US demand for plastic film is expected to grow 1.5% per year through 2018 to 16.4 billion pounds, resulting in sales of $26.2 billion. Acceleration in manufacturing output and disposable income bode well for plastic film sales in a wide range of markets. Expected price stabilization from increased plastic resin supply will improve the cost-competitiveness of plastic film, allowing it to replace paper and other materials in multiple applications. Increased penetration of pouches, which provide convenience and functionality in new markets, will also boost demand for plastic film. However, environmental concerns will hinder plastic film growth in some applications, particularly plastic retail bags.
LLDPE to continue gaining share from LDPE
LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene) is the largest volume film resin, comprising nearly half of resin usage in 2013, and is expected to maintain solid growth through 2018. LLDPE's high strength source reduction capabilities have helped spur gains in multiple markets, including pouches for food products and pharmaceutical packaging.
Demand for LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is expected to grow more slowly, continuing to be replaced by LLDPE in some functions and having reached market maturity in many of its primary markets. Above average growth is forecast for poly-propylene film, driven by its usage in packaging for the increasingly popular fresh produce market and its growth in snack food packaging. HDPE (high-density polyethylene) film is expected to exhibit minimal growth in demand through 2018, with growing opposition to single use plastic bags offsetting gains in food packaging.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film demand will grow modestly through 2018, with healthy gains in food packaging applications replacing demand from the declining magnetic tape and photographic film markets. Below average growth is expected for PVC (polyvinyl chloride), hampered by continued declines in nonfood applications including pharmaceutical and medical products. Degradable plastic resins will experience the highest growth rate of all film types, due to increasing affordability and adoption by packaging converters.
Food, nonfood packaging to be fastest growing markets
The market exhibiting the greatest growth in film demand is food packaging, driven by the expanding popularity of pouches for a variety of food items, as well as the rise of active and intelligent packaging for food. Nonfood packaging will also see above average growth stemming from strong demand for pharmaceutical and medical packaging. Below average growth is forecast for nonpackaging film due to the maturity of trash bags and the decrease in photographic and magnetic film, offset partially by robust advances for construction film. Secondary packaging will see the slowest gains, restrained by declines in garment bags and retail bags, although stretch film demand will benefit from a rebound in production activity.
This upcoming industry study, Plastic Film presents historical demand data (2003, 2008 and 2013) plus forecasts for 2018 and 2023 by plastic film resin and market. The study also considers market environment factors, evaluates company market share and profiles 40 industry players, such as Bemis, AEP and Novolex.