Study Predicts Growing Demand for Protective Packaging

Faced with rising gas prices, more U.S. consumers are shopping via the Internet. This has boosted shipping volume – and increased demand for protective packaging materials.

A new study from market research firm Freedonia predicts that demand for protective packaging in the U.S. will grow 4.6% annually over the next four years. The protective packaging industry will increase from $4.1 billion currently to more than $5 billion by 2012.

Most of the growth in this market segment will come from “escalating Internet and catalog sales.” But manufacturing will also continue to drive the need for specialized packaging to protect items from shock, vibration, abrasion and other damaging effects of shipping and handling.

The study finds that demand for air pillows and insulated shipping containers will be strongest. Recent advances in design of these products have improved their performance.

Demand for insulated shipping containers will be driven mostly by increased online sales of temperature-sensitive drugs and perishable foods. Temperature control throughout the supply chain is critical to the efficacy of the drugs, as well as the quality of the food.

The study predicts that protective mailers and bubble packaging will also see above-average growth over the next four years.

Overall, plastic materials will see much faster growth than paper materials, due to their relatively favorable cost, cushioning capabilities, moldability and ease of processing. Plastic film will be boosted by heightened demand for air pillows, bubble mailers and bubble packaging. Some of the growth for plastic film will be driven by more shippers investing in equipment to enable onsite and on-demand production of bubble packaging.

Foamed plastic protective packaging will should see strong demand due to its light weight and better cushioning capabilities compared to paperboard and other materials. But rising resin prices and the continuing trend to outsource manufacturing to foreign nations will hold back growth to a degree.

The study predicts more moderate gains for paperboard protectors, paper fill, dunnage bags, loose-fill and molded pulp, as shippers are shifting their attention to new, more advanced plastic-based forms of protection. There will also be growing interest in sustainable packaging, including paper fill, molded pulp and degradable loose-fill, as a result of the current trend toward greening the supply chain.

The study presents historical demand data for the years 1997, 2002 and 2007, and includes forecasts for 2012 and 2017 by product (including molded foam, foamed-in-place polyurethane, polyolefin rolls, protective mailers, paperboard protectors, bubble packaging, insulated shipping containers, air pillows, paper fill, dunnage bags, loose-fill, molded pulp), material, and application. For more information, click here.

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