Paper versus plastic: Ceresana examines the European flexible packaging market

Is the unpackaged trend over again? Recently, numerous small stores that were committed to organic and fair-trade products have had to give up. On the other hand, large supermarket chains are trying to reduce the amount of plastic waste with reusable nets and paper bags. This is the second time Ceresana has studied the European market for flexible packaging made of plastics, paper and aluminum. This includes consumer goods packaging for end users, but also, for example, shrink and stretch films for storage and transport, labels, carrier bags of all kinds, bags for heavy loads and flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBC). “We expect the demand for flexible packaging in Europe to slightly decrease overall, reaching around 19.05 million tonnes in 2031", says Oliver Kutsch, Ceresana's managing director. " The different types of packaging and materials, however, are developing with different dynamics."

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Sturdy Bags

In many sectors of the economy, the Corona pandemic led to a sharp drop. Conversely, food retail sales grew slightly during the lockdown months: in many places, restaurants were closed and consumers had more time to cook for themselves. This also increased demand for pouches for food. However, this effect is now fading again: at the end of 2022 and probably also in 2023, many households will have to save because of rising energy costs and inflation. Demand for shrink and stretch films, heavy-duty and industrial bags correlate closely with the development of the economy as a whole: the level of 2019 is not expected to be reached again in these market segments until 2025. Transport packaging benefits from the still growing volume of internet trade. The ongoing convenience trend is driving demand for stand-up pouches, where composite films enable weight reduction compared to rigid packaging. For pharmaceutical products, the trend in the packaging market continues to be towards pre-portioned individual packaging for medicines, for example disposable sachets.

Less Plastic, More Paper

The European Union's "Green Deal" and "Plastics Strategy" are starting to take effect: thin plastic carrier bags and shirt bags are being banned or subjected to fees in more and more EU countries. Their demand is declining. They are often replaced by paper bags and pouches, but these are not necessarily sustainable either. At the same time, the demand for trash bags is increasing because fewer and fewer carrier bags are finding a secondary use as trash bags. Market researchers at Ceresana expect this trend to continue until around 2026, when demand for trash bags is expected to fall slightly again. By contrast, paper is often being replaced by plastic alternatives in the case of labels. Overall, Ceresana expects growth in demand for packaging films to resume from 2024 onwards, although this will be hampered by environmental policy measures to combat plastic waste as well as by higher manufacturing costs.

Current Market Analysis on Flexible Packaging

Chapter 1 shows the demand for flexible packaging for the whole of Europe, broken down into packaging films, bags and sacks, shrink and stretch films, labels and other packaging. The main focus is on various plastics, but the materials aluminum and paper are also considered.

Chapter 2 examines the different types of flexible packaging in detail, divided into 19 national markets in Europe. Demand in the various countries is broken down by packaging material: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), other plastics, paper and aluminum. In addition, the market analysis takes a detailed look at the application areas: "food and beverages", "consumer non-food", "heavy duty and transport" and "carrier bags".

Chapter 3 offers company profiles of the most important manufacturers of flexible packaging in Europe, clearly arranged according to contact data, revenues, profits, product range, production sites, short profile as well as product types and application areas. Detailed profiles are provided by 76 manufacturers, such as alesco GmbH & Co. KG, Bemis Europe Flexible Packaging, Graphic Packaging Holding Company, Leipa Georg Leinfelder GmbH, Mitsubishi Polyester Film GmbH, Papier-Mettler KG, Polifilm GmbH, RKW SE, Sappi Europe, Südpack Verpackungen GmbH & Co. KG, Taghleef Industries LLC, and Tre-ofan Group.

About Ceresana

As one of the world's leading market research institutes, Ceresana specializes in the chemicals, plastics, packaging, and industrial goods sectors. Special focus areas are bio-economy and automotive / mobility. Since 2002, companies have benefited from high-quality industry analyses and forecasts. Over 200 market studies provide more than 10,000 clients around the world with the knowledge base for sustainable success.
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