Flexible packaging materials: narrow web converters can use products optimized for their presses to enter a fast-growing sector of the packaging industry.

Author:Katz, Steve

The global packaging market is both massive and diverse. According to the World Packaging Organization (WPO), the global packaging industry's estimated annual turnover is about $500 billion. The WPO says the global packaging market is very gradually shifting toward smaller package sizes, due in part to families shrinking in size and not eating together as frequently as they did before.

This emphasis on food and small packages has been a boon to the growing flexible packaging segment. Flexible Packaging is the second largest packaging segment in the US, garnering about 18% of the nation's $155 billion packaging market, according to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). The industry had $27.2 billion in sales in the United States in 2013.

The largest market for flexible packaging is indeed food (both retail and institutional), the FPA says, and it accounts for about 59% of shipments. Other markets for flexible packaging include retail nonfood at 11%; industrial applications at 7%; consumer products at 10%; institutional non-food at 4%; and medical and pharmaceutical at a combined 9%. Market research firm Smithers Pira says the global flexible packaging industry will reach $231 billion by 2018, growing at a rate of 3.5% annually. This impressive rate of expansion is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP), suggesting the flexible packaging market is growing more quickly than well-developed and traditional rigid packaging markets, the firm says. With flexible packaging showing significant growth and potential, some label converters have taken note, and are leveraging the capabilities of their converting equipment to enter the market, thus diversifying their portfolios beyond labels and tags.

"The reach of flexible packaging into the narrow web label converting space continues to grow and expand as more and more targeted marketing and private labeling continues to flourish and offer continued growth to the industry," states Cindy Collins, product manager, Rapid Roll, Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials

"Narrow web converters may have advantages in segments of the flexible packaging markets that are short run/quick turn," adds Mark McGarel, general manager for FILMtech. "As the market evolves, there are source reduction and alternate barrier materials being utilized to reduce the overall package thickness. We are metallizing certain films for coffee and tea markets that are surface printed and overlaquered. In the past, this...

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