Despite several firms citing headwinds in demand, 2023 was not without its bright spots for flexible packaging converters.

Sonoco reported achieving record results in Operating Profit and Adjusted EBITDA in its flexible packaging segment in Fiscal Year 2023.

TC Transcontinental managed to hold revenues essentially flat at $2.94 billion (down just 0.5% versus 2022) and, in the fourth quarter, the company increased its adjusted operating earnings before depreciation and amortization by 3.1% year on year, despite lower revenues.

Winpak noted that the “worldwide low industrial activity resulted in a significant price reduction to raw materials for most key components of Winpak products, which is beneficial to the Company and its indexed clients through lower prices. Overall, the gross profit margins improved by 1.2 percentage points over 2022 to reach 29.3 percent.”

Meanwhile, the consolidation that has been underway in the flexible packaging industry is evident in this year’s list of Top 25 converters.

For example, SIG in mid-2022 completed its acquisition of Scholle IPN, putting SIG in this year’s Top 25 list in lieu of Scholle.  

And while Sonoco would have made the Top 25 list regardless of its acquisition of Inapel Embalagens Ltda. in Brazil in late 2023, that acquisition and others are indicative of the continuing consolidation taking place in the flexible packaging sector.

Thomas Blaige, founder of Blaige Industry Analytics LLC, offered a few observations on this year’s Top 25 list within the context of consolidation:

  • In the top 25, there are nine independents, 10 global+public and six Private Equity-owned firms, so a total of 16 of the top 25 represent large organizations with significant access to resources.  
  • The 2023 rankings list is representative of the great consolidation trend in the fragmented flexible packaging market (see Blaige’s Flexible Packaging Converters are Hot Commodities report). 
  • As the large-cap participants have largely consolidated, the small- to mid-cap participants are becoming the focus (buyers moving downstream, bidding up middle market multiples). 

Focus on Sustainability

Alison Keane, President and CEO of the Flexible Packaging Association, notes that “sustainability remains top of mind for these converters, with emerging technologies and materials being key. Converters are all chasing the ultimate sustainability solutions for their customers.”

Keane adds: “This means circular solutions, like mono-materials for more readily recyclable packaging that provide the same or similar barrier protection for food and health applications. It also means compostable options, both home and industrial; but also, recyclable options, such that composability only comes into play if the package leaks into the environment.”

Finally, Keane notes, incorporation of post-consumer recycled content (PCR) is high on the list of priorities.

“Solutions exist, for both mechanical and chemically recycled PCR, but adoption thus far by brands has been slow,” Keane said.

We present here just a few examples of recent initiatives on the part of flexible packaging converters to provide more sustainable packaging.

Mondi, Skånemejerier introduce mono-material plastic packaging for cheese

Mondi’s mono-material solution provides high barriers against oxygen and water vapors, keeping the product fresh on the supermarket shelf. (Courtesy of Mondi)In November 2023, Mondi announced its collaboration with Skånemejerier to create a mono-material, polypropylene (PP) based packaging for, among others, ICA’s Hushållsost cheese.

The new packaging comprises a mono-material base web and lidding film, all of which is produced and printed by Mondi before being converted for 1kg and 2kg blocks of cheese by Skånemejerier. It will be sold in leading Swedish supermarket ICA and now comes in packaging that is designed for recycling.

American Packaging Corp. Announces 'Design for Recycle' Package for Frozen Food

DS Smith's Columbia, South Carolina, corrugated packaging facilityIn February, American Packaging Corporation announced the commercial launch of another RE™ Design for Recycle flexible packaging technology targeted at frozen food products such as frozen fruits and vegetables. This new technology joins a portfolio of packaging technologies in APC's RE™ sustainable packaging portfolio, that also includes Design for Compost, Circular Content, and Renewable Content, as well as several Design for Recycle options.

Inteplast Receives ISCC Plus Certification at Three U.S. Facilities

American Packaging Corp. Bopp flexible packagingIn alignment with Inteplast Group’s sustainability goals, the BOPP Films business unit has received ISCC (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) PLUS certification at the following facilities: Gray Court, South Carolina; Lolita, Texas; and Morristown, Tennessee.

Inteplast BOPP Films can now produce and supply ISCC-certified materials. This makes the company one of the first North American BOPP film manufacturers to hold the ISCC PLUS designation.

Accredo Packaging Sets Ambitious Sustainability Goals for 2025

Accredo Packaging headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas.Accredo Packaging, a leader in its diverse offering of more sustainable packaging solutions, foresees continued development of robust sustainability goals for its North American operations, with key milestones targeted to be achieved by 2025.

Those goals include: reducing waste to landfill by 15% by 2025; reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 15% by 2025; and increasing recycled content incorporation by 15% by 2025.

Amcor Launches Recyclable Paper Packaging for Fromagerie Milleret's Soft Cheeses

Recyclable Paper Packaging for Fromagerie Milleret's Soft CheesesAmcor announced in late 2023 its collaboration with the French family-owned cheese producer, Fromagerie Milleret, to launch a new recycle-ready paper packaging for the company’s Le Baron Brie and l’Ortolan Bio premium cheeses.

Amcor and Fromagerie Milleret have worked together for over 30 years, leveraging their in-depth knowledge of soft cheese products to develop more sustainable packaging. Utilizing Amcor’s AmFiber™ Matrix recycle-ready breathable wrap, Fromagerie Milleret’s new paper packaging solution is recyclable in existing paper streams, without compromising the quality or integrity of the product itself.