The latest Euromonitor statistics show that Western Europe ranks ahead of the US and second to Asia-Pacific in terms of unit sales of packaging cartons, according to latest research, with food dominating the sector.
The Western European market for folding cartons exhibited annual growth rates around 2 per cent between 1998 and 2003, measured in actual packs sold. Of this total, market analyst Euromonitor's research showed that packaged food took the lion's share of sales, slightly ahead of tobacco.
Six markets overwhelmingly dominate sales of cartons in Europe. Germany taking the lion's share of folding carton sales, with almost 16 billion sold in 2003.
Due to increasing competition from other packaging materials, manufacturers of folding cartons in Germany have put much effort into new developments in the field of production processes, speed, flexibility, lamination and printing. Bakery products, confectionery and frozen food are key end-use applications for folding cartons in Germany.
Frozen food is expected to grow more strongly than the other categories due to the increasing demand for ready prepared meals and folding cartons will continue to be used as the primary or sole packaging format. While consumers value folding cartons for their environmental friendliness as well as their protection attributes, manufacturers add low material costs and excellent printing techniques for good advertising as major advantages over alternative packaging materials.
The UK is the second largest market for folding cartons in Western Europe, with British consumers purchasing around 12.7 billion products packaged in folding cartons in 2003. Developments in folding cartons were related to growth in established product areas where folding cartons are typical pack types, rather than new areas.
Chocolate confectionery received a lot of innovation, moving from standard box shapes for brands such as Cadbury Milk Tray, and also benefiting from the leveraging of countline brands into bite-size boxed chocolates, with the launch products such as Celebrations and Cadbury's Miniature Heroes.
Other brands such as Terry's All Gold Imagine, packaged in a handbag-shaped folding carton aimed at women, is another example of innovative use of cartons to build brand image and capitalise on the trend for indulgence.
However, growing maturity in this category is expected to herald a slowdown in growth of folding cartons for boxed chocolate assortments in the forecast period. It is predicted that in the medium-long term, the UK will see stronger growth in premium chocolates, as cash-strapped consumers buy these as substitutes for more expensive non-perishable gift items.
This will have a negative impact on cheaper boxed chocolate assortments.
In actual unit terms, Euromonitor forecasts that packaged food will add the most growth to folding carton usage across Western Europe, accounting for 67 per cent of total new cartons sold in 2007. Packaged bakery products will be the key contributor in unit terms, with biscuits and breakfasts cereals driving growth.
Euromonitor expects that frozen and chilled food will continue to post solid gains in usage of folding cartons, as trends towards convenient prepared food continues to bolster demand for ready meals and prepared meat and fish.
Confectionery will also exhibit upward movements in usage of folding carton as packaging design in products such as gum and chocolate confectionery favour cartons in an effort to make products stand out on the shelf. Premium products aimed at the adult market are also expected to make a resurgence.
Ultimately, says Euromonitor, shelf appeal is the key. This means that some degree of premiumisation will continue to characterise the carton industry.
Euromonitor International has more than 30 years experience of publishing market research reports, business reference books and online information systems.