Business Communications Company's RP-184 Rigid Food Packaging report suggests that PET is the dominant resin at 5.8 billion pounds and its use is rising faster than the total market, at an AAGR of 6.4 per cent.
HDPE, polystyrene and polypropylene come next, with the latter rising at an AAGR of 7.3 per cent. Polycarbonate, while representing a small piece of the pie, will rise the fastest at an AAGR of 7.4 per cent, reaching 100 million pounds in 2008.
New technologies are an important growth factor especially in the areas of barrier bottles and dual-ovenable packaging. For example, the emergence of several barrier materials for PET containers used in beverages has opened up new possibilities in packaging. Beverages such as fruit juices, dairy products, beer, and even some carbonated soft drinks, rely on enhanced barrier properties now offered on the market.
And within the ovenable packaging sector, GE Advanced Materials has developed Noryl PKN, a resin capable of extreme temperature resistance. This, says the company, makes it ideal for food packaging that goes direct from the deep freeze to the microwave.
GE claims that it developed the resin in response to increased market demand for cost effective yet safe and attractive packaging. The PPO/polystyrene alloy resin offers increased stiffness at higher temperatures compared to polypropylene (PP).
The major plastic rigid food products are bottles, dairy, meat/deli containers, prepared food containers (frozen, microwave and dual-ovenables), foodservice packaging, and a large group of containers mostly made for liquid foods.
Bottles are, by far, the most dominant plastic rigid packaging structure, most of which are based on PET, followed by the wide array of mostly blow moulded containers for liquid foods, led by PET and HDPE. Thermoformed structures mainly made from polystyrene and polypropylene are another very important aspect of the market.
Aluminium soft drink cans are still formidable competitors to plastic bottles, while paperboard food containers still retain their more modest position against plastic containers. Glass bottles and containers have clearly been the "loser".
The trend towards smaller/portable beverage containers and prepared foods is inexorable, which is the main driver for increased use of plastics in rigid food packaging. New technologies are also an important factor in the growth of the industry, especially in the areas of barrier bottles and dual-ovenable packaging, both of which place more demands on plastics.
In addition to resin producers, this business encompasses plastic moulders such as injection and blow moulders along with thermoformers, all of whom convert resins into food packaging structures.
Plastic rigid food packaging containers consist of a wide array of structures such as bottles, trays, tubs, jars, cans, etc, which are fairly easily identified. Other types of containers cover a wide spectrum of structures including containers for refrigerated, frozen and room temperature foods in a variety of shapes and thicknesses.
Examples include clamshells, along with microwavable and dual-ovenable packages. Many of these packages are made from polymer foams as well as solid plastics, which can be injection moulded, blow moulded or thermoformed. There is also a foodservice element in the plastic rigid food packaging market that includes bowls, cups, lids/closures/caps.