PET market in Europe

While standardised one-piece and two-piece beverage closures are the bedrock of the closures business, custom closures represent an even greater opportunity to moulders in terms of added value. They include products such as non-standard diameter flat caps, sports caps, carton mechanisms, and pouch spouts. Growth in this sector of the market is driven by strong demand for sports closures but also by the further development of 38-mm caps and carton mechanisms.

Beverages account for around two-thirds of plastic closures in Europe, in a business driven by developments in still drinks (e.g. sports drinks, juice-based drinks) and the growing penetration of one-way PET bottles replacing cans and cartons. Demand for plastic beer closures is also expected to develop in Europe, fuelled by growing demand for PET bottles in Eastern Europe.

Within non-beverage applications, liquid food is the largest sector of the plastic caps and closures market in Europe. In this segment demand will be driven by increased penetration of PET bottles in dairy applications, and by growing substitution of glass packaging by plastic containers in table top sauces, preserves, baby food, cooking sauces, and dehydrated and snack products.

The development of heat-stable PET barrier containers is opening new markets to plastic closures, such as juices, preserves, pickles, cooking sauces, soups, and baby food, which are traditionally packed in glass containers and sealed with steel vacuum closures. Further opportunities lie in cold-fill applications such as honey.

There will be an increasingly apparent geographical divergence in strategy in Europe. In Eastern Europe, investment will focus on mass production of standard beverage closures to serve the global brands as they move eastwards, while market maturity will steer Western Europe towards de-standardisation through developments in custom 38-mm closures, sports caps, and high performance, light-weight caps for carbonated drinks. Innovation and a sustainable differential advantage will lie at the centre of strategies over the next five years, focused on improved functionality, convenience and modernity.

Consolidation in this sector is even greater than in blow moulding, with the top ten manufacturers accounting for around 60% of polymer usage for closures. The industry is expected to concentrate further in future as a result of consolidation among the brand owners; the higher levels of R&D and technical expertise required in plastic closure development; the requirement for quality standardisation on a pan-European if not global basis; and growing competition from closure manufacturers outside EU-27.