The drive sustainable products presents growth, challenges for meat and poultry processors and packaging companies.
“The global meat market has been estimated to grow by 3.5 percent in terms of volume in 2015 over 2014,” says Nandini Roy of Future Market Insights.

As the world becomes figuratively smaller, with expanding economies and increasingly interconnected markets, the term “earth-friendly packaging” can mean many things, according to a new study from Future Market Insights (FMI), a UK-based provider of syndicated and custom research reports and consulting services with US offices in Valley Cottage, NY. From advancing countries to shifting demographics in established markets to the drive for sustainable materials, global trends pose both opportunities and challenges for meat and poultry processors and packaging companies.

Released this month, FMI’s forward-thinking report, “Meat Packaging Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025,” reveals dynamics around the world, analyzing the overall market as well as breaking it down by region and country.

From an overall perspective, FMI’s research shows that demand for meat packaging is strong and likely to continue to grow over the next several years.

“The global meat packaging market has been estimated to grow by 3.5 percent in terms of volume in 2015 over 2014. Average growth rate over the last five years was 3.2 percent,” reports Nandini Roy, an analyst in FMI’s food and beverages department.

According to Roy, that continual uptick is fueled by a variety of factors. “Gain in the industry is expected to be driven by improved growth in the processed meat industry along with accelerated foodservice revenue growth,” she says.

Demand for meat – and packaging

The study confirms burgeoning consumption of meat and an accompanying increase in production to meet demand in certain parts of the world, including developing economies of India, Russia, Brazil and China.

“With the emergence of various geographies as a single market and improved economic conditions in emerging markets, demand for raw and processed food products, including meat, is certainly high as compared to the last few years,” Roy remarks. “Looking at the numbers, around 320 million metric tons of meat is the annual average meat production worldwide, with leading meat-producing countries such as India, Australia, Brazil and the US engaged in large-scale exports.”

Packaged meat aisle
Demand for flexible packaging is expected to outpace rigid packaging, due to increasing demand for pouches and high barrier film.

As meat and poultry consumption rises, so does the need for packaging.

“Increasing demand for meat and meat products catalyzed several allied industries such as meat packaging,” Roy says. “Both of the industries – meat production and meat packaging – hold synchronous relation and, thus, participants in the meat packaging industry are optimistic about market conditions.”

One area of change in meat packaging is tied to shelf life.

“With a growing global consumer base, rising environmental issues and increasing health awareness among consumers, meat packaging today demands longer shelf life, along with enhanced focus on quality and safety in line with international standards,” Roy says.

A different kind of consumer base is also driving trends in meat packaging in the near and longer-term future, according to the FMI study.

“Demographic trends such as small size of households, increasing elderly population and large number of households with all adults working are expected to strengthen demand for single-portion and smaller-sized products, as well as convenience-oriented products in the US and developing countries such as India, China and Brazil,” Roy adds.

Small- and single-serve flexible packaging will remain appealing, too, because such formats are typically more cost-effective, a key consideration at a time when consumer spending in many European countries has declined and remains uncertain amid current global economic conditions.

“Also, demand for smaller packaging is expected to be supported by an increasing presence of case-ready and modified atmosphere packaging to extend shelf life of fresh meat and poultry,” Roy notes.

On that point, advances in packaging technology allow for greater shelf life and a greater variety of packaging sizes and formats and will likely continue to be developed and used through 2025. According to FMI’s report, demand for flexible packaging is expected to outpace rigid packaging, due to increasing demand for pouches and high barrier film. Stand-up pouches are expected to be in high demand for processed meat applications, due to their ability to stand upright, good aesthetics and large front panels. Among rigid packaging products, demand for plastic containers will be propelled by an increasing presence of prepared meat products in warehouse clubs, supermarkets and retail sites.

More ‘active’

FMI’s researchers also foresee a greater move to active packaging from passive packaging.

“Active packaging technology and equipment provides means to modify and enhance product quality and shelf life,” Roy says. “Adoption of new technologies, such as nano-enabled technology, vacuum skin packaging and CO-MAP packaging, is expected to be a crucial factor to meet demands for environmentally sustainable and hygiene meat packaging.”

New packaging technologies open the door for a variety of benefits, she adds.

“With adoption of new and intelligent packaging solutions, consumers can gain access to more detailed information about the packaged meat. Technologies such as vacuum-skin packaging and CO-MAP can offer lucrative opportunities for fresh meat exports, offering meat packaging companies greater sales flexibility,” Roy points out.

While meat processors and packaging suppliers work to develop packages that provide more of the attributes consumers around the world want, the going isn’t always easy, given some of the challenges involved in creating packages that are simultaneously protective, attractive, informative and more environmentally friendly (or at least less environmentally impactful).

“Rising consumer awareness regarding sustainable packaging necessitates a shift to environmentally friendly materials and innovations that require significant investments in R&D activities and development of related infrastructure,” Roy states.

There is a cost to innovations and changing consumer habits worldwide, too. According to Roy, rising prices of raw materials, particularly plastic resin, and increasing regulatory compliance are creating pressure on the industry’s bottom line.

To navigate challenges, packaging companies are and will continue to seek solutions in their own enterprises, from investing in their product portfolios to expanding their global presence.

“Key players such as DuPont, Crown Holding and Toyo Seikan Group are focusing on mergers and acquisitions to strengthen end-to-end efficiency of their businesses,” Roy says.

At home, a high demand for case-ready

Breaking down the global meat packaging environment, there are some national and regional trends of note, according to Future Market Insights’ (FMI) new meat study, “Meat Packaging Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025.”

According to the report, North America remains the largest market for meat packaging, followed by Europe. The FMI study predicts that developed markets in North America and Europe are expected to exhibit a faster growth rate by 2025.

Nandini Roy, an analyst in FMI’s food and beverages department, underscores some of the distinct characteristics of the US and Europe markets.

“Meat producers in the US and Europe are more aggressive in this arena, while those based in Asia and other emerging markets are lagging in terms of technology adoption,” she points out.

That said, there are some differences between America and Europe when it comes to meat packaging preferences and trends.

“In Europe, demand for stand-up pouches is gaining traction, while the US market is characterized by high demand for case-ready packaging,” Roy notes. Another difference is the use of smaller portion sizes in the UK, which are often tailored for singles, couples or at most two couples.

Europe offers a certain potential for case-ready packaging. “In Europe, ‘back-store’ meat using stretch overwrap is prevalent as compared to centrally prepared meat. New technologies such as vacuum skin packaging and carbon monoxide modified atmosphere packaging are expected to lengthen the window of opportunity for fresh meat packaging in Europe,” Roy says.

Even with some of its recent fiscal woes, China is expected to be a growth area for meat packaging, due to a rise in personal income, according to FMI’s findings.