US demand for specialty films is forecast to rise 4.8 percent per year to $8.4 billion in 2019. Gains will be fueled by the rising need for high value, technologically advanced materials that provide characteristics such as barrier properties, controlled permeability, light control, and electrical conductivity or resistivity. A healthy outlook for the packaging industry, where the majority of specialty films are used, will boost demand, as will a rebound in construction. Additionally, advances will result from the development of new applications in degradable packaging and fuel cells, and robust growth in emerging markets such as advanced batteries. These and other trends are presented in Specialty Films, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc. (, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

Barrier films accounted for 65 percent of specialty films demand in 2014. Through 2019, advances will be driven by growing barrier requirements in the packaging industry to better protect food, pharmaceuticals, and other products. “The most rapid gains, however, will be found in biodegradable and water soluble films, as improved technology and consumer acceptance allow these films to penetrate new applications. Above average growth is also forecast for light control and safety and security films, fueled by a strong improvement in building construction activity,” states analyst Kent Furst.

Two-thirds of all specialty films are used in packaging, particularly in applications requiring barrier properties. The best opportunities for growth in this market include meat packaging, where technologies such as modified atmosphere packaging and vacuum skin packaging require the use of high-barrier films, and pharmaceutical and medical packaging, where protection from contamination is a critical factor.

The fastest gains are expected in the construction market, where specialty films will benefit from the construction industry rebound and the rising use of energy saving window films. Electronics will also be a strong growth market for films, particularly in the areas of advanced batteries and photovoltaic modules. Below average advances, however, are forecast for personal care products, as use of breathable films is highly mature in the slow-growing disposable hygiene products market. Additionally, a sharp slowdown in motor vehicle production will restrain demand in transportation equipment applications.