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High barrier flexible film for food packaging 2018.
High barrier flexible film for food packaging 2018.

Demand for high barrier films for food packaging is growing faster than regular packaging films in almost every part of the world, according to a new report by AMI Consulting. It is estimated that 8% of the 20 million plus tonnes of flexible films used for food packaging in 2018 were high barrier.

Polyethylene (PE) forms the largest volume (45%), thanks to its use in multilayer coextrusions with EVOH, followed by PET (36%), which is mainly metallised for high barrier although the use of vacuum deposition of aluminium oxide or silicon oxide coatings to provide transparent barrier is growing rapidly.

For BOPP (9%), PVdC coating still provides the main method for improving oxygen barrier performance while producers are looking to develop coextruded or metallised grades to compete with the more widely used polyethylene and BOPET alternatives.

The demand is being driven by several different drivers which vary from region to region. One of the most consistent trends though is the sustainability driver, which is acting as a key disruptor.

With consumers increasingly questioning the use of plastics in general and in particular, those not widely recycled such as multilayer high barrier films, brand owners and retailers are calling for sustainable and recyclable solutions, which is influencing the mix of substrates as well as the barrier methods used for food packaging.

At the same time the prevention of food waste across the supply chain is also a major global concern. Providing a sufficient barrier against gases, aromas and flavours is imperative for the prevention of food waste, product loss in the supply chain and for maintaining food security.

When provided with sufficient barriers, flexible films offer food manufacturers and retailers fantastic benefits for prolonging shelf-life, protecting product quality and easier transport and distribution thanks to their light weight, clarity and strength.

Other consumer trends helping to drive the market include health and wellness. Consumers seeking healthier food products are increasingly opting for fewer preservatives and additives. High barrier packaging films provide an alternative way to preserve the food and avoid the use of such ingredients.

Film extruders and converters are investing in high barrier film technologies to capitalise on value-added options in an otherwise steady market for regular films where some categories are suffering from overcapacity.

The costs of capital investment in high barrier films are coming down, making the market more accessible for those seeking to enter. This will help to drive demand but will also drive down the cost of films.

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