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Packaging demand across the world reached US$917.1bn in 2019 and is expected to grow in the coming four years, according to the latest data from industry analyst Smithers.

Consumption at current prices has increased from US$861bn in 2014 to US$891bn in 2018, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.9 per cent. Analysis in its comprehensive study The Future of Global Packaging to 2024 forecast market expansion across 2019–24 at a 2.8 per cent CAGR to reach US$1.05 trillion in 2024.

Asia is the largest market and accounted for 40.6 per cent of world packaging consumption in 2018. North America is in second place with 22.6 per cent of world packaging consumption, ahead of Western Europe with 20.3 per cent.

Developing markets
The market will benefit from rising real incomes, growing population, rising urbanisation and the further development of a retail infrastructure in the emerging and developing nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. This will see all of these region register packaging consumption grow faster than the world market average rate over the five-year period to 2024.

In contrast more mature markets – North America, Western Europe and Australasia – are forecast to see slower growth, placing a new emphasis on innovation and diversification for packaging suppliers.

China is the world’s largest packaging consumer with consumption of US$207bn in 2018, ahead of the US on US$173bn, and Japan on US$48.5bn. Across the past five years the fastest growth has come from India worth US$40.1bn in 2019, it has overtaken both France and Germany to become the fourth largest national market in the world.

Australia in context
Australia is the largest packaging market in Australasia and accounted for approximately 80.0 per cent of sales in 2018. New Zealand is the second largest national market with almost 10 per cent of sales. They are both mature packaging markets, with high packaging penetration.

In Australia, packaging sales at current prices grew during 2014–18 from $12.2bn (AUD) to $13.9bn, an annual average growth rate of 3.4 per cent. In US dollar terms, packaging sales at current prices declined from US$11.0bn to US$10.4bn during the same period, an annual average fall of 1.3 per cent.

A reversal of this downward trend is forecast. As the region enter the 2020s it will return to growth returning, at a modest rate of 1.3 per cent. This will push the total value above US$14bn in 2024 for the first time.

Sustainability
Sustainability, recycling, over packaging and bans on single-use plastic packaging are key issues for suppliers in developed packaging markets, led by Western Europe. Growing consumer concern over the preservation of the environment is driving demand for more sustainable packaging, based on renewable resources. The ease with which packaging can be collected and recycled is growing in importance for packaging producers, brand owners and governments.

There is mounting public pressure, now being backed by legislation like the EU’s Single-use Plastics Directive, to limit the use of plastic formats. In response brand owners and retail chains are committing to phasing out non-recyclable and difficult to recycle multilayer flexible packaging materials in favour of more sustainable alternatives, such as paper and paperboard.

Material demands
Paperboard is the most used packaging material, accounting for around a third of world packaging markets consumption, followed by flexible packaging at 25.5 per cent, rigid plastics at 18.7 per cent and metal at 12.1 per cent, glass packaging accounts for 5.8 per cent and other packaging 4.7 per cent.

Concern for the environment is benefiting the corrugated board market due to the perceived and real environmental benefits in using cellulose-based packaging. Lightweighting of board construction is reducing the rate of volume growth slightly, but value is forecast to rise faster over the Smithers forecast period.

Online shopping will continue to challenge corrugated packaging designers in developing frustration-free packaging options. In conventional retail corrugated packaging companies are emphasising shelf-ready packaging to reduce the workload for unpacking and displaying.

Despite environmental concerns, worldwide flexible plastic is set to grow at the fastest rate over 2019-2024, followed by rigid plastics and board. The retail sector’s growing demand for extended shelf life for packaged product and consumer demand for convenience products are driving sales of barrier packaging films. Many different end-use sectors are adopting multilayer flexible packaging solutions, including metallised film. Retort foods and pharmaceuticals packaging are growing markets for PET-based transparent deposition films, while high-barrier films are used in case-ready and modified atmosphere packaging.

End-use applications
Industrial/transit is the largest packaging market and accounted for 43.3 per cent of world packaging consumption in 2018. Corrugated boxes, accounts for a large share of global transit packaging consumption, and this will strengthen over the next five years due to wider use of e-commerce selling channels. In industrial shipping there will be a rise in the use of intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and to a lesser extent plastic and steel drums.

Food packaging accounted for 28.4 per cent of packaging demand in 2018 but will see slightly slower growth moving forwards. Lifestyle factors are being felt in the food segment, with consumer demand for health and wellness products, urbanisation and busier lifestyles, and the continuing rise in single-parent and single-person households. These create a growing demand for convenience products/packaging, for more portable packaging for on-the-go consumption and smaller pack sizes.

In developing markets domestic supermarkets/hypermarkets are spreading to many major cities to take a growing share of food and drink consumption, displacing traditional local and independent markets. International retail chains are also expanding their presence in developing regions, bringing more consumers into contact with Western shopping and food consumption habits.

Healthcare packaging consumption is forecast to grow at the fastest rate, just ahead of cosmetics. This is driven by ageing populations, and the resultant increase in demand for a wide range of drugs. There is also a growing health awareness among consumers, leading to higher demand for over-the-counter (OTC) medication, vitamins and dietary supplements.

The impact of evolution in demand, and the future growth in the packaging market are analysed critically in the Future of Global Packaging to 2024. This is quantified in a data set of unparalleled granularity, with over 700 data tables and figures, giving current and future growth outlooks for nearly fifty countries worldwide.

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