Global demand for fibre-based packaging continues to grow

Eva Middendorf, 31 January 2023

According to a new study by Smithers, global demand for fibre-based packaging will increase to $503.4 billion by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4%. The total weight of fibre-based packaging will increase from 264.4 million tonnes in 2022 to 316.3 million tonnes, at a CAGR of 3.7%.

The sustainability agenda means corrugated, folding cartons, moulded pulp, flexible papers and speciality papers are all attracting new interest from packaging buyers. With a combined value of $425.4 billion in 2022, all of these products have their place in the global market, but the need to implement more sustainable packaging strategies is driving innovation and opening up new, higher value applications.

Retailers and large FMCG companies are committed to making their packaging portfolios more sustainable. Fibre-based packaging materials such as paper and board are readily seen as recyclable by consumers, making them an increasingly popular option. This profound trend is supported by official commitments to phase out single-use plastic, with more and more countries adopting legislation passed in the EU, France and California.

Smithers explores the current state of the art in fibre-based packaging design, including profiles of the latest carton formats being developed to replace single-use polymer packaging for food, personal care products and beverages.

In the food industry, there is a need to develop high-performance barrier coatings that protect fibre materials from fats, oils and water, while also protecting perishable goods. This has led many paper converters to launch new special barrier paper grades for pouch packaging and food applications. In segments such as fresh produce and confectionery, these papers are already gaining ground; with further improvements in coating performance, greater diversification will occur.

To-go packaging made from fibre-based packaging materials

  • In the beverage industry, beverage carton manufacturers are experimenting with measures such as removing aluminium barrier layers, and well-known brands such as Absolut, Carlsberg and Unilever (Lenor) have tested fibre-based bottles. Both approaches still rely on polymer-based barrier layers, and the focus is on designing them in such a way that they can be easily removed in existing material cycles without damaging the recovered fibres.-.

  • For personal care products, there is a parallel trend to develop fibre-based packaging materials that can mimic the premium look and feel of existing polymer formats.

  • Fibre-based alternatives are also increasingly being used in industrial and transport packaging, particularly for protective packaging and filling materials in the e-commerce business.

While innovations will lead to increasing growth in all types of fibre packaging over the next five years, moulded pulp/fibre packaging is predicted to be one of the strongest growth trends. To meet the demand for a more sustainable alternative to thermoformed plastics, several production lines are currently being expanded, using new coatings and faster production technology.

Source: Neue Verpackung