The development of the global market for plastic film has been influenced by factors and trends ranging from socio-economic, demographic and lifestyle changes to the development of new materials, innovations in existing materials and emerging trends within end-use segments.
The Future of Global Plastic Films provides market sizes and forecasts broken down by film type, end-use sector and geographic market. Smithers Rapra uses over 80 years of experience, primary research and extensive tables and figures to give a comprehensive overview of the plastic film industry worldwide.
Plastic films used in food packaging plays a key role in the growth, making products more convenient to consume and increasing their appeal to consumers. An increase in time constraints on consumers equals an increase in demand in flow-wraps, flexible pouches, multipacks, compartmental packaging and microwavable meals. This has been contributing to the development of the market for plastic films in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. The faster growing populations of Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and South America are generating additional demand for packaged products.
Plastic film packaging is seeing additional benefits from the growing market share of the large retail chains in emerging regions. This has led to an expanded market for packaged food with a focus on cost reduction and shelf life extension.
Sustainability and lightweighting are making a major impact on the global market for plastic films. During the past decade there has been a surge in the growth of sustainable packaging, driven by several factors, including increased awareness of environmental hazards related to the disposal and recycling of plastic packaging wastes and government initiatives around the world to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. In response, packagers are reducing weight and using materials that are biodegradable or derived from sustainable sources. Instead of reducing the overall size of the package, many companies are reducing the thickness of plastic film used. The impact of lighter materials on manufacturing costs, shipping costs and materials savings can be substantial.
According to Smithers Rapra, biodegradable films have the highest forecast growth rate of 8%, starting from a low base, while PVC film is forecast to show no volume growth due to the growing pressure from competing films. Polyethylene (PE) is the most widely used substrate for plastic film, with annual sales of around 41.8 million tonnes. PE film has been replacing other flexible packaging materials due to its moisture barrier, deep freeze resistance and sealing properties. In terms of global market share, polyethylene film is followed by polypropylene film (PP).
Flexible packaging accounts for 85% of PP film consumption. It is used in a wide range of packaging products, including frozen food, tea and coffee, baked goods, confectionery, dried food, savoury snacks and tobacco. The third largest segment is biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BOPET) film. It is known for high tensile strength and dimensional stability, ideal for many industrial applications.
By geography, Asia was the largest regional market with 39% of global market volume, followed by North America and Western Europe. China was the largest national market for plastic films, with a volume share of 23% in 2012. Growth of global plastic film consumption started to slow down with the onset of the global recession in late 2008 and demand slowed further in 2009. In volume terms, global sales of plastic films were flat in 2009 at 47.2 million; global demand for plastic films avoided decline due to the growing regions of Asia and Eastern Europe. It resumed an upward growth trend in 2010 and has continued to expand in 2011 and 2013. Asia and South & Central America are forecast to be the fastest-growing market films, with an average annual growth rate of 4.4% for the period 2013–18.
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