Experience report: maconda attends the German Packaging Institute (DVI)

maconda news April 2016

maconda is dedicated to staying up to date with technological developments. Our consultants’ in-depth knowledge about the core industries we serve is extremely important to us. This also includes the complex and dynamic packaging industry. Recently, maconda again participated in training – this time at the renowned German Packaging Institute (DVI). Based on these insights, we would like to inform you about current developments in the market for flexible packaging concerning 2016 and the years to come.

We can discern three main trends that are currently strong drivers of the market for flexible packaging and will remain so in the medium-term: (1) reducing wall thickness to optimise costs, (2) developing high-performance films with specific properties and (3) active and intelligent packaging (smart packaging).

Trend 1: Reducing the thickness of packaging walls

Flexible packaging requires markedly less material and energy, making it much cheaper to produce than rigid packaging. Flexible packaging solutions also slash the cost of storage and transport. The manufacturing industry is demanding increasingly thinner packaging solutions to optimise cost structures and also reduce the amount of waste. This trend will continue for the next years. Stand-up pouches are the trailblazers of this development and enjoy rising popularity with consumers and growing use by brand manufacturers. They combine the desired criteria of variability, safety and a low price point with the ability to stand on their own on shelves. These features will drive the popularity of stand-up pouches in the years to come and propel the growth of the entire market for flexible packaging. Flexible packaging will also continue to wrestle market shares from rigid packaging in other fields.

Trend 2: High-performance packaging films with specific properties

Individual and composite packaging materials used in multilayer laminates need to meet highest standards to make thinner walls and increasing sophistication in potential packaging shapes possible. The food segment is one of the main areas where films are used as primary packaging, and multi-layer laminates with reduced air-permeability properties are becoming more important in this segment. They keep food fresh for longer and increase its shelf life (in some cases significantly), while also preventing flavour loss. The combination of various layers lets packaging be ideally tailored to the needs of the packaged products. Film manufacturers are already capable of creating multi-layer laminates from several layers that meet diverse requirements regarding puncture-resistance, oxygen transmission rate or shrinkage properties. The lasting success of flexible packaging as a replacement for glass and metal packaging is a result of its drastically improved barrier properties, especially that of transparent plastic films. The development of more and more sophisticated barrier materials for packaging will be the driving force in the future that leads to the creation of value-enhancing flexible packaging solutions.

Trend 3: Smart packaging

Currently there are a number of active and intelligent packaging solutions whose properties far exceed the simple protection of products, especially in the food segment but also for pharmaceuticals. Active packaging can either release certain substances into the packaged food or absorb undesirable gases and neutralise them. Special absorbers help reduce oxygen and thus keep perishable food or beverages fresh for longer. Intelligent packaging can change colour to display the status of the product (for instance time-temperature indicators or freshness labels). Printed electronics can employ light or acoustic signals to communicate with users, for example via chips, LEDs or miniature speakers built into collapsible boxes for pharmaceutical products. They can remind patients to take their medicine, increasing user convenience and sales at the same time. RFID chips store data such as production site or date, making it easy to seamlessly trace where products come from. We expect further growth in this market segment as a result of sinking costs, especially for intelligent packaging solutions.