World demand for food containers is forecast to increase 4.5% annually to $139 billion in 2017. Demand increases will be especially noteworthy in the emerging markets of Central and South America, Eastern Europe, the Africa/Mideast region, and the Asia/Pacific region. Freedonia analyst Joe Pryweller predicts, “Food container demand will be driven by demographic factors in these regions, including the continued emergence of a strong middle class and the rise of two-income working households.” Pryweller also noted that, “As populations shift to larger urban centers worldwide, large supermarkets selling packaged food items are replacing the traditional rural vendor or market stall selling raw, minimally packaged items.”

Within the more mature, developed regions such as North America and Western Europe, the continued conversion to premium packaging (i.e., containers offering high barrier and convenience features) will fuel moderate growth. These and other trends are presented in World Food Containers,a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc. (, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

While the US remains by far the world’s largest user of food containers, the most significant growth will occur in India and China, where double digit annual increases in food container consumption are forecast through 2017. By 2022, China is expected to become the largest global consumer of food packaging, surpassing the US based on increasing urbanization, rising personal incomes, and an escalating interest in packaged foods. Robust food container demand growth is also expected in other emerging markets such as Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. For developed countries, especially those in North America and Western Europe, market maturity will restrict growth, but technological innovation and higher end formats will boost particular material and package types.

 Overall, bags and pouches will remain the largest package type by a wide margin. Bags and pouches are light weight, portable, and convenient. Their use will be bolstered by a continued global rise in the popularity of chilled and processed food, ready-to-eat meals, snack foods, grain mill and bakery items, and other products presented in flexible packaging. Plastic-based packaging generally will offer the fastest global growth prospects, continuing to supplant metal and glass containers for many food items.  The continued emergence of quick-prepared meals and packaged cooking ingredients (e.g., cooking fats and oils, packaged spices, seeds and nuts, and single-serve noodles and rice) favors plastics over less portable alternatives.