2013 Packaging Trends & Forecasts

Posted on 1/17/2013 8:52:05 AM By Jeff Timm

The beginning of a New Year always brings with it a new beginning and all sorts of New Year resolutions, forecasts and trends.  I have been reviewing the packaging market and have had discussions with industry experts to hypothesize and discuss a number of trends and forecasts for 2013.  The following is a compilation of a few of these future prognostications I feel will have the most far reaching impact on the packaging industry.

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor -- Packaging Digest highlighted these trends from the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, Inc (PMMI),

  • Green Behaviors: It's Getting Easier to Be Green

    “Green products and packaging are moving away from the fringe of mainstream strategy toward becoming a best practice area for CPGs. Consumer understanding plays a role here, in some cases, accompanied by the willingness to pay more for an environmentally-friendlier product.” 

    While this trend needs the support from top management at brand owner CPGs, and this is certainly the case, the down side of this movement is that the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  FTC Green Guides will put a short term brake on these products being recognized at the all important retail shelf space consumer interface.  Green Guides compliance brings the long needed order and truth to the marketplace, but with this comes clarification elimination of many of the terms consumers associate with “green” products like compostable, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims.  It will take time for the educational aspects of the Green Guides to filter down to the consumer and actually affect their behavior.

  • Regulations and Regulatory Compliance: Complexity & Compliance

    “Compliance with current or proposed regulations impacts product development, processing, packaging and distribution and CPGs predict an increasing number of regulations and regulatory complexity at federal, state and local levels.

    In the short term, they reported, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and its evolving regulatory structure is of paramount importance—and that's not going to change any time soon. As a result, they expect OEMs to be well-versed in FSMA and how it impacts machinery design and operations.”

    While the FSMA will build consumer confidence as its impact begins to be recognized, the packaging machinery redesign that needs to occur in some cases to comply could potentially cause changes in material selection and design.  This will cause disruption at the finite individual SKU level opening opportunities for some packaging material suppliers and loss of business for others.  This disruption leads to other innovations that will feed trends like light weighting and ease of opening.

    Lux Research, and many other market research companies continue to forecast the tremendous growth opportunities for bio-based polymers.  Lux Research recently issued a year end report “Bridging the Divide between Demands and Bio-Based Materials” which forecasts that to achieve success “bio-based material developers must aim for large, addressable markets such as:

  • Coatings offer huge opportunities

    Coatings provide literally thousands of opportunities to substitute bio-based raw materials – in many cases with significant improvements such as elimination or reduction of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) above incumbent offerings.

  • Bio-based plastics are ideal disposables

    Bio-based plastics can be biodegradable, recyclable, and less energy-intensive to process, and thus are often tough to beat as disposables, with volume applications such as medical, flatware, cleaning, bags, liners, bottles and others.

  • Industrial intermediates (monomers) represent the future

    Industrial intermediate components target huge addressable markets such as electronics, building materials, automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods.

    As I have noted in prior blogs, to achieve this dynamic growth bio-based material manufacturers must reach critical mass in manufacturing to drive down costs to be competitive with petrochemical equivalents and the recycling/composting infrastructure must be dramatically improved to facilitate this growth.   Other pro-growth events must occur, according to Lux, including offering more bio-based drop-in monomers and the closing of performance gaps especially in temperature distortion (HDT) and brittleness.

    Digging a little deeper on the topic of monomers the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2004 conducted an initial screening and categorization of renewable chemicals that could be co-produced as side streams of biofuels and bioenergy. The analysis yielded a list of 30 potential monomers with up to six carbon atoms that could be fermented from the sugars in biomass and serve as building blocks for more complex chemicals – as intermediates, novel products, or direct replacements for petroleum products. Twelve of these chemicals were designated as top targets for further research and development within industrial biotechnology:

  • 1,4 succinic, fumaric and malic acids
  • 2,5 furan dicarboxylic acid
  • 3 hydroxy propionic acid
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glucaric acid
  • Glutamic acid
  • Itaconic acid
  • Levulinic acid
  • 3-hydroxybutyrolactone
  • Glycerol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol/arabinitol

A follow up article Top Molecules:  The DOE’s 12 Top Biobased List – What’s Worked Out? by Jim Lane, Editor Biobased Digest does an update on where these twelve monomers are positioned eight years later as we enter 2013.  Besides the obvious advantage of being sourced from renewable bio-based feedstock and not being petrochemicals or natural gas, these new bio-based technologies have the ability to be fine tuned or customized much easier than their petro counterparts.  This opens more opportunity for differentiated products made from these monomers.  This seems like an opportunity for which the adhesive industry has been anticipating for decades-the ability to design adhesives with specific adhesion properties to complement individual substrates surface characteristics and polarities.

What specific topics would you like to see a deeper-dive in a future Packaging Blog?  The Packaging Blog will dedicate a number of articles to 2013 trends.

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