Overall demand remained stable with sales increasing by 0.2 per cent to 212,100 tonnes in the first quarter 2005 compared to 211,500 tonnes during the same period last year, said the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) said. In 2004 sales by the EAFA's members hit a record high for the second year in a row with deliveries reaching 820,350 tonnes, an increase of 1.1 per cent.
The growth figures disguise an even better picture for the industry when the ongoing trend by packagers to down gauge the thickness of the aluminium foil they use is considered. Over the last 30 years thethickness of aluminium foil required for packaging applications has fallen by about 30 per cent, said Guido Winsel, an EAFA spokesperson.
"If we measured the sales of aluminium foil produced by square metres the growth would be enormous," he told FoodProductionDaily.com.
As more packagers require thinner aluminium foil for flexible packaging, producers will benefit from a higher value product. Making thinner aluminium is more expensive as it requires an additionalproduction step in the rolling of the foil. New and different alloys are being used to maintain the strength of the packaging.
For example Capri Sun, the world's biggest selling drink brand in flexible packaging uses aluminium foil for its stand-up pouch. Tray container manufacturers are also requiring lower weights fortheir products.
Winsel believes the better quality of aluminium foil being produced within the EU is behind the increase in exports. The increased exports occurred despite the strong euro making the foil moreexpensive for buyers, he noted. He expects the growth in sales to continue throughout this year but not at the same level.
About 75 per cent of aluminium foil is used in packaging. Aluminium foil is also used for vehicle components, heat exchange equipment and insulation material.
"The number of new products that feature innovative uses of aluminium foil-based packaging indicates a healthy future for the material," the EAFA said in a statement.
The organisation has 120 members and represents the major rollers, converters, household foil rewinders and container manufacturers in the original 15 members of the EU, along with Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey.