“In terms of packaging, sustainability is high on the agenda,” said Stephen Harrod, a Smithers consultant since 2006, with a focus on global paper and packaging markets.

One of these trends pointed out by the consultant is the increase in the single population. This feature is important, because people living alone tend to consume more packages, as they need individual portions and need to minimize leftovers and leftovers.

According to Harrod, the world has more than a billion tons of wasted food, which makes the industry think about packaging that can help food storage for a longer time. It is necessary to continue investing in solutions that make such products last longer on the shelf, including barriers that prevent contamination, something that consumers are increasingly aware of.

Healthy food trends

At the same time, people are much more health conscious and want to consume more healthy foods such as vegetables, something that points to new challenges for the packaging industry.

These trends were driven in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated the prominence of e-commerce. Before the pandemic, this market was already growing; after the pandemic, it increased even more, with people buying more online, be it food or other supermarket items. It is the quest for convenience and security.

Impacts of Covid-19

The packaging industry was not directly impacted by Covid-19, but the recession that was created from the pandemic, this one, with an increase in unemployment mainly, acted in every sector, including packaging.

Global trade has been affected by measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, including the supply chain, with an “anti-globalization feeling”, according to the consultant. Some businesses were “totally destroyed” with the pandemic, but this challenging picture was not a total reality for the packaging industry.

“I believe that by 2025 we will have no more negative aspects in the industry,” said Harrod. “As the population continues to grow, we will have an increase in demand for packaging”, coupled with the fact that the world is expected to age even more by 2030, which demands longer consumption of packaging.

Global consumption

In 2020, the year with the greatest social and commercial impact of Covid-19, global consumption of packaging reached US$ 940 billion, with North America (39% of this value) and Western Europe (34%) being the largest consumers. South and Central America accounts for 6% of this world consumption. In other words, there is still a lot of ground to conquer.

The largest consumer sectors of packaging are industries in general (44%), food (28%), beverages (9%), healthcare (4%) and cosmetics (3%).

Of this number, cardboard and corrugated paper packaging correspond to 42% of the total. But the trend, already a reality, with the global search for more sustainable materials, is to increase such participation.

In future consumption, the paper packaging market can reach a consumption increase of up to 3.5%, in the time span from 2020 to 2025, and up to 3%, between 2025 and 2030.

Africa, where the population growth rate is higher, should increase this consumption between 2020 and 2025 (4.5%) and between 2025 and 2030 (from 2.5% to 3%). Asia and Eastern Europe, with growth rates between 4% and 4.5% (from 2020 to 2025), follow close behind.

In South and Central America, this growth rate in consumption is between 3.5% and 4%, for the years 2020 to 2025, and between 2% and 2.5%, for the years 2025 and 2030.

Smarter packaging

There is room for investments and advances in technological and creative innovation. According to Harrod, consumers expect smarter packaging (and the use of monomaterials is a trend), as well as personalized, convenient, lightweight (lightness is of paramount importance), easy to open and with more attractive printing.

At the same time, these solutions must primarily move in a single direction: sustainability. The awareness that they are part of and that stimulate the mechanisms of the circular economy is increasingly in the minds and actions of consumers. In that sense, the future is now.