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Global Flexible Packaging Market - Outlook and Forecast 2023-2028
In 2022, the global flexible packaging market was valued at USD 214.15 billion. It is projected to reach USD 288.99 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.12%. The market’s growth is closely tied to the overall performance of the economy, necessitating vendors to diversify or expand their operations to counter recessionary trends in certain regions. The ban on plastic usage in many countries has significantly impacted the plastic packaging market, giving early adopters of new technology and materials an advantage in the flexible packaging market. China leads the APAC flexible packaging market and serves as one of the largest suppliers and manufacturers of plastic and flexible packaging due to its low production costs, thus driving demand in the market. Consequently, the rapid technological changes and urbanization in the APAC region align with evolving consumer trends in packaging. As a result, major stakeholders focus on sustainable and flexible packaging options to facilitate the recycling of multilayer plastics.
Flexible packaging finds applications in various industries such as pharmaceuticals, hot drinks, beauty and personal care products, home care products, and more. Innovations have led to the introduction of smaller pack sizes, and consumers have shown appreciation for these mini and micro packs. Products in this category include bags, sachets, envelopes, and pillow packs. Packaging has evolved to become an integral part of the product and efforts have been made to make it environmentally sustainable.
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USD 214.2 billion in 2021
Material, Application, Consumer Flexible Packaging End-Users, Product, Printing, and Geography
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The flexible packaging market experienced disruptions in its supply chain following the COVID-19 pandemic, with voluntary factory shutdowns and lockdown enforcement by authorities. In some cases, suppliers reduced their workforce to ensure limited work was carried out to deliver smaller batches of materials to converters. Premium categories of food and beverage products are expected to be significantly impacted by high prices, while essential and reasonably priced products are anticipated to see increased demand. In Italy, post-COVID-19 circumstances prompted packaging vendors to reassess and revise their inventories. Vendors have also re-strategized their supply chain by reducing dependence on cross-border suppliers due to concerns about trade route blockades.
While certain end-use applications flourished, the overall demand for flexible packaging was affected by reduced consumption. High demand was observed for medicines, dairy products, food, sanitizers, face masks, disinfectants, and other essential items that require packaging, particularly flexible packaging.
Prominent factors influencing the global flexible packaging market include the cost of raw materials, lower production costs, and the lightweight nature of flexible packaging. Additionally, the demand from buyers and end customers is driving the shift towards flexible packaging. The introduction of smaller packs and single-serve packaging has led to an increase in the number of packages with reduced volume, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The flexible packaging market also offers convenient caps and closures, which were previously a limiting factor in adoption rates. Flexible pouches have become highly sought-after as they are suitable for packaging various products in the food, pharma, beverage, FMCG, and other industries. Aluminum foil and paper, along with other flexible packaging products, have also expanded their scope with several variations. The introduction of retort packages with enhanced protection features against external factors, combined with functionalities such as zips and spouts, has contributed to the increasing adoption of pouch packaging and flexible packaging in place of rigid packaging. Consequently, more products that were traditionally packaged in rigid materials are now opting for flexible packaging.
The barrier properties of films used in plastic packaging play a crucial role in maintaining the quality and extending the shelf life of food products. Thinner packaging materials necessitate higher barrier properties, including resistance to gases, water vapor, aroma compounds, and light. The choice of polymers for these plastic films is vital in ensuring the effectiveness of barrier films for preserving the quality of packaged or processed foods. The flexible plastic packaging market extensively employs high-barrier films for premium food protection. The lightweight and flexible nature of packaging using these high-barrier films has resulted in the replacement of traditional packaging materials such as metal, rigid plastic, and glass. The vacuum packaging market, which emphasizes cost-effectiveness and efficiency, has witnessed a growing demand for recyclable high-barrier plastics like stand-up pouches. Additionally, increasing awareness about eco-friendly and convenient packaging in the food industry is expected to drive the demand for high-barrier vacuum packaging in the flexible packaging market.
Recycling flexible pouches and other products is challenging and not economically viable due to the complex separation processes involved. Unlike rigid plastic products, FDA regulations prohibit the use of recycled flexible packaging for food and pharmaceutical packaging. Recycled materials can only be utilized in other applications. The recycling process comprises waste collection, sorting, washing, shredding, plastic categorization, and extrusion. Low-quality materials are either disposed of or transferred to energy recovery centers since end-users exclusively require high-quality outputs.
Currently, the supply of recycled plastics is not robust, and the quality is inconsistent across regions and facilities. The demand for plastics by converters is substantial, yet the supply side has yet to match this demand. This is one reason why adoption rates for recycled plastics are currently low, posing a recycling challenge in the global flexible packaging market. Any fluctuations in the quality or quantity of recycled plastics immediately impact the prices of end products, making it economically unviable at present.
