Safer, smarter, simpler: the future of packaging

By Chris Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Packaging, Packaging material, Polyethylene terephthalate

Food packaging will in the future have to offer more protection,
greater flexibility and be simpler to produce, according to trends
identified by Oman-based packaging group Octal.

"Some packaging design features come and go, but these three trends will have a lasting impact,"​ claimed Octal chief operating officer Joe Barenberg, speaking in Dusseldorf, Germany, ahead of the Interpack show which opens today. "These are fundamental, long-term trends,"​ he added. According to Barenberg, the trend towards packaging that offers greater protection for the contents at the same time as providing greater product visibility is already well established. "Consumers increasingly expect to see the product that they are buying before they pay. If customers cannot see the product for themselves, there is a constant temptation to open the package in-store,"​ said Barenberg. "In the worst case, even if the contents are acceptable, the consumer may discard the opened pack and select a pristine one to buy, which creates waste, clutters the shelf and reduces the quality of the consumer experience." ​ The second trend is related in many ways to the first, according to Octal. While consumers want to see the product they are buying, "brand managers and store planners want products that are capable of effective display in a variety of ways - whether on hooks, shelf stacked, multi-packed or in trays- to maximise in-store impact and simplify display refreshment",​ according to Barenberg. "The product itself becomes the centre of the display,"​ he added. The final - and newest - trend identified by the firm is a growing desire on the part of brand owners to simplify the packaging of their products by using one single material. "Chocolate bars used to come wrapped in foil with an outer printed paper sleeve,"​ said Barenberg. "Today, for production speed and efficiency, there is an increased focus on selecting the best single packaging material for the product and developing the ideal packaging solution from that one material."​ The importance of being seen to be green also plays a part in this mindset, Barenberg added. Having a single packaging material "also enables easier recycling as the consumer takes on no burden of material separation",​ he said. Octal, inevitably, believes it can offer brand owners and retailers products that meet all three of these requirements. The company, which only entered the packaging market in 2006, is a manufacturer of APET (amorphous polyethylene terephthalate), and Barenberg claims that this is the ideal packaging material to offer simplicity, security and flexiblity. "APET has already played an important role in helping the packaging industry to meet the needs of producers and retailers to deliver high performance packaging solutions that allow products to be presented attractively,"​ he said. "This has been particularly important for convenience foods that continue on their growth curve in many countries. The inherent barrier properties of APET, which protect the product from mechanical damage and degradation, make it the packaging material of first choice for many convenience foods." ​ As far as product display flexibility is concerned, Barenberg said that APET packaging could be adapted to a range of display requirements, while the product's rigidity for product protection and clarity for display makes APET "an ideal single material for packaging",​ he said. "Together, these three trends provide APET with unique growth potential. As a robust packaging material that delivers product visibility, shape, closure and display flexibility, APET will undoubtedly claim a greater share of the $450bn global packaging market that continues to grow at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent. In the food sector, annual packaging growth is at five per cent and plastic packaging already accounts for 34 per cent of that market segment." ​ Oman-based Octal entered the packaging market with a $300m investment in 20,000 metric tons of APET production capacity. That capacity was boosted by 10,000 tons a year later, and such is the company's confidence in the growth of this sector that it will increase its production capacity even further - by 300,000 metric tons - in June this year, with the completion of a new PET resin and APET sheet complex in Oman. The company will, by that stage, account for 20 per cent of total global APET sheet production, a capacity which Barenberg boasted would provide manufacturers and thermoformers with "an assured supply of a precision manufactured product that can reduce raw material costs and increase packaging productivity".

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