Economic and demographic trends are key determinants of packaging market growth within any particular country. As an economy and real personal disposable incomes grow, then so too does consumer demand for packaged products.

In its new report, The Future of Rigid Plastic Packaging to 2022, Smithers Pira’s critical analysis of the key drivers shaping this segment show that the global rigid plastic packaging consumption is projected at 52.9 million tonnes in 2017 and is forecast to grow during 2017–2022 at an annual rate of 3.7% to 63.4 million tonnes.  Meanwhile materials used to produce rigid plastic packaging are valued at $166.3 billion in 2017 and are forecast to grow during 2017–2022 at an annual rate of 4.2% to $204.5 billion.

‘Rigid plastic packaging demand is likely to be negatively influenced over the forecast period by an expectation of relatively low growth in the global economy. The faster growing emerging and developing economies are expected to grow rigid plastic packaging demand at the highest rates, as opposed to the slower-growing and more mature advanced economies’ says David Platt, author of the report.

‘The cost and availability of polymer materials is having a major impact on the profitability of rigid plastic packaging processors. Polymer prices have been highly volatile and there have been major swings in material availability since 2015; rigid plastic packaging processors’ margins have been squeezed by both powerful polymer suppliers and buyers. Demographic trends are another key determinant of packaging demand.’

Rigid plastic packaging market growth has also benefitted from the substitution of traditional packaging formats such as metal cans and glass jars for rigid plastic packs. Furthermore, the development and commercialisation of the ‘plastic can’ promises to be the first truly transformational innovation in the canned food preservation industry’s nearly 200-year history. Rigid plastic packaging is, however, under a growing threat from flexible plastic pack formats such as stand-up pouches. 

Flexible packaging uses fewer resources and less energy than other forms of packaging; it provides significant reductions in packaging costs, materials use and transport costs, as well as certain performance advantages over rigid packaging. Sustainable packaging is another key trend with implications for the rigid plastic packaging industry. Brand owners and retailers are responding to consumers’ demand for more sustainable packaging in order to reduce the environmental impact of packaging in several ways. These include package lightweighting by reducing material usage without impairing pack performance, using recycled plastics and adoption of bioplastic packaging. A growing volume of food waste and food safety issues have become very important issues for regulatory authorities in both the US and Europe.

Rigid plastic packaging demand as a whole will also gain from the growing popularity of single-serve packaging and from further replacement of traditional packaging materials such as paperboard, metal and glass containers. Rigid plastic packaging will, however, face growing competition from flexible plastic packaging, and in particular flexible stand-up pouch packaging, in various food and beverage applications over the forecast period. Cost and performance advantages will allow those products increasingly to supplant rigid packaging in various applications. Flexible stand-up pouches will gain added impetus as brand owners continue to focus on lighter-weight packaging and reducing the carbon footprint of their packaging.

The Future of Rigid Plastic to 2022 is based on an in-depth combination of primary and secondary data gathered during Smithers Pira’s extensive research programme for the global packaging industry. Primary data was compiled from interviews conducted with industry experts in each key region and country. Secondary sources included data on production and consumption of various packaging suppliers, cross verified with production data and trends in key end-use markets, and statistics from various government and industry association websites.