The global packaging market is currently an $800 billion/year business, and will hit $1 trillion by 2020. Much of that business is in the food and beverage packaging industry. A study by DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers and Packaging World magazine that surveyed 500 industry professionals working for consumer goods manufacturers and converters, revealed some interesting findings. While sustainability seems to be in the forefront of almost every Brand Owner’s strategy, the study found that sustainability concerns ranked behind cost and food safety and security as driving trends.
Cost is today’s top driver, while food safety and security remains a primary factor driving packaging design and materials. Consumers want maximum value with minimal environmental impact, but currently not enough to pay more for products in packaging considered “green.” Right-sizing packaging in terms of shape and size along with down-gauging of package material (such as thin-wall injection molded and thermoformed packaging) and minimizing package failures dominate both the North American and European packaging markets. Plastics will continue to replace glass and metals, and flexible packaging (such as retort pouches, etc.) will continue to replace rigid plastic containers. Labeling is a critical feature of marketing food and beverage products.
What’s new in labeling? Lots of things! While pressure sensitive labels continue to outpace other forms of labeling, in-mold labeling (IML) is picking up steam in Europe, and in Asia it’s growing fast. In North America, IML still struggles to catch on, but as the mold and automation technology continues to improve, the benefits of IML will outweigh the upfront investments. One of the benefits goes back to the sustainability question. Many of today’s IML labels are made of the same polymer substrate material as the package, whether blow-molded, thermoformed or injection molded. Polypropylene is the most widely used packaging and IML label material in the food segment, making the packaging of these products 100% recyclable.