Reflecting changing consumer demands for food with extended shelf life, a recent study by the Business Communications Company reveals that the food preservation industry in the US is set to top $250 billion (€222bn) by 2008.
Currently the main driving force for growth in the $500 billion worldwide food industry is the scope and range of food preservation and shelf life extension technology.
In the US alone there are more than 17,000 food and beverage manufacturing/processing facilities and their sales totalled $265.5 billion in 2002. The US market leads the way in the development of shelf life and preservation technologies, but the growth has been mirrored by the European market in recent years, which continues to innovate and is rapidly catching up with meeting similar demands in the US market.
According to the report, the main concern for manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic is the preservation and shelf life longevity of their products so as to impede spoilage, and ensure that the freshest, safest, most nutrient filled and healthiest products are readily available to consumers. As markets change to reflect consumer preferences and concerns, a thorough understanding of the significance of this industry becomes vital to its financial success.
The BCC report, Food Preservation and Shelf-Life Extension: Techniques, Trends and Opportunities, indicates that the US market for food preservation and shelf life extenders is estimated at $197 billion in 2003, a full 74 per cent of the food processing industry there.
As such, the need for food preservation in the US - whether through preservatives, packaging, encapsulation, irradiation or any of the older more traditional techniques - has experienced explosive growth over the past decade and is poised to increase by 5.5 per cent on average annually through 2008.
With the advent of new technologies, methods and techniques - to ensure that food is kept in good condition and remains cost effective - the survey indicates that the opportunities for impacting this dynamic and innovative market are increasing. This is reflected by the estimate that the share of the US food preservation market in the global market will increase to more than 40 per cent by 2008.
While chemically synthetic preservatives are suspect, 'natural' chemical preservatives are growing in both stature and respect, the report also reveals.
In 2003, the chemical preservation industry was led by the sorbates, with annual sales of $162 million, or approximately 53 per cent of all sales of chemical and natural preservatives. Consumption of sorbates also dominated, with a value of $143 million, or approximately 58 per cent of the total consumed preservatives.
The total sales for preservatives in 2003 was estimated at $306.3 million, with a 2.2 per cent AAGR, while total production was estimated at $330 million, with a modest 2.1 per cent AAGR until 2008.
Ninety-eight percent of all foods are packaged in one way or another, and this segment of the preservation and shelf life extension industry remains the strongest and most innovative. In the US the top 20 manufacturers combined to gross more than the next 80 manufacturers and more than the next 101-500 manufacturers in total sales. As more variety and technologically advanced packaging begins to come into prominence, the dependence on synthetic preservatives will decrease. This is in keeping with consumer concern that chemicals are directly linked to diseases.
Solid growth in the $110 billion US food packaging industry is seen in plastics, which will have a 5 per cent AAGR over the next five years. This includes MAP, hard plastics, polymer films and other forms of plastic wrap. Metal packaging such as foils, however, are seeing a growth spurt. Although they represent only about 3.6 per cent of the total units, or $17.9 billion, a 6.6 per cent AAGR for the next five years is projected, the survey reveals.
The overall market for controlled-release technology continues to be fixated mostly towards the pharmaceutical end of the spectrum, but food uses are making modest gains nonetheless, with a 4 per cent AAGR projected for the next five years.
The encapsulated ingredients industry for food on the whole represented about $4.5 billion, or 33 per cent of the total $13.6 billion market for controlled-release technology. The use of encapsulated ingredients in baked goods represents 30 per cent of the total, but confections, with its modest $675 million market value, is seeing a rapid rise, with an approximate 4.6 per cent AAGR possible in the years leading up to 2008.