BOPA film is used primarily for the packaging of fresh and processed meat products like bacon because of its superior oxygen barrier properties and its puncture resistance.
But in recent years demand has grown thanks to the emergence of retortable pouches that are appearing on shelves as an alternative to jars and cans for packing foods like curry sauces. BOPA film is used in the laminate of this new packaging format to add extra confidence in the barrier properties.
As demand for retortable pouches has grown in Western markets, and more especially in Asia, so has demand for BOPA film. In a new report on the global BOPA film market, PCI Films Consulting estimates that demand for the films has grown at an average rate of 8 per cent a year since 2004.
This growth has gone a long way to solving an acute over-supply problem that emerged five years ago when a lot of new entrants hit the market. PCI’s managing director Simon King told FoodProductionDaily.com that state incentives led as many as ten new Chinese producers enter the market between 2004 and 2006.
As suppliers in North America also expanded their capacity, an excess supply situation emerged intensifying competition and leading world production utilization rates to fall by 20 per cent. The end result was that some capacity was left idle and some lines were re-engineered to produce other films or run at lower speeds. Some producers even left the industry altogether.
However, according to PCI, this over-capacity situation has been turned on its head so that further capacity must now be introduced.
PCI said the situation is being addressed by some players but there is a need for more investment. With what the industry has already been installed and currently has on order, PCI said it is likely to struggle to meet future needs after 2012.
BOPA currently accounts for about 3 per cent of the world oriented film market and the food industry is the biggest customer by a quite some margin. Although BOPA is on an upward growth path, it is likely to remain a niche product because its properties limit potential applications. Limitations cited by BOPA include cost, relatively poor gloss and transparency, and difficulties in converting the films.