Down-sizing trend driving US rigid food packaging

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

The trend towards smaller, more portable beverage and prepared food containers will play a large part in the increased use of plastics in rigid food packaging in the US market, according to a new report.

The category is expected to expand by 4.7 per cent a year to £17.2bn in 2013, said Rigid Food Packaging​, published by the US-based BCC Research.

Researchers said that demographic changes such as greater numbers of single-person households and older consumers will support the demand for more convenient prepared foods and single-serving portions, sometimes in multi-packs.

This will increase material use as smaller portions tend to use more packaging relative to their size, the report states.Rigid plastic food packaging includes bottles, dairy, meat and deli containers, prepared food trays and a large group of containers mostly made for liquid foods.

PET is dominant

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is the dominant resin, according to the analysts, reaching over £7bn in 2007 and forecast to increase to £9.5bn in 2013.

The resin with the second largest share of the food packaging market, at £2.5bn in 2007, is high density polyethylene (HDPE). The material has a predicted growth rate of 4.1 per cent, and is forecast it to hit the £3.2bn mark in 2013, according to the analysts.

Polystyrene is expected to increase market share from an estimated £2bn in 2007 to £2.4bn in 2013 and polypropylene is also forecast to experience annual growth of 6.6 per cent to reach £1.6bn in 2013, claims BCC Research.

"Bottles are, by far, the most dominant plastic rigid packaging structure , most of which are based on PET, followed by the wide array of mostly blow moulded containers for liquid foods led by PET and HDPE,"​ concluded the report.

European market slows

Meanwhile, Finnish packaging firm, Huhtamaki, in its interim results released on Friday, said that demand for consumer packaging in Europe is starting to show signs of a slow down.

Its Interim Report, which reflects the six month period up to 30 June 2008, showed improved earnings in the second quarter after slow start to the year. The company said that the price increases it implemented in the period managed to compensate for higher raw material, energy and distribution costs.

In 2008, the Group EBIT is expected to be below the 2007 underlying Group EBIT of €136m, according to the company.

Consumer goods rigid plastic production is ceasing at Huhtamaki's UK sites, with the facility at Portadown closing at the end of July 2008 and in Gosport at the end of September 2008, according to the financial report. The company said that it is also closing its rigid packaging site in Karlholmsbruk, Sweden by year-end 2008.

Andrew Lea, General Manager of Consumer Goods Huhtamaki UK, previously told that the closure of the company's site in Portadown in Northern Ireland was the net result of Huhtamaki's shift towards more recoverable and renewable polymers like recycled PET.

The Portadown site had been primarily involved in the manufacture of thermoformed polypropylene thin wall food containers used for products like coleslaw and desserts.

Lea said that outmoded plant infrastructure, increases in manufacturing and energy costs and a decline in volumes were the reasons for the withdrawal of its rigid plastic production operations from Gosport.

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