Plastics analyst with Applied Market Information (AMI), Carole Kluth, told FoodProductionDaily.com that a wider take up of bioplastics is being hindered by performance and supply issues, with a reversal of this trend in the coming year unlikely in such a volatile trading environment.
She said that environmental concerns of packaging suppliers, in the current economic slump, will be played out in terms of innovations that enable lightweighting and mono material packaging rather than an increase in the use of renewable materials.
In terms of the closures segment, Kluth predicts that cost cutting measures will also influence developments, and she expects beverage manufacturers to shift from two piece polypropylene (PP) lids to one piece high density polyethylene (HDPE) closures in the months ahead.
She said that while food packaging is a sector that looks set to ride out the credit squeeze there will be companies that do not manage input costs efficiently or build up significant debts to make them ripe for acquisition next year.
“In terms of mergers and acquisitions, the first two quarters of 2009 will be quiet, but opportunities to drive consolidation in the plastics packaging market should arise thereafter as banks’ lending confidence increases,” continued Kluth.
She said that the closures of RPC and Huhtamaki rigid plastic production sites in 2008 indicate the pressures facing the sector in general.
RPC announced this month that is to shut its Mozzate-based rigid packaging factory in Northern Italy by June 2009. The company said it has also initiated a discussion with workforce representatives at Halfweg and Ravenstein in the Netherlands, and Aš in the Czech Republic of possible closures.
In September, Huhtamaki revealed that it might sell its hard plastics operations and focus instead on its paper-based packaging segment, which it claimed offered more robust volumes.
“Rigid plastic consumer goods operations, for the most part, do not meet our criteria for financial performance and its profitability has been below Huhtamaki average,” said the company.
A spokesperson for the packaging manufacturer said that factors such as overcapacity in the sector as well as rising input costs were making its position in the rigid plastics segment almost untenable.