Demand for plastic containers in the United States is predicted to rise 4.9% annually to $32.4 billion in 2016, consuming 14.2 billion pounds of resin, according to a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. Growth will be driven by performance advantages over alternative packaging formats, as well as a rebound in the overall economy following the 2007-2009 recession.
Volume gains will trail behind value gains as the average weight per container unit continues to drop due to consumers desiring smaller, single-serving containers in a number of food and beverage markets, and lightweighting of containers to cut back on materials and increase sustainability. Although plastic containers will face increased competition from pouches and other types of flexible packaging, these will often augment rather than replace rigid containers, says the report. The leading resins for plastic containers continues to be PET and high density polyethylene (HDPE), making up for 86% of demand in 2011.
Bottles and jars combined made up 77% of plastic container poundage in 2011, are by far the leader in the pack for plastic containers. Through 2016, plastic bottle and jar demand is expected to grow 2.8% per year to 165 billion units, moderated by the already-dominant position of plastic in many applications, with few new areas existing for large-scale conversions.
Additionally, bottle unit growth in the 2001-2006 period skyrocketed because of sales of bottled water. However, further out we can expect a significant drop in growth for bottled water based on environmental concerns. On the flip-side though, the study predict advances will be aided by healthy prospects for smaller single-serving beverage bottles. Among major bottle and jar markets, the fastest gains are forecasted for pharmaceutical and food applications.
Other areas of growth for containers are tubs, cups and bowls as a result of demand for convenience, portability and portion control which benefits single-serving cup packaging. With that said, the future looks bright certain foods like yogurt, hummus and single-cup coffee which typically come packaged in tubs and cups. Also, with construction on the rebound from low levels since 2011, plastic pails should make a comeback as a demand for paints, adhesives, driveway sealers, and other goods will increase.