The market is segmented based on various factors, including material, application, consumer flexible packaging end-users, product, printing, and geography.
Segmentation by Material
Flexible Plastic – PE (Polyethylene), BOPP (Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene), CPP (Cast Polypropylene), BOPET (Biaxially-oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate), PA (Polyamide), PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), EVOH (Ethylene-Vinyl Alcohol), Others
Segmentation by Application
Segmentation by Consumer Flexible Packaging End-Users
Bakery & Confectionery
Meat, Poultry & Seafood
Tea & Coffee
Segmentation by Product
Bags and Sacks
Segmentation by Printing
Segmentation by Geography
North America – US, Canada
Europe – Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Austria, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Rest of Europe
APAC – China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Rest of APAC
Latin America – Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Rest of Latin America
Middle East & Africa – South Africa, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Egypt, Rest of the Middle East & Africa
In 2022, flexible plastic accounted for the largest share (67.9%) of the global flexible packaging market. This can be attributed to the high demand for packaging in the food industry. The industry primarily uses co-extrusion or lamination methods to manufacture multilayer and multi-material flexible packaging, with flexible plastic being the predominant material. However, from a recycling perspective, the market faces challenges due to the complex process required to separate materials during recycling.
The flexible packaging market is categorized into consumer and industrial packaging based on application. Consumer packaging, which includes bakery confectionery, meat, poultry & seafood, dairy, RTE, frozen food, healthcare, personal care, tea & coffee, pet food, and others, dominates the market. Furthermore, consumer packaging is expected to grow at a faster rate than industrial packaging in the global flexible packaging market.
The consumer flexible packaging market is led by the food and beverage industry. Packaging costs in this industry account for 8-10% of the total product cost, and adding shipping costs increases the overall packaging and logistics expenses. Flexible packaging helps reduce these costs due to its lightweight and compact nature. Additionally, flexible packaging offers cost-saving benefits by reducing food wastage and energy consumption during packaging. The increasing number of quick-service restaurants and retail outlets has further fueled the demand for flexible packaging in the food industry.
The global healthcare flexible packaging market was valued at USD 15.89 billion in 2022. With the medical devices market experiencing growth, packaging plays a crucial role in meeting regulatory requirements. Poor packaging has led to product recalls in the past, making flexible packaging essential for sterile packaging in the medical devices industry.
The bags & sacks flexible packaging market held a 43.71% share in 2022. This segment is expected to witness significant growth due to its usage in various applications such as healthcare, personal care, pet food, and others. Monolayer PE films, which do not require advanced packaging machinery, strongly influence this category’s growth. Plastic bags & sacks are anticipated to experience increased demand due to their lower cost and higher product-to-package ratio, providing advantages during logistics.
The global flexible packaging market can be segmented based on printing methods: flexographic and rotogravure printing. Flexographic printing, widely adopted in North America and South America, utilizes solvent-based, water-based, and ultraviolet-cured inks. Solvent-based inks are commonly used for adequate adhesion and wetting on most flexible packaging substrates. Flexographic printing is primarily used for packaging and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.41% during the forecast period, driven by demand in APAC countries.
The APAC region is projected to lead the global flexible packaging market from 2022 to 2028. Factors such as higher domestic demand, availability of affordable labor, and rising global economy contribute to the region’s attractiveness for flexible packaging producers. Market players focus on this region to increase their market share and profitability. However, the APAC region presents challenges in terms of supply chain due to its vast geography and fragmented packaging and end-user industries. The demand in this region varies, ranging from low-cost sachets to premium luxury packaging.
In North America, the flexible packaging market is growing at a CAGR of 3.24%. Top vendors in the US accounted for over 55% of the industry share in 2021, and consolidation has been observed in the market since 2019. The US flexible packaging industry exports a significant volume (5.7%) valued at over USD 2 billion. Economic indicators such as consumer spending, retail industry growth rate, and household income suggest above-average market performance in the forecast period. Pouches, known for their portability, are driving the flexible packaging market in the food and personal care industries in North America.
The European flexible packaging market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.13% annually during the forecast period. This growth can be attributed to faster economic growth and higher disposable income among consumers. Vendors that offer technologically advanced equipment and provide aseptic, retort, anti-counterfeit, and child-resistant packaging have a competitive edge. Growth in end-user markets such as coffee, pet food, and fresh foods has contributed to increased production. With smaller households and a demand for more product varieties, the trend towards flexible packaging aligns with consumers’ convenience and lifestyle needs.
