The North American and European flexible packaging markets at $20.7 billion and $16.4 billion, respectively, together accounted for almost half of the global consumer flexible packaging market of around $76 billion in 2013.

However, recent research by UK-based PCI Films Consulting shows that growth in North America at around 4 percent p.a. by value is currently twice as fast as that seen last year in Europe.

Experts at PCI Films Consulting believe that this situation is likely to endure even while the annual spend per capita is much higher in North America than in Europe. While demand in Eastern Europe continues to grow by over 5 percent p.a. in value terms, underpinned by strong growth in Russia and Poland, growth in the more mature Western Europe is currently running at less than 1.5 percent p.a.

There are a number of reasons for the divergent growth prospects for North America and Europe:

  • While some West European countries are seeing some economic growth, many others are still suffering low or negative growth - adversely impacting on employment and consumer spending.
  • In Eastern Europe, which currently accounts for less than 20 percent of Europe's overall flexible packaging demand, a number of smaller national markets are either static or actually declining as they continue to face difficult economic problems.
  • Europe's population growth rate of only 0.2 percent p.a. compares with approaching 1 percent p.a. in North America, which provides the latter with a continuing inbuilt boost to food consumption which is again reflected in demand for flexible packaging.
  • Lifestyle variations and differing consumer buying habits across Europe mean that some countries, such as Italy, spend less per capita on pre-packaged foods than others. In North America, incomes are generally higher and consumer buying habits more uniform.
  • Traditionally, North America has been more conservative towards the adoption of new flexible packaging formats than Europe. However, changing attitudes are resulting in rapid growth in new applications which have been previously the preserve of rigid formats, such as the standup pouch.
  • Evolving technical advances, especially in the development of sophisticated barrier materials, have seen flexible packaging becoming an increasingly attractive and viable alternative to rigid formats, which are now being adopted much more widely by North American packers.

PCI Films Consulting's view is that flexible packaging demand will continue to grow more rapidly in North America than Europe, perhaps most importantly because of the much more favourable population demographics in North America and likely economic fundamentals, over the next couple of years.


PCI Films Consulting

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