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European flex-pack market: Dynamic, developing, decisive




By Mark A. Spaulding 
The European flexible-packaging field is dynamic, developing, and decisive as a resource-efficient format, according to Jan Homan, chairman of Flexible Packaging Europe. He gave his annual continent-wide update last Wednesday at the Flexible Packaging Assn. Annual Meeting in Naples, FL.
Overall, the European flex-pack market was up 2.1% to $15.8 billion in 2017. The FPE defines flexible packaging as primarily value-added materials for primary retail and non-food end-use applications. It excludes shrink and stretch films for secondary-packaging apps, carrier bags, supermarket shopping bags and self-serve counter bags. Consequently, its numbers seem lower than they should be compared to the US market, especially for a region with 28 countries and 511 million consumers.
Some Curmudgeon bullet “points of interest:”

  • The 2017 global flexible-packaging market hit $86 billion, up 4.5% over 2015; the estimated global market will reach $107 billion in 2022.
  • Western Europe held a 14% market share of global production last year, up 2.0% over 2016, and Eastern Europe a 3% share, up 2.3% over 2016.
  • Major Western European markets including Germany, France, UK, Spain and Benelux are growing at around the regional trend; Italy is growing at around 2.5% by value, slowing slightly from 2016; Turkish demand continued to grow at least 1% above the average.
  • Depreciation of the Pound Sterling following Brexit is seeing more import substitution and more UK converters targeting exports to mainland Europe. Some mainland European converters are considering establishing a UK presence for production.
  • Above-average flexible-packaging growth by value is seen in applications such as coffee, fresh produce, chilled foods/ready meals, pet food, and pharmaceuticals. Confectionery, one of the largest categories, was broadly static in terms of value.
  • As for Eastern Europe, growth is picking up to around 3% in Russia, despite some international economic sanctions. Ongoing import substitution in Russia has seen production growing faster than national consumption during the year.
  • In Poland, the market continued to grow relatively strongly at over 4% in 2017.
  • Exports out of Eastern Europe keep climbing, especially begin sent into Western Europe. More converters, particularly those in Poland, are increasingly active in exports.
  • The top five European flex-pack makers and their regional shares last year were Amcor Flexibles (19%), Constantia Flexibles (7%), Mondi Packaging (6%), Sealed Air / Cryovac (3%), and Wipak (3%). This is basically unchanged from 2015.
  • CEFLEX is a collaborative project of a European consortium of companies representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging. The Project CEFLEX Vision for a circular economy states, “By 2025, there will be an established collection, sorting, and reprocessing infrastructure/economy across Europe for flexible packaging based on end-of-life technologies and processes, which deliver the best economic and environmental outcome for a circular economy.”
  • FPE’s key sustainability messages: 1) Flex packs are resource-efficient and support sustainable consumption and production, help prevent food waste, and also packaging waste; 2) Flex packs are more resource-efficient than alternative formats, even with its currently low recycling rates; 3) Flex packs can be recycled/recovered, and this is the case now in several countries.

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