In 2018, one of the fastest areas of packaging growth was in the realm of flexible packaging. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, flexible packaging refers to packaging that (unsurprisingly) can easily change in shape. Compared to traditional hard-sided packaging products, flexible packaging requires significantly less material.
Typically, flexible packaging takes the form of a stand-up pouch, and is most often used to transport food products. They are usually made up of several different layers used in conjunction; typically, these include paper layers, plastic layers, and foil layers.
The increasing importance of flexible packaging can be seen by taking the US flexible packaging market as an example. According to an academic presentation, in 2004 the US industry was worth about $20 billion USD. The largest share of flexible packaging produced – about 55% – is used to package food. Non-food consumer and industrial products make up about 20% of the industry. Most of the remaining value is taken up by medical and pharmaceutical applications.
Why are flexible packaging products becoming increasingly popular?
There are several reasons, according to flexible packaging producer Liquibox.
First, there are the environmental benefits. Flexible packaging requires only about 3% of the energy input needed to make glass packaging, and about 25% of the energy required to produce traditional PET-based packaging. In addition, the CO2 emissions required to transport packages before they are filled is significantly less for flexible packaging due to the light weight and non-rigid design.
Another reason for the increasing popularity of flexible plastics is that they are convenient for consumers. Flexible packaging is often resealable, allowing food to stay fresh longer. In addition, flexible packaging is lightweight, an important factor to people who are always on the go. Finally, there is a perception among many consumers that flexible packaging is safer and less likely to contain harmful chemicals.
These factors combined are largely responsible for the rapid growth of the industry over the past decade. Between 2004 and 2018, the US flexible packaging industry alone increased in value from $20 billion USD to $30 billion USD.
If you’re interested in learning more about the current state of the flexible packaging industry, including interviews with industry experts, I would suggest this informative website published by Packaging Digest.
Flexible packaging is yet another plastics-based product that is revolutionizing industries and changing the way we live our lives. We will likely be seeing a lot more of it in the future.