The cost of plastics, aluminium, paper and liquids materials used in flexible packaging reached new, record levels in the first quarter of 2022, maintaining the strong upward surge in prices seen throughout 2021, according to Flexible Packaging Europe (FPE). Continued pressure from soaring energy costs, as well as other external factors, means the dramatic increases seen in the last half of 2021 have now been exceeded.
In particular the cost of 20micron BOPP film shot up 45 % during January to March 2022 and has now doubled in price since the first quarter of 2021. Thin aluminium converter foil also jumped by 67 % in the same three months and is now 75 % higher than the end of 2020. Elsewhere, 12micron PET added 47 % in the same period to stand 50 % higher than just over a year ago, while 15m micron BOPA film added 33 %, marking a 44 % increase in 15 months.
LDPE and HDPE prices are still well above the price levels seen at the end of 2020, being 75 % and 54 % more. Both are still well above the price levels seen at the end of 2020, being 75 % and 50+ % more. All figures have been complied by Wood Mackenzie and ICIS.
Commenting on the figures, David Buckby, Senior Analyst at Wood Mackenzie said, “Substrate prices across the board continued to rise sharply in Q1, driven primarily, in many cases, by energy surcharges. Limited availability of materials also propped up prices, made worse by ongoing global logistics challenges. The high cost and unpredictability of offshore sourcing means that European producers were generally busy, with some fully booked and not accepting new orders.”
“Lead times for aluminium foil in Q1 were as long as five months compared to two months previously. For paper, they were often two to three months, up from four to six weeks. The extent of price increases from supplier to supplier depended heavily on the scope of previous hikes – timings do vary. Some producers which pushed through substantial energy surcharges and price rises in Q4 pushed for only moderate hikes or even rollovers in Q1,” he added.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine added further uncertainty to an already highly clouded outlook,” Buckby believes.
FPE sees continued strong demand for all flexible materials as growth indices for the markets its members serve all remain positive. However there has been a general slowdown in the pace of growth, which may take some pressure off already stretched supply shortages of raw materials and ancillary products, such as adhesives and inks. Logistics and utilities pricing increases had and will continue to have a large effect on conversion costs to flexibles packaging converters. After a brief pause oil prices are now increasing again, so this may weigh on any respite from continued flexible material price hikes.
Guido Aufdemkamp, FPE’s Executive Director thinks it is difficult to forecast the direction of the market in current circumstances. “Growth in demand in Europe for flexible packaging is almost certain. While the price increases could have an impact on the levels of demand this is unlikely as non-flexible packaging applications are faced with higher absolute increases per pack as more material is used. Add the continuing supply chain disruption and major energy issues to the equation and the outlook is uncertain. The conflict in Ukraine and the economic consequences of it across Europe were not something we could predict or anticipate. However flexible packaging producers have proved resilient in the past, most recently with the pandemic, so we are confident the sector will continue to be able to meet demand for its products.”
ACE, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, is pleased to announce that the recycling rate for beverage cartons in the EU281 rose to 51 % in 2019. This represents a continued year-on-year increase in the EU beverage carton recycling rate.
“We are pleased that the steady annual increase of the recycling rate for beverage cartons in 2019 surpassed 50 %,” said Annick Carpentier, Director General of ACE. “This is proof of our industry’s efforts and enhances the message that beverage cartons are recyclable and are being recycled at scale in Europe.”
Beverage cartons, made largely from renewable materials, contribute positively to a low carbon circular economy. The industry is driving beverage carton recycling across Europe, committed to efforts that support the increase of the recycling rate in all EU Member States. The industry calls on policymakers at the European and national levels to assure that beverage cartons are collected for recycling separately, and to support a collection target to ensure beverage cartons are collected for recycling.
“With an upcoming EU legislative agenda towards more sustainable packaging, the beverage carton is well positioned with a 51 % recycling rate. This is an opportunity to inform policy- makers at all levels that beverage cartons are a safe, circular and sustainable packaging solution with a low carbon footprint, and how the beverage carton you use at your table can be easily collected and recycled,” continued Ms. Carpentier.
