Global beverage markets continue to expand, leading to growing beverage packaging needs. Customer need, innovative materials, and safety regulations will all influence which package format takes over the market. Here’s a look at how four common packaging formats are expected to fare over the next few years.
Over the next four years, plastic is expected to top $11 billion, likely the largest share of the beverage packaging market. Plastic has some key advantages over other packaging materials that make it a manufacturer and consumer favorite - it’s lightweight, inexpensive, and offers the most versatility for package designs.
However, plastic does face a couple of hurdles that could slow its growth.
One is persistent misinformation about the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics. Although the Food and Drug Administration has studied both plastics and found them safe for food and beverage use, some people still believe that plastic bottles will leach harmful chemicals into their drinks.
In addition, plastic has historically been at a disadvantage when it comes to sustainability. Given the demand for more sustainable packaging, there have been some interesting innovations in plastic beverage containers. Coca-Cola, for example, developed a completely plant-based PET bottle. A continued focus on sustainability will introduce more eco-friendly plastic options.
When it comes to sustainability, glass has the edge. Glass packaging is completely recyclable and there is no loss in quality each time glass is recycled.
But glass is also heavy and fragile, sometimes making it an inconvenient packaging choice. Because of these factors, glass is predicted to see slower growth, reaching $7.6 billion by 2020.
One segment of the market where glass will hold strong and even see gains: alcohol.
“An increase in demand for alcoholic beverages globally sustains the moderate growth for glass, as it is used as a packaging material for alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and whiskey,” said Sharan Raj, Lead Analyst at Technavio for packaging research.
Although also predicted to reach $7.6 billion by 2020, paperboard is expected to grow at a faster rate than glass (seven percent compound annual growth rate versus glass’s two percent).
Paperboard combines the lightness and portability of plastic with glass’s sustainability. As new recyclable products are developed, however, paperboard will see more competition that could slow its growth.
Metal is expected to maintain the smallest share of the beverage packaging market, reaching $4 billion by 2020.
A staple in the soft drink and beer markets, metal is lightweight and more efficient to transport. It’s also highly recyclable—using recycled metal can save up to 90 percent of the energy needed when using virgin materials.
Like glass and paperboard, metal’s biggest challenge will come from improved plastic products.
Trends to Watch
In 2015, 73 percent of companies said they would be relying on package redesigns and new packaging sizes to increase their beverage growth.
Reexamining packaging design gives companies the chance to create more eye-catching designs and products that meet customer need better.
"Bottles tend to be more at-home or in my everyday kind of living. Cans tend to be much more portable—I’m going to tailgate, camping, somewhere else," said Brian Reed, Principal of Market Structure at IRI Worldwide. "Manufacturers recognize that the configurations need to be different based on those situations when consumers are using the product.”
To give your sales team a leg up in a market that continues to shift with technology and sustainability demands, be sure to check out our new ebook — The Quick Guide to Plastics for The Packaging Industry.