Smithers' latest long-term forecast analyzes four key trends that indicate how the packaging industry will evolve.
According to Smithers research in "The Future of Packaging: Long-Term Strategic Forecasts to 2028," the global packaging market will grow by nearly 3% annually between 2018 and 2028, reaching more than $1.2 trillion. The global packaging market grew by 6.8%, with most of the growth from 2013 to 2018 coming from less developed markets, as more consumers moved to urban areas and subsequently adopted a more westernized lifestyle. This has driven the development of packaging, and the e-commerce industry has accelerated this demand globally.
Numerous drivers are having a significant impact on the global packaging industry.
4 key trends will emerge over the next decade:
01 The impact of economic and population growth on innovative packaging:
The global economy is expected to continue to expand broadly over the next decade, driven by growth in emerging consumer markets. The fallout from Brexit and the escalation of the tariff war between the U.S. and China could cause short-term disruptions. Overall, however, incomes are expected to rise, increasing consumer spending on packaged goods.
The global population will increase, especially in key emerging markets such as China and India, and urbanization rates will continue to grow. This translates into increased consumer income on consumer goods, exposure to modern retail channels, and a growing middle class craving access to global brands and shopping habits.
Rising life expectancy will lead to an aging population - especially in major developed markets such as Japan - which will increase demand for healthcare and pharmaceutical products. Easy-to-open solutions and packaging tailored to the needs of older adults fuel demand for packaged goods in small portions, as well as more convenience, such as innovations in resealable or microwaveable packaging.
02 Packaging Sustainability and Environmentally Friendly Packaging Materials:
Concerns about the environmental impact of products are an established phenomenon, but since 2017 there has been a renewed interest in sustainability, with a particular focus on packaging. This is reflected in central government and municipal regulations, consumer attitudes and brand owner values conveyed through packaging.
The EU is leading in this area by promoting circular economy principles. There is a particular focus on plastic waste, and as high-volume, single-use items, plastic packaging has come under special scrutiny. Numerous strategies are advancing to address the problem, including alternative materials for packaging, investing in the development of bio-based plastics, designing packaging to make it easier to recycle, and improving recycling and disposal mechanisms for plastic waste.
As sustainability has become a major driver for consumers, brands are increasingly keen on packaging materials and designs that clearly demonstrate their commitment to the environment.
With up to 40% of the food produced globally not eaten - reducing food waste is another key goal for policymakers. This is an area where modern packaging technology can make a big difference. For example, high-barrier bags and retort jars, which add extra shelf life to foods, are especially beneficial in less developed markets that lack refrigerated retail infrastructure. Much R&D is working on improving packaging barrier technologies, including the integration of nanoengineered materials.
Minimizing food loss also supports the wider use of smart packaging to reduce waste in distribution chains and give consumers and retailers peace of mind about the safety of packaged food.
03 Consumption trend - online shopping and e-commerce logistics packaging:
Driven by the popularity of the Internet and smartphones, the global online retail market continues to grow rapidly. Consumers are increasingly buying more items online. This will continue to increase through 2028, and demand for packaging solutions, especially corrugated cardboard, that can safely transport goods through more complex distribution channels will increase.
More and more people are consuming food, beverages, medicines and other products on the go. The flexible packaging industry is one of the main beneficiaries of the increasing demand for convenient and portable packaging solutions.
With the shift to single life, more consumers — especially younger groups — tend to buy groceries more frequently and in smaller quantities. This drives growth in convenience store retailing and drives demand for more convenient, smaller-sized formats.
Growing consumer interest in their own health issues leading to healthier lifestyles, such as demand for healthy food and beverages, as well as over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements, is also driving the demand for packaging.
04 The main brand trend - intelligence and digitalization:
Many brands in the FMCG industry are increasingly internationalized as companies seek new high-growth areas and markets. By 2028, this process will be accelerated by an increasingly westernized lifestyle in major growth economies.
The globalization of e-commerce and international trade has also spurred demand for packaging accessories such as RFID tags and smart labels by brand owners to prevent counterfeit goods and better monitor their distribution.
Industry consolidation of M&A activity in terminals such as food, beverages, and cosmetics is also expected to continue. As more and more brands are controlled by one owner, their packaging strategies are likely to come together.
In the 21st century, less brand loyalty among consumers will have an impact on custom or versioned packaging and packaging solutions. Digital (inkjet and toner) printing provides the key means to achieve this. A higher-throughput press dedicated to packaging substrates is now installed for the first time. This is further in line with the desire for integrated marketing, where the packaging provides a way to link to social media.