Innovation and Technology in Products a Key Factor to Fuel Industry GrowthTuesday, February 20, 2018
As mentioned in my last blog post for ICE USA, steady growth and expansion of the flexible packaging industry is going to rely on three growth factors:
- Innovation and technology in products,
- Growth in new and existing markets, and
- The ability to quickly adapt to changing consumer behavior and preferences.
In this post, we’ll talk more about how innovation and technology in products will drive growth for the converting and flexible packaging industry.
The more converters and flexible packaging companies can deliver emphasis on innovation in packaging to meet new and specialized demand from brands, the faster our industry will grow. From our Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) 2017 State of the Industry Report, as well as Flex Pack Magazine’s 2017 Executive Forecast, we have seen three main drivers for innovation in the flexible packaging market: cost, compliance/sustainability, and performance.
The benefits of flexible packaging have created opportunities for growth with brands. These companies are always looking to reduce cost and speed up production to meet consumer trends and demands, as well as internal profitability goals.
High performance packaging options, lighter gauge materials, and more environmentally friendly packaging products are some of the requests coming from brands. But there is always pressure to deliver innovation at an economical cost.
Innovations that help to reduce costs can come from many components in the industry – materials, manufacturing processes, ink solvency, etc. On the machinery or manufacturing side, there have been new technologies with lower energy consumption replacing obsolete ones. This potentially helps brands lower energy costs as well as meet compliance or sustainability mandates. We have heard that machinery that consumes less energy is definitely resulting in new orders.
A survey done by the FPA focused on quantifying the impact of switching from non-flexible packaging to flexible packaging for brand owners. We found that brand owners who transitioned to more flexible packaging cited operational benefits and an ability to meet consumer needs as reasons for the shift.
Among those who increased their use of flexible packaging, the reasons they cited most frequently for the shift were reduced production cost (49%) and shipping/transportation efficiencies (45%).
In fact, brand owners who switched to using more flexible packaging in the last five years saw strong business results - 57% were able to lower costs of production and 55% of those who increased their use of flexible packaging reported a sales improvement.
In addition to technological advances in reduced energy consumption, from what we have seen in 2016 and 2017, the industry will continue to convert to more sustainable options, like water-based printing on film and foil to address lower VOC emissions and carbon footprint for production.
Innovations in the converting and packaging production process have also helped with growth. In the article “Executive Forecast of the Flexible Packaging Industry,” Giancarlo Caimmi, Corporate Commercial Director for Nordmeccanica shared that his company presented the industry with a new technology in solventless lamination in cooperation with Dow Chemical.
He said, “Converters using this new technology are now able to convert laminated webs on a slitter in 90 minutes or less. It does not require the use of a mixer, and pouches can be delivered to brand owners in a day or so with significantly faster time-to-market, as well as cost reductions and energy savings.”
New innovations in flexible packaging are being demanded from traditional as well as new markets. The fresh food market, as well as high-end categories such as protein supplements and wine, has increased the need for more sophisticated flexible packages.
For example, according to this article from the Dairy Reporter, the dairy industry is seeing phenomenal worldwide growth, in part fueled by innovations in packaging. New packaging options for today’s high demanded dairy products like yogurt, yogurt drinks, and pre-shredded cheeses are helping more people around the world consume more dairy products.
Sleek, single serve PET bottles have helped people drink more yogurt and probiotic rich yogurt drinks while on-the-go. Squeezable yogurt pouches are not only fun for kids, but easy for adults to throw in a lunch bag or eat without utensils while on the go.
Finally, recloseable pouch containers have boosted the sale of cheese for families with only 1 or 2 people, who worry about spoilage with larger cheese portions, or for those who live in crowded urban centers with limited refrigerator space.
All of these innovations in packaging have allowed brands to infuse new life into existing categories, seeing tremendous growth opportunities.
As members of the flexible packaging and converting industry continue to innovate and bring new technologies and products to market that help brands reduce costs, emphasize sustainability, and improve product performance or extend utility, we will continue to see growth in the next few years.
Post Contributor: Alison Keane, Esq. is the President and CEO of the Flexible Packaging Association. Serving as the voice of the flexible packaging industry since 1950, the Flexible Packaging Association's goals are connecting, advancing and leading the flexible packaging industry.