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Packaging Industry to Soar in 2021 after a Steep Fall

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by Beroe Inc
14 March 2021


The packaging industry, which includes glass packaging, rigid packaging, and flexible packaging, is expected to experience a significant boost in 2021 after a steep fall induced by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns across the world. 

The decline in the demand for beverages in 2020 resulted in a decrease in the demand for glass containers. However, this is expected to increase by 3 percent this year due to an economic rebound. North America will continue to hold more than 70 percent market share of the flexible packaging market with APAC expected to grow at 10-10.5 percent until 2025. Adoption of sustainable packaging options will deepen in mature markets like the U.S. and Western Europe. The packaging trends worldwide are optimistic about this industry's growth across all packaging categories.

The downward trends in packaging industry's growth were majorly driven by a decline in glass packaging demand worldwide. With HoReCa, pubs, and sporting events among those hit most by the pandemic, these closures reflected in negative trends for the glass packaging industry. However, this category is showing signs of recovery. The categories of rigid packaging and flexible packaging remained largely unaffected in this pandemic. This can be attributed to APAC driving demand growth, with most demand from mature markets focussing on sustainability. 

The biggest growth driver for the packaging industry comes from the paper and pulp segments. The global pulp market demand is expected to increase at a CAGR of 4-4.5 percent until 2025, with Asia driving this category’s growth. The Asian market is also responsible for good forecasts for the Cartonboard category, with an expected growth of 2-3 percent until 2025. The containerboard market, another category, has a good forecast as well. With an expected growth of 3-4 percent, this category has shown tremendous recovery since the pandemic. 

Market Developments

The packaging industry is looking at new developments in its various categories. The glass packaging manufacturers are witnessing growing attention around sustainability. Globally, the glass companies are investing in PCR glass collections, eventually increasing cullet content by up to 40-45 percent in the end-products. The use of renewable energy sources in the total energy mix will reduce companies' carbon footprint. The suppliers are expected to focus on eco-friendly designs and lightweight glass containers.

PET & PE contribute around 80-85 percent of food and beverage packaging in the rigid packaging market. Growth is expected in sustainable alternative materials such as PHA, PLA, EPOH, and RPET. The increasing awareness about sustainable packaging has resulted in an increased preference for metal packaging, bio-plastics, and PCR resins. Suppliers are strengthening their recycling capabilities. The global players have adapted to the growing need for rigid packaging formats across categories and have even introduced new products in their portfolio during the pandemic. Regional suppliers are considering opportunities to make advances via. technology investment, capacity addition, or innovation.

In the flexible packaging category, downgauged and monolayer packaging were the buyers' choice to reduce their material usage and ease the product's recyclability. The fragmented supply base and ongoing trade wars are expected to increase the preference for local sourcing. Moreover, the Berry Global-RPC Group merger and Huhtamaki-Everest Flexibles and Sealed Air's acquisition in the APAC, expands opportunities for APAC, LATAM, and African buyers to implement efficient production technologies. Owing to plastic bag bans across Europe, APAC, and the Middle East, multi-use bags with a thickness of 3m or more are increasingly becoming prevalent. There will be increased usage of PCR content flexible packaging film options until 2025.

The packaging trends in the paper and pulp categories hint towards more sustainable growth, led primarily by Asia. The paper packaging industry trends also reflect substantial growth, seen in the pulp, containerboard market, and cartonboard market

Key Findings

  • The forecasted growth for the packaging industry is expected to remain consistent following the post-pandemic recovery.

  • APAC is the biggest growth driver for the packaging industry.

  • The packaging industry as a whole is moving towards its sustainable goals.

  • The shift from virgin to recycled cartonboard is expected to be one of the major sustainability trends in 2021.

  • The market price for pulp is expected to increase globally in 2021.

  • In the U.S., the recycled cartonboard market is expected to be tight across 2021 due to various reasons like strong backlogs and capacity reductions.

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