1Data includes information from the United Kingdom, which at that time was still an EU Member State.
SIG announced that it will fund breakthrough research into more sustainable materials at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, as part of a joint initiative with Nestlé, Logitech and other industry partners to tackle environmental challenges associated with plastic waste.
Driving research into sustainable materials
Together, the corporate partners have committed to provide 5 million Swiss francs over 10 years. The funding will support a new Chair for Sustainable Materials research within EPFL’s Institute of Materials.
The Chair, to be appointed as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, will be responsible for developing and implementing a new research programme on sustainable materials at EPFL, one of Europe’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan science and technology institutions.
Research areas of interest will address critical questions such as the overall environmental impact of materials, the exploration of bio-based, bio-degradable and recyclable materials, including high-performance paper-based barrier materials, that could help to address environmental concerns about plastic packaging.
Supporting customers with sustainable solutions
Beverage cartons are fully recyclable and have a much lower environmental footprint than many alternatives for long-life food and beverages such as milk, juice or soups. They are made mainly from renewable paperboard, but small amounts of polymers and aluminium foil are usually needed as barrier layers to contain and protect liquid food products, and for caps and closures.
SIG already offers an innovative aluminium-free aseptic packaging for dairy products, known as combibloc EcoPlus, and its SIGNATURE PACK solution uses a mass balance approach to link the polymers used in the carton to 100% renewable, forest-based feedstock. The company is now working to create an aseptic pack made out of 100% renewable materials – without mass balancing or aluminium – that can be used for a range of products, including juices that are more sensitive to light and oxygen.
Supporting research into more sustainable, high-performance barrier materials will help SIG drive progress towards this goal as it works in partnership with customers to bring food products to consumers around the world in a safe, sustainable and affordable way.
Frost & Sullivan’s latest analysis, Global Food and Beverage (F&B) Packaging Market, Forecast to 2030, reveals that the need to reduce material usage and develop more sustainable, durable and lighter-weight packaging solutions with lower production costs are key drivers supporting steady market development. Utilizing innovative packaging materials, advancing processing and additives through technological improvements and an uptick in eCommerce distribution will further augment market expansion. While revenue is expected to increase modestly, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2 % from 2018 to 2030, unit shipment by weight is set to decrease in the short term due to a sustained drive for lighter-weight packaging.
“With rising concerns around plastic pollution and stringent government regulations, manufacturers are seeking alternatives to plastic packaging. This is resulting in an uptick in use of paper and aluminum-based packaging or other non-plastic materials such as biodegradable foods or resin,” said Christopher Shanahan, Global Director, Chemicals, Materials and Nutrition, Frost & Sullivan. “Paper and aluminum are both recycled at high rates and are seen as viable alternatives to plastic with biodegradable plastic films becoming more common as new degradable resin is adopted.”
To differentiate themselves in a well-established, highly consolidated, and competitive market, packaging material suppliers are focusing on specific products such as flexible materials, rigid plastics, and coatings for sachets and pouches. Minimizing packaging costs is a priority so there is strong competition among manufacturers to provide the most cost-effective solutions to customers, including eco-friendly, lightweight products.
“Although manufacturers have already reduced the thickness of bottles and other packaging, they are now looking toward further down gauging and design improvements to make packaging more cost-effective,” observed Shanahan. “For instance, designs such as droplet-shaped bottles have been shown to increase volumes without expanding the package weight.”
F&B vendors can make the most of key opportunities in the market by:
- Exploring environment-friendly sources of plastics, such a plastic derived from corn, or natural products such as banana leaves.
- Creating novel packaging solutions with advanced materials.
- Utilizing the same type of packaging material across several applications to reduce production and processing costs.
- Exploring emerging markets such as APAC, the Middle East, and Africa.
- Reducing material and transportation costs by decreasing the thickness of packaging materials.
Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Global Food and Beverage Packaging Market, Forecast to 2030, explores the factors and trends that have shaped the food and beverage packing landscape, the challenges that lie ahead, and the opportunities that can be tapped. The market is analyzed in terms of different packaging material segments, including flexible materials, rigid plastics, glass, metal, and other packaging materials used for containers and closures.