The analysts said this prediced growth in the food and non-food sectors combined will primarily be driven by continued expansion in the stand-up pouch sector and gains for flat pouches in certain markets. Pouches will continue to expand their presence over many other types of packaging based on particular qualities, including aesthetic appeal, reclosable components, portability, light weight and reduced material use, claims the group. Stand-up pouch demand in particular is expected to increase almost ten per cent annually through 2012, according to the researchers. Green factors As environmental impact and raw material costs are increasingly becoming a major concern for food and beverage manufacturers, Freedonia predicts that the pouch growth will be fueled by the advantages pouch manufacturing equipment can offer in terms of reduced processing and shipping costs. "Improvements in pouch manufacturing technology, such as machinery with increased line speeds, will continue to lower production costs, thereby making pouches more competitive with other forms of packaging like cartons and cans," said the US-based group. The group forecasts that flat pouch advances will also be supported by a rapidly expanding market for small tube-shaped pouches with single-portion packages of products such as drink mixes, candy and sweeteners. "Stick pouches offer product differentiation and are increasingly used to refresh mature product lines," claim the researchers. Demographic changes Another recent report from the Freedonia group forecasts that the increasing popularity of convenience and prepared foods will play a large part in the growth of converted flexible food packing. Demographic changes such as greater numbers of single-person households and older consumers will support the demand for more convenient prepared foods and single-serving portions, sometimes in multi-packs. They said that this will increase material consumption as smaller portions tend to use more packaging relative to their size. Convenience-orientated or processed foods also often use more costly, higher barrier packaging materials for extended shelf life, claim the analysts.