Paper packaging has been around for very long time. From simple brown bag and cardboard box cartons to much sophisticated waterproof paperboard boxes for Chinese takeaway, paper packaging has come a long away. As eco friendly packaging has started gaining momentum, paper has come back in limelight due to its bio degradability. However that is not the only factor driving the increase in consumption of paper based packaging. Social changes and technical advancements are equally playing their role in determining the direction of the paper packaging industry. Let’s take a look at some of the key trends emerging in paperboard industry.
- Social changes in developing countries. Most of the educated population in developing countries is moving onto more qualified jobs leading to higher disposable incomes. They are replacing the traditional meals with more modern processed, frozen and packaged foods. As these economies continue to grow, this changed trend in eating habits will continue to grow. There is a trend to move from unpackaged goods to industrially packaged goods. Both of these will lead to increase in consumption of paperboard packaging material. The migration of rural population to urban areas continues to rise. With this the migrant’s consumption patterns also change to consume more packaged and processed food and industrialized goods. Overall, the social changes are leading to higher consumption of packaged goods in both the developing and developed countries. Paperboard being at fore front of retail packaging will continue to see rise in demand across the sectors.
- Food delivery on rise. Recent trends show that millennial generation prefers to order take-away instead of going out to dine, to avoid the hassle involved with going out (traffic, parking etc). A study showed that more than 30% of Americans order food deliveries twice a week. With new third party delivery options, even the dine-in restaurants have started providing home delivery options. Because of this the food packaging sales will increase in general. Another interesting factor that has come to forefront due to myriad options for food delivery is the packaging style. Instead of simple boxes, the ‘healthy fast food’ providers, the ‘gourmet food home delivery’ providers amongst others are using customized packaging in forms of tray style packaging with built in partitions for various side dishes for the convenience of the user. It is this customized packaging that will see the maximum rise in sales.
- Balance sustainability and productivity. In mature markets, the paperboard manufacturers and are struggling to extract every penny of productivity from their equipment. The improvements in process which they implement extract marginal gains at best. They are now investing in next generation machine that reduce waste and decrease change over times and consume less energy. These not only provide higher productivity, but also reduce the consumption of raw material and have reduced environmental impact as well. To meet the new tighter environmental regulations and changed consumer preference for environmental friendly packaging, the manufacturers are designing machines that use up to 30% less material to produce the packaging material of same strength. There is change from finding balance between the sustainability and productivity, to getting the synergies between the two. Less consumption of material and more effective use of material increase the dollar productivity for the manufacturer and are also more environmentally friendly. This synergy will redefine the way packaging industry works and does business.
- Recycled Vs Virgin paper issue. There is a growing concern about disposal of the packaging after its use, especially in the food industry. There is talk of packaging material that has similar life cycle of that of the product it packs and then it degrades or decomposes. However, the issue of contamination of food product with packing remains in such cases. The package must preserve the health of the consumer at every stage. Self decomposing packaging solutions are not yet suitable to meet this requirement. Using recycled paper comes with own challenges. It has host of inks, glues, chemicals and other ingredients which cannot be ascertained unless confirmed by the original manufacturer of original paper product. In such scenario, one can never be sure about the contamination that recycled paper will add to the product. This means that with increasing consumption, the use of virgin paper in packaging will rise in comparison to recycled paper. The researched are working on barrier coating that will prevent moisture and odour from transferring and preserve freshness and aroma of the food. The new nano-materials, antimicrobial barrier coatings will see the limelight in packaging.
- Smaller, more practical packaging. As the social structure of the society is changing, the consumption patterns are also changing. Families are getting smaller and smaller. The nuclear families have become the norm. There are now a significant number of households with just one member. Moreover, people are getting more health conscious. They are conscious of the serving sizes and portions that they are consuming. The remaining food is resealed, needing a re-sealable packaging for larger portions. Consumption on the go is also on the rise. (Prime example being coffee and other beverages). This means that portion sizes not only need to be smaller, the packaging needs to be designed to facilitate and simplify eating on the go. Many consumers are willing to pay more for a single serving pack of food. This will give rise to single serving or multi unit packaging (where one unit can be severed from the rest without opening the product). This will lead to interesting controversy. On one side will be the green initiatives promoting less packaging, less waste, less use of material and on the other side the smaller, individual packaging which will require more material and generate more overall waste.
- Premium packaging. As consumer gets more sophisticated, the packaging for premium luxury brands require impeccable details, such as better colour and printing and embossing, better strength and texture of the material itself. These will require high grade of paperboard to be used for packaging. With increased spending capability, craft and gourmet food will have increased share in the market, requiring more premium packaging. There will be shorter runs, speciality coating to give superior impression of the product.
Overall, the Paper packaging industry is set to grow. Be it the environmental concerns or consumption patterns or ease of production, paper is meeting expectation on every front. With the new methods to restrict the transfer of odour and aroma and anti microbial coating, it may well be on its way to replace plastic containers.