The packaging materials industry can be divided into consumer packaging and industrial packaging. The former refers to the packaging of goods sold to consumers, primarily involving shopping bags, packaging bags, padded mailers, boxes and gift wraps, etc. Food and beverage packages, such as PET bottles, laminated paper packages and flexible packaging, also fall within this category. Industrial packaging is mainly used for protection and transportation purposes. It includes vacuum packs, heat seal, shrink packaging films, cartons, paperboard boxes, PS foam, bubble wrap, and foam sheets.
Mainland China is a major consumer goods production centre that generates a mammoth demand for packaging materials. The growth in other businesses on the mainland has also boosted the demand for advertising, packaging, and printing. In the meantime, growing numbers of consumer goods manufacturers are outsourcing their packaging production to specialised packagers. These developments have created business opportunities for packaging subcontractors.
As online shopping has accelerated, there has been a visible increase in demand for e‑commerce packaging solutions. Demand for paper boxes and labels is expected to grow the fastest, boosted by the increase in package volume. Packaging is expected to become more personalised to help with marketing and brand differentiation. However, brands are also becoming increasingly aware of sustainable e‑commerce packaging and are looking for ways to reduce packaging waste. For example, leading online fashion retailer Zalora has started using recyclable packaging and has adopted reusable packaging bags for returned products from customers.
Flexible packaging has been gaining popularity in recent years, and it is likely to be increasingly used to replace or complement the packaging of product assortments that have traditionally been packaged in cans and bottles. One example of this trend is stand‑up pouches, which are increasingly used in food and beverages packaging, especially for liquids. They are easy to store and highly practical to close or reseal. They also use fewer materials, which helps to reduce shipping and logistics costs. Polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polypropylene are some of the common materials used in most flexible packaging.
1. Sustainable Packaging
Growing interest in environmental issues and the spread of more stringent legislations on the use of packaging materials worldwide are influencing the choice of materials used in packaging. For example, France has banned the use of plastic packaging in fruits and vegetable products starting January 2022. Manufacturers/suppliers are therefore also working towards eliminating less environmentally friendly packaging and increasing the use of recycled content in their packaging. Bio‑based renewable materials such as biopolymers are increasingly being used in packaging as they are often biodegradable and not toxic to produce. Growing concern among consumers about plastic pollution is also creating new opportunities in the market, such as plastic‑free aisles in supermarkets and packaging‑free refill retail stores.
2. Design with Hygiene and Safety Features
Consumer awareness of hygiene has increased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to persist for a while. Products with direct contact with human body are expected to have more protective/ individual packaging. These concerns can also be addressed through new and improved packaging designs, especially for food and beverages. For example, the choice of packaging material substrate can affect the viability of the virus, while using tamper‑proof packaging can ensure protection against potential contamination.
3. Convenient Packaging
As well as improved safety, additional functionality and added convenience are the general trends in the food and beverage packaging market. One example of this are pouches which feature handles and pouring spouts. These pouches can be heated in boiling water and stored under refrigeration and are especially ideal for soup and sauces packaging. There is also a trend for “retail ready” packaging which refers to packaged retail goods which are ready to be displayed to consumers immediately or with little set up.
4. Minimalist and Transparent Packaging
Consumers nowadays are often bombarded with a lot of information and claims on product packaging. Simple and easy information on key product qualities and package functionality would instead lead to higher customer engagement. Transparent or see‑through packaging is also favourable for consumers because it provides a clearer view of the product attributes and allows customers to evaluate the products better.
5. Connected Packaging
Driven by the growth in the ownership of connected devices and advances in technology, brands are exploring options to use packaging to connect with their customers virtually. This includes the use of QR codes and other digital markers, near field communication (NFC) and augmented reality. Malibu, a Caribbean coconut flavoured liqueur, included an NFC tag on their liqueur bottles that leads consumers to branded content such as drink recipes and bar locations. Connected packaging brings unique shopping experiences to consumers while allowing brands to deliver engaging content and product‑specific information.