Additives and barrier coatings in plastic packaging – trends and growth forecasts

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oxygen Meal

Global demand for functional additives and barrier coatings for plastic packaging is forecast to grow by 4.3 per cent in the five years from 2009 to reach US$752m by 2014, according to Pira International.

The packaging consultants said growth in barrier coatings at 4.6 per cent annually would marginally outstrip that of functional additives at 3.9 per cent. Neverthess the combined 4.3 per cent growth rate is still “much higher”​ than the predicted growth in the packaging market, added Pira in its report The Future of Functional Additives and Barrier Coatings for Plastic Packaging to 2014.

The market segments with the best development prospects are epoxy, silicon oxide (SiOx), carbon and PVOH coatings and antifog and antimicrobial additives. Food packaging currently accounts for 62 per cent of this sector, with the snack food, confectionery, beverage and baked products highlighted as the largest end-users.

The study focuses on packaging technologies that control the permeation of gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as water vapours, flavours and aromas through plastic packaging.

Trends influencing growth

The global recession in the last 18 months has served to dampen demand for these products. While sales of basic food and beverage remained largely unaffected by the downturn, products requiring more sophisticated packaging such as snack foods, confectionery and ready meals “have suffered a drop in sales” ​which had had “a negative impact on the demand for functional additives and barrier coatings”, ​said report author David Platt.

However, there will be greater demand for barrier-coated PET bottle from the beer industry due to developing technology and reduced costs. The growth in smaller bottles, which have a higher surface area per unit and therefore need enhanced barrier properties will also boost demand, he added.

Greater activity of retail chains in developing markets is also forecast to push up demand for packaged foods using barrier coatings.

Sustainability issues and the drive towards lightweighting is also one likely driver towards increased use of functional additives. Barrier coating take up is predicted to increase due to the “relative ease of recycling as opposed to older technologies such as multilayer bottles”.​ The report also predicts they could be increasingly used “to replace more energy-intensive packaging materials such as metal and glass”.

Changing lifestyles and the increased demand for smaller packs, ready meals and frozen foods is also pinpointed as demand driver.

Up and coming technologies

The report pinpoints the development of melamine coatings over the next five years as having the potential to “bring a major breakthrough in transparent polymer barrier films for food and pharmaceutical packaging”.​ Physical vapour deposition of melamine on polymer film can lead to well-defined organic layers with a higher oxygen barrier, said the report author.

The development of sustainable biodegradable barrier coatings is also highlighted, with the report declaring they could “be an alternative to ordinary barrier coatings such as ethylene-vinyl alcohol (EVOH)”.

The study lists a range of high performance films aliphatic polyketones, liquid crystal polymers (LCPs) and polyacrylic acid (PAA) as well as polyether ether ketone (PEEK).

Aliphatic polyketones are being developed with barrier properties comparable to EVOH but have less sensitive to humidity. LCP packaging film is relatively expensive, but the material quantities can be much lower than with EVOH, said the report. LCPs are typically used in applications that require excellent oxygen barrier at high humidity, such as medical packaging, retort pouches, boil-in-bag and bag-in-box systems, frozen food packaging, food trays and lids.

The Future of Functional Additives and Barrier Coatings for Plastic Packaging to 2014 is available from Pira International priced ₤3,750

Related topics Food safety & quality

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