The global flexible packaging market exhibits a high degree of fragmentation, characterized by the presence of numerous prominent vendors. However, the industry is experiencing a gradual consolidation process, albeit at a relatively slow pace. Key players in the global flexible packaging market include Amcor, Berry Global, Mondi, Sealed Air, TC Transcontinental Packaging, Sonoco, Huhtamaki, Constantia Flexibles, Ahlstrom, Greif, WestRock, Smurfit Kappa, Alu Flex Pack, and Aptar Group.
The market has witnessed the entry of several external participants who have adopted an inorganic growth strategy to expand their operations across multiple regions. Established players possess technological expertise and offer product lines with high production volumes, allowing them to mitigate cost fluctuations. On the other hand, smaller companies prioritize customization as competition in the market primarily revolves around product features and pricing.
The rising demand for protective packaging, driven by the booming e-commerce industry, has spurred the emergence of numerous new companies in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. Many international players are anticipated to establish recycling and reusability infrastructure for packaging materials. By 2025, it is expected that a significant number of vendors will transition entirely to environmentally friendly packaging materials. This shift may necessitate new machinery, thereby impacting small and medium-sized packaging vendors. Moreover, the adoption of bio-based plastics is projected to rise across various end-use categories, benefiting early adopters in the industry.
Key companies profiled in this report include Amcor, Berry Global, Mondi, Sealed Air, TC Transcontinental Packaging, Sonoco, Huhtamaki, Constantia Flexibles, Ahlstrom, Greif, WestRock, Smurfit Kappa, Alu Flex Pack, Aptar Group, Alinvest, Aran Group, Aluberg, American Packaging Corporation, Bischof + Klein, Bioplast, Carcano, Danaflex, Printpack, ProAmpac, Wipak Group, Saica Flex, Etapak (Baskı Ambalaj), Innovia Films, UFlex, International Paper, Reynolds Group, Novolex, Sigma Plastics, Glenroy, Symetal, Krajcár Packaging, ITP, Gascogne Flexible, Schur Flexibles, Schmid Folien, RKW Group, Pouch Partners, Perlen Packaging, Goglio Packaging, Kleiner Flexible Packaging, Winpak, Stora Enso, Global-Pak, Di Mauro, Eurofoil, Gerosa Group, LEEB Flexibles, PolyPak, PPG, Walki, All4Labels, SIG Combibloc Group, Ringmetall SE, The Reflex Group, DazPak Flexible Packaging, Süpack, Coveris, Wipf AG, Clondalkin Packaging, Korozo Group, Grupo Lantero, Gualapack Group.
Recent Industry Developments
Amcor disclosed in September 2022 its plan to invest approximately USD 45 million in ePac Flexible Packaging, a digitally-oriented company specializing in high-quality flexible packaging solutions designed for short production runs.
Berry Global introduced a range of popular thermoformed and injection stretch blow-molded food packs in August 2022. These packs are constructed using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) material, contributing to Berry Global’s commitment to sustainability.
In June 2021, Mondi collaborated with Hazeleger, a Dutch cheese packaging firm, to develop a mono-material packaging solution specifically designed for Westland Kaas Maaslander cheese slices. These lightweight packagings offer the advantage of being easily recyclable, aligning with sustainability objectives.
Key Questions Answered
What is the size of the flexible packaging market?
The global flexible packaging market had a valuation of USD 214.15 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 288.99 billion by 2028.
What is the growth rate of the flexible packaging market?
The flexible packaging market is experiencing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.12% from 2022 to 2028.
Who are the major players in the global flexible packaging market?
The key players in the global flexible packaging market include Amcor, Berry Global, Mondi, Sealed Air, TC Transcontinental Packaging, Sonoco, Huhtamaki, Constantia Flexibles, Ahlstrom, Greif, WestRock, Smurfit Kappa, Alu Flex Pack, and Aptar Group.
Which region holds the largest share of the global flexible packaging market?
The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region dominates the global flexible packaging market, accounting for 37.70% of the market share and reaching a value of USD 80.73 billion in 2022. The region’s high domestic demand and availability of low-cost labor make it an attractive market for flexible packaging manufacturers. Consequently, market players are focusing on this region to gain a larger market share and increase profitability.
What are the emerging trends in the flexible packaging market?
The rising trends in the flexible packaging market include a heightened emphasis on sustainable packaging solutions, fluctuations in profitability within the APAC region, the utilization of high-barrier plastic packaging materials, increasing adoption of flexible packaging instead of rigid packaging, rapid growth of the e-commerce industry, and a shift in food service towards modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) products from frozen packaging.