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Personalisation and convenience to drive future packaging growth, say experts at Drupa 2016

More must be done if packaging industry is to break $1trn global sales mark 

Hong Kong 19th July 2016 – The ability of printers and packaging manufacturers to keep pace with changing customer demand, whether for the personalised packages unlocked by digital printing, or demand for luxury and sustainable materials will be the key to the long term success of the industry. That was the view of an expert panel convened by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) at Drupa 2016 where discussion revolved around how the global industry can break through the $1trn in global sales mark by 2020 . 

Speaking at the debate, Dr Liz Wilks of APP Dominic Cakebread, Packaging Consultant at Smithers Pira, and Michael Tobin, Managing Director of W Hinderer Gmbh were invited to outline their views on the key drivers behind future growth in demand for packaging products. 

Dr Liz Wilks, European Director Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement for Asia Pulp & Paper explained the increased role of the luxury market in driving growth while also emphasising the importance of a sustainable approach to packaging.

“You need to think about the end of life of a product right at the start of the process. What we’re seeing with luxury packaging is growth in paper and board and that’s being driven by a number of things, from the look and feel, to its suitability for a variety of printing techniques, through to its sustainability credentials.” 

Dr Wilks explained that digital printing will also open up a range of new and exciting print applications. “If you look around the show here at Drupa, then it’s obvious the headway that digital printing is making into what it still a very offset dominated industry. What’s exciting about this is that it not only opens up affordable short and mid-length print runs, but that it offers the prospect of individually unique prints on a large scale and in the packaging market. That could take personalised packaging, something we’ve seen Coca-Cola experimenting with, from niche marketing stunt into the mainstream.”

Dr Wilks concluded that a major driver of current growth is booming demand for more convenient food: “We could be looking at more than 9 billion consumers on the planet by 2050 and more people than ever before will be living in cities with busy, time-precious lives. That’s going to lead to more demand for out of home food service as well as on-the-go packaging, savvy brands will be looking at how to establish their reputations in these areas in the years ahead.” 

All the panellists agreed that the luxury market will be a major contributor to growth, with expected growth of 19% in value terms through to 2019, creating a market worth $17.6 billion . Growth across Asia-Pacific and South & Central America is expected to reach as high as six and nine percent per annum respectively as a new generation of consumers begin to access luxury packaging, while the established markets of Western Europe and North America will also enjoy healthy growth of 3% per annum, largely driven by an increase in personalised packaging sectors such as the premium alcoholic drinks market. 

Dominic Cakebread of Smithers Pira added to this by suggesting one area of future growth could be through greater collaboration between traditional rivals from the plastics and paper industries: “Biodegradable plastics have been around for quite a long time, but they haven’t found that many applications. There is, however, a growing concern about the amount of waste created by the food service sector. Moving forward, one area of innovation could be through greater collaboration between the paper and plastics industry to tackle such challenges. While the two industries may still see themselves as competitors there are several scenarios where the two materials work well in tandem, particularly with biodegradable plastics as an alternative to traditional PE linings for food contact materials.”

Michael Tobin of W Hinderer Gmbh concluded the discussion by suggesting that the industry could target demand for more sustainable packaging by making better use of biodegradable coatings “Whilst PE coatings are recoverable during recycling, there is some level of concern from consumers that these products are being directed to landfill. There is I think a huge opportunity for the industry to start investigating how the use of biodegradable coatings alongside PE could help to meet consumer demand.”