Rigid Packaging: Sturdy market for rigid packaging

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Witnessing a steadily growing market, rigid packaging has curved a firm niche in vital industry applications that constantly require innovation, says Angelica Buan in this report.

Globally, the rigid packaging market size is expanding and is projected to witness a CAGR of 6.7% from 2016-2025, according to Grand View Research, estimating the value to be worth US$848.7 billion by the forecast year. Rigid packaging, which essentially secures products so that it reaches the customer intact, finds applications in industries like pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, electronics, personal care, and many more.

geographic region, 2017

From a regional perspective, emerging economies are expected to grow rigid plastic packaging demand at the highest rates across 2017-2022. , says UK research firm Smithers Pira.

Asia is already the largest consumer of rigid plastic packaging, accounting for a projected 31.4% consumption share by volume in 2017. North America is the second largest, with 22.7%, followed by Western Europe with 20.0%. Asia is forecast to continue growing at a faster rate than any other world region with an annual average growth rate of 5.8% for the next five years.

Material-wise, plastics dominate the rigid packaging segment, securing nearly 40% of the total market share in 2016, according to Esticast Research and Consulting. Plastics are likely to reign over the forecast period from 2016-2024 owing to the material’s low costs, low weight, and least breakage properties.

Volume consumption of rigid plastics globally was 52.9 million tonnes in 2017, and is projected to grow over the next five years at an annual rate of 3.7% to 63.4 million tonnes, according to Smithers Pira’s market report - The Future of Rigid Plastic Packaging to 2022.

Reports on rigid packaging always compare it with flexible packaging, being degradable, more lightweight, and offering versatility in design, and other beneficial features.

Food is the largest end-use market for rigid packaging, accounting for a projected 37% consumption share in 2017. The healthcare sector is forecast to grow at the highest rate, followed by other food markets, drinks and cosmetics.

Medication compliance with blister packaging

Pills and other forms of medications are rendered safe and free of contaminants, aiding in patient compliance to medications and providing longer shelf-life with blister packaging made especially for pharmaceutical products.

Pharmaceutical packaging combine intelligent application aims to address patient’s compliance more efficiently, especially when used to facilitate clinic trials of drugs.

Schreiner MediPharm, a Germany-headquartered speciality labels producer, says that clinical trials are normally conducted on an international scale and require high accuracy. Conventional, non-automated processes are frequently error-prone. Medication adherence by participating patients, however, is a key factor for the successful outcome of clinical trials, but often difficult to track.

Schreiner MediPharm and ECCT

Hence, Schreiner MediPharm, together with Dutch technology company Experts in Communications and Connectivity Technology (ECCT), has developed a smart blister pack for digital patient compliance monitoring to enhance medication adherence by clinical trial participants.

The system works by pressing a tablet out of the blister pack that generates data in real time such as the type of medication, the time of extraction and the respective cavity. This information is automatically stored in the smart package and transmitted to a database via a smartphone app or reader. Compliance of the respective patient is thereby tracked. Additionally, it is possible to send the patient a reminder to take the medication, to adjust the dose and to assist trial participants with interactive communication between the physician and patient.

The smart packaging solution includes printed electronics, without impacting the packaging design. A database platform enables diverse data transfers and analyses.

Growth of co-injection technology

Similarly, co-injection technology is finding new market traction via single-serve capsules, according to industry consultants AMI Consulting in its recent report, adding that it is able to replace traditional packaging (metal and glass).

Single-serve capsules have become the key contributor to growth of high barrier solutions that offer functionality and aesthetics and the potential to re-vitalise mature markets such as ambient soup, canned fruit, vegetables and fish.

Applications have tripled in volume since 2013 with further growth expected, but tempered by competing non-barrier formats servicing the low-priced compatibles sub-segment. Single-serve capsules are fuelling not only demand for barrier thermoforming, but also enabling barrier co-injection projects, barrier IML and coatings to develop.

Menshen’s barrier capsules are compatible for coffee

The volume realised with barrier co-injection technology has accounted for a marginal share of the market so far, especially in recent years. The renewed interest is driven by the developments in projects like Jabil Packaging’s K-Cup pod design; Germany-based Menshen’s barrier capsules compatible with Nespresso and Nescafe Dolce Gusto systems; and Switzerland’s Lapp Tec’s barrier capsule compatible with Nespresso. It is expected that co-injection technology will gain market traction over the next five years.

Outside of capsules, co-injection technology is expected to increase its penetration via US firm Milacron Holding’s Klear Can concept commercialisation.


Last year, Milacron saw its Klear Can hitting the shelves in Asia, in partnership with S&W Fine Foods International, a Del Monte Pacific company. The Klear Can, which allows consumers to see through the packaging, is available in South Korea and China. Milacron developed the Klear Can, which is a patented co-injection moulded, PP/EVOH plastic can, as an alternative to metal cans for fruits, vegetables, soups, meats, and other products.

Milacron says the extruded can offered by the competition suffers from die mould streaking, affecting clarity while the Klear Can is also IML (In Mould Label) compatible, using the same industry standards for filling, seaming and retorting machinery as metal cans.

Longer shelf-life means no food wastage

It is not surprising that convenience store counters offering ready to eat meals are enjoying brisk business. Snacks, delis, and convenient foods are sustaining the growth of the packaged food market, which Allied Research Market has forecast to garner US$3 trillion by 2020, at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2015. Packaged food is the result of society’s changing, fast-paced lifestyle requirement for easy cooking, consumption, and handling; and safety from external tampering and contamination.

