Protective packaging demand in the US is projected to increase 4.5% per year to $6.4 billion in 2018, an improvement from the 2008-2013 performance based on a strengthening of the economy, including recoveries in the manufacturing and construction segments, which were hit hard during the 2007-2009 recession. According to analyst Esther Palevsky, “Continued robust growth is also expected for Internet shopping, buoyed by the convenience of mobile access to retailer websites along with an improved outlook for consumer spending.” These factors will necessitate heightened requirements for cost-effective packaging used in the protection of goods from shock, vibration, abrasion, and other damaging effects of shipping and handling. These and other trends are presented in Protective Packaging, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc. (, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

The fulfillment of e-commerce sales will be the most significant driver of growth for protective packaging, supporting healthy gains for products such as protective mailers, air pillows, and bubble packaging. Air pillows will be among the fastest growing protective packaging products, with gains benefiting from advantages over other void-fill materials in terms of cost-effectiveness and reduced material use. Advances will also reflect solid gains for value-added products such as insulated shipping containers, the result of expanding specialized handling requirements for temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, a growing regulatory focus on compliance with storage temperature limit requirements, and increased online sales of perishable foods.

 In addition to an upswing in manufacturing output, protective packaging demand growth in the manufacturing market will be aided by the shifting of some basic manufacturing operations back to the US, a reversal of the outsourcing trend of recent decades that has limited domestic manufacturing gains. These factors will bode well for related protective packaging, especially plastic foam, molded pulp, and paperboard protectors. Rolled foams provide good cushioning and abrasion resistance performance along with the ability to protect items that are irregularly shaped. Molded pulp will continue to make inroads into molded foam applications as product manufacturers increasingly focus on the sustainability of their packaging, especially in light of retailer initiatives that rate vendors more highly when their packaging meets certain guidelines.