Flexible packaging is experiencing notable growth in all market segments. Totaling approximately $31 billion in annual sales in 2017, the major flexible packaging markets include retail and institutional food and non-food (medical and pharmaceutical), industrial materials, shrink and stretch films, retail shopping bags, consumer storage bags and wraps, and trash bags. That was the message delivered by Alison Keane, CEO of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA; Annapolis, MD) at its annual meeting last month in Phoenix, AZ.
Flexible packaging represents approximately 19% of the $167 billion U.S. packaging industry, and is the second largest packaging segment behind corrugated paper and just ahead of bottles and miscellaneous rigid plastic packaging. Flexible packaging’s solid long-term strength, coupled with its use in replacing other packaging formats, resulted in the growth of flexible from 17% in 2000 to the current level of 19% in 2017.
In spite of a wave of consolidation in the industry—FPA has gone from 668 member companies to 411 because of mergers and acquisitions—sales are up as companies are “making more with less,” Keane reported. “Twenty years ago, we saw big companies buying small and mid-sized firms, but in 2017 we saw the big guys buying the big guys. The top 10 converters today account for 54% of the market.”
Growth rates are “steady” and revenues are above the GDP benchmark and continue to rise. However, materials represent 53% of the cost-to-manufacture.
FPA has published a report that focuses on industry that adds value to flexible materials, usually by performing multiple processes such as printing, laminating, coating, extrusion and bag/pouch manufacturing. This segment of the industry is valued at approximately $24.1 billion for 2017, and does not include retail shopping bags, consumer storage bags, or trash bags, Keane noted.
The full report can be obtained from the FPA at the group’s website.