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According to “Food Containers: Rigid & Flexible,” a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., U.S. demand for food containers is projected to increase 2.5% per year to $25 billion in 2013, or more than 300 billion units. Advances will be based on an expanding population base, real growth (albeit decelerated) in disposable personal income, smaller household sizes, consumer demand for foods offering a combination of convenience and value, and trends toward value-added packaging providing enhanced freshness protection and convenience of use.
Unit expansion will be aided by the growing popularity of single-serving packaging, such as plastic cups and pouches, in a widening range of applications. In 2008, the largest markets for food containers were fruits and vegetables, grain mill products (including pet food), dairy products and baked goods, which together accounted for nearly 50% of total demand.
Plastic containers, and bags and pouches will experience the fastest growth among food container types, often supplanting paperboard, metal and glass containers. Gains for plastic containers will be attributable to performance advantages over glass, metal and paperboard alternatives, as well as improved resin and processing technologies. Advances for bags and pouches will be the result of cost and performance advantages that will enable continued inroads into rigid packaging applications. Moreover, the source reduction advantages of flexible packaging, such as bags and pouches, will support gains as brand owners seek to enhance the environmental friendliness of their packaging.
Prospects in the more mature paperboard, metal and glass food container segments will be less favorable, though growth niches will exist. For instance, paperboard food container demand will be aided by heightened demand for recycled content packaging and the promotion of paper as a renewable resource. In addition, aseptic cartons will log robust gains in soups and canned specialties, and sauces and condiments, often at the expense of metal cans.
Despite losses to alternatives, greater use of cans with differentiating features such as easy-opening and/or resealable tops and nontraditional can types, such as retortable aluminum bowls and shaped cans, is anticipated. Despite declines for glass containers resulting from significant losses to plastic containers, advantages of relatively stable pricing, long shelf life and a high-quality image will enable glass to remain an important part of the container mix in certain markets.
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