelf-life extension. Retail chains have dominated retail food and drink markets in advanced countries for many years. Food and drink retailing in the developing countries of Central & Eastern Europe, Asia and South America, has traditionally been dominated by small, local and independent artisan stores, largely offering unpacked food. Domestic supermarkets/hypermarkets are spreading in many of the major cities in developing countries and are now taking a growing share of food and drink consumption. International retail chains are also expanding their presence in developing markets, which will further expand barrier packaging demand in these countries, bringing more consumers into contact with Western shopping patterns. 

Supermarkets/hypermarkets are becoming especially favoured by consumers due to their wide product ranges and diverse choice of premium brands, usually unavailable in the other types of outlets. There has also been growth in the number of discount stores and private label products which enable those on lower incomes to purchase packaged food and drinks at more affordable prices. 

More about high barrier packaging films can be found in the research compiled by Smithers Pira The Future of High Barrier Packaging Films to 2019.

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