The market for rigid plastic packaging for food and beverages in Europe is expected to achieve above average growth in volume terms between 2010 and 2015. The combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of  3.7% projected for plastic bottles, plastic trays and rigid plastic pots and tubs is almost double the 1.9% growth predicted for the European food and drink packaging sector overall, according to new research fromPira Int’l.

In 2010, food and drink consumption in the 12 countries/regions covered by the Pira study,The Future of European Food and Drink Packaging to 2015, totaled just more than 574 million tonnes. The projected CAGR for 2010-2015 is 0.6% for all food and drink consumption, but 1.9% for packaged food and drink consumption. This is an increase on growth of 1.7% between 2005 and 2010 and equates to 1,254 units per person per year.

Over the forecast period, Pira expects annual growth in packaging units to be four times the CAGR for volume, just as it was between 2005 and 2010. By 2015, the annual volume of packaging units consumed is expected to exceed 858 billion, or 75 billion more than in 2010.

The strength of plastic bottles

According to Pira, plastic bottles are the strongest performers in the larger packaging sectors. They added nearly 12 billion units to annual volumes between 2005 and 2010 and are forecast to add more than 17 billion a year by 2015, with the CAGR consistently above 3%. They will still rank fifth, but look poised to overtake glass bottles and jars by 2020.

PET is the most widely used and fastest-growing polymer for the manufacture of plastic bottles and jars. In recent years, PET bottles have shown the strongest growth in the drinks sector by replacing glass bottles, liquid cartons and metal cans in many applications. PET bottles have several advantages over competing products, such as clarity, unbreakability, design flexibility, light weight, recyclability and economical production.

Projected growth to 2015 varies across the full range of food and drink packaging formats and Pira highlights a number of trends in the study:

Rigid plastic packaging will continue to replace other pack types such as glass bottles and jars for various food and beverage products.

Other rigid markets

Folding cartons will continue to grow at below average market rates. Further losses of share to flexible plastics are expected, although there will be opportunities for growth in some applications such as sleeving.

Liquid carton consumption is expected to reduce a little between 2010 and 2015. Liquid cartons are losing share to plastic bottles and stand-up pouches. Key applications for liquid cartons such as milk are also very mature and suppliers need to find different technologies and new sectors in which they can be applied.

Glass bottles and jars will see further declines between 2010 and 2015. Cans will take their place as the single largest category, with plastic bottles also poised to overtake them before 2020. PET bottles will continue to replace glass bottles for carbonated soft drinks, mineral water and milk, while plastic jars and bottles will replace a growing number of glass jars for food products.

Metal can consumption for food and drinks is projected to grow at 2.3% per year to 2015. Slow growth in the use of metal cans for the mature canned food products market will be bolstered by higher than average growth in the use of metal cans for beverages.

Metal trays growth will be in line with overall average annual advances, the format expected to lose out a little to plastic trays.

Market implications and factors

Key food and drink industry drivers and their implications for food and drink packaging:
  • Healthy value: More basic packaging required, decelerated demand for complex packaging
  • Affordable quality: Visibility to reinforce quality; multipacking to deliver affordability
  • Appropriate packaging: Portion control delivered through optimized pack sizes; new, more difficult channels accessed similarly
  • Lightweighting: Reduction in materials usage
  • Bottled water: The perceived environmental impact of a product’s packaging influencing consumer perceptions of the industry itself
  • Systems, tariffs and commitments: Different stakeholders identifying packaging as the principal area to target environmental initiatives, especially retailers
  • Recycling and biodegradability: Greater use of recycled materials or the loss of materials from the recycling systems through degradability
  • Cost-driven innovation: New developments driven by cost implications, particularly where there is volatility in raw-material costs
  • Consolidating retailers: Adapting to individual retailer requirements driven by their own logistics; tailor-making for each retailer
  • Sustainability: A focus on all aspects of packaging design, use, function and afterlife 
For more information about the study, contact Stephen Hill at +44 (0) 1372 802025, or via e-mail at, or visitPira Int’l