Adhesives will play defining role in future of packaging development, with the post-COVID market place providing a spur to sustainable technology, according to the latest dedicated market study from Smithers.  

The Future of Adhesives for Packaging to 2027 tracks how the market has changed across 2020-2021, and will continue to reward innovation through 2022-2027. In 2021, the packaging industry will consume 5.40 tons of adhesives. A forecast compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4% will push global consumption to 7.90 million tons in 2027.

Rigid packaging formats — metal, glass containers, molded and thermoformed plastic containers, folding cartons and corrugated boxes — will continue to dominate adhesives use, accounting for around 87% of the market in 2021, by weight. Corrugated adhesives in particular have benefitted over 2020-2021 from the boom in use of e-commerce home delivery packaging. 

For application technology, hot melts continue to be the largest segment, although there is more demand for water-borne adhesives, and good growth forecast for the small radiation curing segment.  

Through to 2027, adhesives manufacture and supply will need to adapt to the latest trends in packaging design and use, as well as negotiating an increasingly complex regulatory environment. 

Sustainability remains the defining megatrend for packaging post-Covid. Adhesive manufacturers will continue to make iterative energy-saving improvements to existing products. For example lowering the melt temperature of hot-melt formulations, and optimizing application processes to minimize the volume of adhesive needed. Simultaneously R&D, especially in Europe, will focus on developing new bio-based ingredients, with lower carbon input costs — which can match existing performance requirements.  

With packaging recycling central to many strategists’ vision of a circular economy, adhesive chemistry that enables easy separation of components and multi-material constructions is attracting a price premium. This will push the market towards wider use of mono-component adhesives that are also easier to handle at end-of-life. 

There is a specific interest in biodegradable and compostable formulations that can be broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms, or decompose naturally over time. For fiber packs there is a specific interest in repulpable adhesives that dissolve completely during pulping of waste paper. At the leading edge of innovation are debond-on-demand adhesives, engineered with points in the polymer matrix that break when subjected to temperature during recycling.

In the short-term, the challenge across 2021 has been to guarantee raw material supplies, as global logistics remain disrupted. The concentration of production of essential materials, such as silicones and polyurethanes, has led to insecurity and price rises. With pre-pandemic production of these concentrated in Asia, interest in reshoring supply is set to clash with the perennial business imperative to keep costs down.  

From a business perspective, packaging adhesives have already witnessed a recent round of M&A activity with smaller, specialized firms being bought by larger multinational firms. This trend will continue through 2023-2027. In 2021 the water-borne segment in particular is more fragmented, due to the technology’s relative simplicity, standardization of formulations/manufacturing techniques and the availability of base resin stocks.

The Future of Adhesives for Packaging to 2027 authoritatively quantifies the historic, current and future market demand by volume and value. This is presented in an exclusive dataset with over 200 data tables and figures, segmented by:

  • Adhesive technology (thermoplastics/hot-melt, water-borne, reactive/solvent-borne, rad-cure);
  • Adhesive formulation/emulsion type (acrylic, casein, elastomer, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyacrylic ester (PAE), polyamide, polyolefin, polyurethane, polyvinyl acetate (PVA), starch, vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE), other); 
  • Packaging format/type (corrugated, other paperboard, rigid plastic, label & lidding, 
  • multi-layer – flexibles, seal layers – flexibles)
  • End-use application (food, beverage, non-food);
  • Geographic region (Asia-Pacific, Western Europe, North America, Eastern Europe, South & Central America, Middle East & Africa)