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The food packaging industry showed a strong performance in 2012, and 2013 looks just as good; sales are forecast to grow a further 3%, with global retail packaging consumption set to reach 1.87 trillion units this year. As far as dynamic gains go, there’s an interesting mix of high performers to take note of for 2013 and beyond. Liquid cartons are well represented, both through the shaped liquid carton, forecast to be the fastest growing pack type this year, and through the brick carton.
Drinking milk products is the driving category behind the growth of both liquid carton formats with the Asia Pacific region. Initiatives to encourage increased dairy consumption remain high on the Chinese Government’s agenda and consumers are responding, increasingly choosing liquid carton-packed sour milk, chocolate milk or long-life UHT milk. Inner Mongolia Mengniu Dairy Industry Group is leading the way, supplying an ever-increasing product range to cater for this rising demand.
HDPE bottles are another beneficiary of the health-driven consumption of liquid dairy products, particularly drinking yoghurt. China, Brazil and Mexico offer especially good growth prospects, with a wider product variety, extensive regional distribution and a consumer base increasingly able to afford such products.
The beverage can, perhaps considered an unlikely contender, is another dynamic growth format for the food industry. While it is a niche performer in terms of actual unit volume prospects, it is an interesting one nonetheless, as an illustration of how to differentiate through packaging. The global beverage can growth comes courtesy of the Chinese flavoured milk drinks category and a high-end positioning strategy from the Want Zai brand. The beverage can represents a real alternative to the liquid carton in dairy drinks and will continue to gain from a fast-growing dairy drinks category in China.
Unlike the liquid carton and beverage can, defined by dairy consumption trends in emerging markets, the stand-up pouch can be considered more of a global winning packaging formula. The pouch enjoys an increasing uptake across all world regions. Admittedly, the pouch is a much smaller player in actual volume sales, accounting for just 1% of global food packaging, as opposed to a 7% share for the liquid carton family, but it is rising in popularity. But what’s so special about the pouch?
The baby food category is an interesting one to observe, with the US, an especially high-value market, recording a transformation in recent times, with many brands migrating over to the pouch in prepared baby food or adding the pouch to their packaging portfolio at the expense of the glass jar. In baby food, the pouch serves to better answer modern consumer needs as a safe, easy-carry pack and aid to self-feeding as one’s baby gets older. The pouch further acts to help segment the baby food market, exemplified by the success of premium and organic varieties, also driving the demand for plastic screw closures typically fitted on these pouches. The UK is another key country for the baby food pouch, epitomised by brands such as Ella’s Kitchen Organic and Plum Organics.
The pouch is an alternative to the more usual thin wall plastic container, offering added consumer convenience attributes. It works well as a snack or lunch box option for children, as there’s no need for a spoon, making it a very easy on-the-go format. They’re mainly targeted at children but with strong potential to appeal to adults. The product is seen as a healthy snack in an easy-to-consume-from pack. Stand-up pouch unit volumes in the US are forecast a 40% increase in 2013.
Packaging’s future is positive. The biggest unit volume gains will undoubtedly be derived from fast-developing countries, but mature regions remain sizeable too, and all are open for pack innovation and development. This is evident in the success of the squeezy food pouch, encouraging baby and toddler-independence, the easy-open jar/bottle solution for the less dexterous but growing number of older consumers, or the microwaveable porridge pot, to name just three. The importance of packaging – primarily to protect the quality of the food it holds and help reduce food waste and also through its position as a tool to convey brand value – is here to stay.