U.S. demand for plastic film to rise 1.8% annually through 2016

January 18, 2013

Demand for plastic film in the U.S. is projected to grow 1.8% annually to 15.9 billion lb in 2016, according to the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

This demand is reflected in the advantages of plastic film versus other packaging materials, along with opportunities in film products such as pouches for drugs and medical products, and in modified atmosphere packaging for food.  Demand will also benefit from film's use in manufacturing, shipping and building construction.

Average film prices saw increases between 2001 and 2011, precipitated by escalating raw material and energy costs; but the report projects price increases will be more moderate going forward due to the availability of lower priced natural gas for feedstocks and energy.

The report states that linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) will remain the leading film, accounting for almost one-half of the total in 2016.  Among the low volume films, degradable plastics will exhibit the fastest growth, followed by cellophane and ethylene vinyl alcohol.

Demand for LLDPE film is forecast to increase 2.1% yearly to 7.5 lb in 2016.  This will result from opportunities in areas such as produce and snack packaging, stretch and shrink wrap and trash bags.

High-density polyethylene film demand is estimated to grow at a below average pace as a result of slow retail bag advances. Polypropylene film demand will expand 2.2% annually to 1.6 billion lb in 2016, driven by produce, grain mill, dairy product and other food packaging applications.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film demand will also increase at a below average rate. While the report says that good opportunities are anticipated for PET film in food packaging applications such as snack foods, confections, and frozen food due to the need for higher barrier properties, but will be offset as remaining applications in photographic film and magnetic tape are lost to digital technologies. 

Polyvinyl chloride film demand will decline, with losses engendered by a slight drop in red meat consumption, consumer health and environmental concerns regarding PVC and plasticizer migration, and competition from polyethylene and polypropylene films.

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