Demand for flexible packaging is on the increase. Roy McAdoo, chief commercial officer here at Clondalkin Flexibles, features in Packaging Europe this month talking about the growing demand for flexible packaging in the food and beverage markets.
“Demand for flexible packaging is on the increase and continues to gain market share over traditional rigid packaging, such as glass bottles and metal cans. Recent figures from Smithers Pira indicate that the global market for flexible packaging is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 3.4% during the period 2015-2020, reaching $248 billion.
Attributable to this shift in demand are the huge advancements that have been made in flexible packaging over the last 10 years. Flexible packaging is now an efficient, adaptable and versatile packaging solution for the food and beverage market.
Listening to the consumer and retailers has resulted in rapid technological development. In recent years, flexible packaging products have progressed from basic items such as printed bags and films into more technically advanced products, such as stand up pouches, re-sealable solutions, engineered films with highly specialised properties and biodegradable materials.
These developments have resulted in flexible packaging solutions that provide high barrier properties, extended shelf life and convenience, all of which are becoming increasingly important to both the retailer and consumer.
High barrier properties
Keeping foods free from contamination has long been important, but there is growing concern about the safety of the packaging itself. Discussions are ongoing about the migration of potentially harmful mineral oils from packaging into the food products.
Mineral oil hydrocarbons are derived from printing ink used in newsprint, which is commonly used to make recycled cardboard for food packaging. Recent studies have linked these mineral oils to the inflammation of internal organs, including the liver, spleen and lymph nodes. At Clondalkin we’ve welcomed the launch of an online petition from FoodWatch to take action against mineral oils in food. The campaign calls for the introduction of suitable barriers for food packaging to limit the migration of harmful mineral oils into food products and it’s something that we’ve been focussed on for a long time at Clondalkin. We’ve developed a barrier film, WENTOPRO-Barrier Film® which prevents the migration of potentially harmful mineral oils from the outer packaging into the food itself by way of a multi-layer film. It can be used as a ‘bag in box’ liner for a wide variety of dry foods, including rice, dry pasta, dry noodles, baby food and cereal products.
It’s not just food safety that is driving demand for high barrier laminates and films, but food waste. More than 100 million metric tons of food was wasted in the EU during 2012, according to a European Commission study released last year. As a result, the Commission released a policy paper encouraging EU member states to develop food waste prevention plans, with an option that they reduce food waste by 30 percent overall by 2025.
Extended Shelf life
There are increasing pressures on manufacturers to improve material functionality to help extend the shelf-life of products. At CFP we’ve developed a skin-tight film for the food processing industry, known as WENTOPRO-SkinTight®. This invisible film is suitable for a wide variety of food products including: fresh, frozen and processed meat; fish; cheese and ready meals. The film surrounds the product like a second skin, creating a safe and secure barrier against contamination and leakage, and most importantly extends the shelf-life of the product.
With all of these developments we have to consider the environmental impacts that the packaging itself will have on the environment. But if optimized well, plastic packaging can provide important environmental benefits. For example, preventing food waste can have a greater impact on carbon dioxide emissions than the actual plastic packaging used to protect the food. And because the materials used are lighter than rigid packaging such as glass and metal it means lower transport costs which also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Taking this a step further, engineering films so that they are biodegradable makes for even more sustainable solutions that food producers and end users both desire.
Customer convenience is another key aspect that is driving this growth in flexibles. Flexible packaging offers greater choice in terms of shape and format compared to rigid packaging. Smart solutions, such as re-sealable packaging, refills for frequently used products such as milk and coffee, and stand up pouches for drinks, all have tangible benefits for consumers as well as ‘novelty value’ on shelf.
Other properties of flexible packaging leading to a rise in market share, are features such as ease of decoration. For example with pouches there is no requirement for labels. Generally, labels would come from a different supplier to that of the bottle or container which complicates the supply chain. And print quality is getting better. We have recently developed a new HD printing technology, known as Flextreme®. This provides a quality comparable to Gravure printing, with very high ink and colour density, but at a far more competitive cost level. It also has the added flexibility of allowing shorter production runs and lead times.
Despite all the advances that have been made in flexibles, innovation and investment remains as essential as ever. Consumers are always looking for new products that better suit their needs and we’re going to see increasing pressure on us to reduce waste and limit our use of resources. Packaging manufacturers and retailers need to make packaging smarter so it satisfies all the demands – we need to continue to develop economical ways of packaging, preserving and distributing our food and drink products.”