Thus, materials used for packaged food must be convenient for carrying, displaying, opening and closing. As well, they must ensure longer shelf-life for food to remain fresh upon consumption, with oxygen-barrier solutions.

Dulcelol taps ITC Packaging’s recyclable

An example of a latest product using the oxygenbarrier innovation is the Naturcrem IML packaging of Spanish food producer Dulcelol. Spain-headquartered packaging manufacturer ITC Packaging and Belgiumheadquartered in-mould label supplier Verstraete IML addressed the issue of packaged food freshness in Dulcesol’s single-serve organic soups using a packaging that features a pentagonal base and round, open top; and a decorative IML oxygen barrier label from Verstraete. The 100% recyclable packaging ensures that the soups have a shelf-life of up to a year, without refrigeration.

Verstraete says that the OTR value, the extent of the oxygen permeability, is up to 100 times less compared to packaging with a standard IML label. To withstand pasteurisation, the IML label utilised a combination of specific inks, a special lacquer, and a special pasteurisation-resistant oxygen barrier film.

Consumer satisfaction with sustainable packaging

Sustainability of packaging is becoming a crucial point for purchase for most consumers. This is asserted in the 2014 Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, which polled 300 global respondents from 60 countries. Based on the survey, 52% of the respondents said their sustainable purchase decisions are influenced by packaging, according to research firm Nielsen, adding that a significant number of respondents were willing to pay extra for sustainable products and labelling.

Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence, in its 2018-2023 market opportunity outlook reports that sustainable packaging market is projected, to grow close to US$342 billion by 2023, up from US$234 billion in 2017.


Light-weighting, reducing material usage without impairing pack performance; increased use of recycled plastic feedstocks and investigating the use of bioplastic packaging are some of the challenges in this area.

Brand owners are also employing more recycled and recyclable packaging. Last year, multinational Unilever pledged to ensure that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The company had already committed to reducing the weight of its packaging by one-third by 2020, and increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025.

US packaging company Sealed Air Corporation has partnered with Japanese chemical company Kuraray America to offer food packaging materials derived from its Plantic bio-based resins. Starch obtained from hybridised corn is Plantic’s primary feedstock. It undergoes a chemical process, transforming it into a more pliable material, similar to a thermoplastic, and thus making the resulting material suitable for packaging.


Through this new cooperation with Kuraray, Sealed Air will offer Plantic materials to package perishable foods such as poultry, beef and seafood in the US, Canada and Mexico. The materials provide an effective oxygen barrier that is also cost competitive with traditional rollstock barrier films.

Meeting the industry requirements for improved recyclability and increased sustainability, US speciality polymers company PolyOne has enhanced the sustainability and design freedom offered by its barrier additives; at the same time providing benefits like extending shelf life and lightweighting options for packaging manufacturers.

ColorMatrix Lactra SX

PolyOne’s Lactra SX technology protects lightsensitive dairy products such as ultra-pasteurised milk and protein-enhanced yoghurts from photo-induced degradation by providing 99.99% UV and visiblelight blocking. In addition, it allows design-friendly, single-layer PET containers to perform on par with multi-layer bottles and laminate paperboard cartons, requiring less material and reducing production waste for increased sustainability.

Innovative closures for sensory experience

An essential component of any packaging, caps and closures are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the product packing. As industries rely heavily on plastic caps and closures, being cost-effective sealing solutions, the segment’s global market is expected to reach almost US$3 trillion by 2023, up by almost US$1 trillion from 2017, according to a Mordor Intelligence report. The caps and closure segment uses PET, PP, and PE as the primary raw materials for manufacturing.

Innovations in caps and closures, likewise, drive the growth of the market. Technology advancements not only enhance the functions that caps and closures deliver but also their innovative value.


The Sniff Seal technology of liners manufacturer Tri-Seal underscores this point. It is said to be the first liner to enable scent permeation through an induction seal closure liner, without affecting the seal or compromising the contents. Apart from delivering unique product differentiation, Sniff Seal also enables customers to take a whiff of the scent prior to purchase, without having to open the packaging seal. It enables scent permeation through an induction seal closure liner, said to be a novelty in packaging in the retail aisle, yet it does not compromise the seal or the product contents, says Tri-Seal.

How about a bottle that hums? Indian mineral water supplier NourishCo Beverages has launched a limited edition bottle for its Himalayan Sparkling with the ‘Sound of the Himalayas’.


The concept of this innovation is to allow consumers to experience the water’s Himalayan source. The bottle with the technology designed and developed by J. Walter Thompson (JWT) India, features a ‘sound cap’, which has a built-in chip that is triggered when the bottle is opened; the sound is “turned-off” when the bottle is closed.

The technology allows the bottle to play the sounds of whistling winds, melting mists, drop-by-drop percolation and rare rock surface liquid percussions. JWT says it recorded the sounds by radio transmitters and underwater stream synthesisers.

With all the new technology on hand, it is not surprising, thus, that the rigid packaging market is set on course for a higher growth in coming years.

And despite these opportunities, this packaging segment is also dealing with challenges. None of these is more disruptive than the emergence of flexible packaging types, and the growing importance of sustainability.


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