Canadian Packaging

European Plastic Bottle Industry Looking Good


July 13, 2010
by Canadian Packaging Staff

Substantial opportunities for the further penetration of plastic bottles in European packaging markets have been identified by Applied Market Information Ltd., in its latest research project. In its report on “Growth opportunities for blow moulded bottles in Europe”, AMI researchers found plenty of reason for blow molders to be optimistic – especially those in PET. The latent potential for PET barrier bottles in beer, wine and milk is believed to be equivalent to the current size of the carbonated soft drinks (CSD) market for PET bottles which was just under 1 million tonnes for 2009.
 
Glass has reached its limits in terms of light weighting and there is growing doubt at its ability to evolve with market needs. The growing emphasis on the carbon footprint of packaging supply and end of life management will prove a compelling competitive advantage for plastic packaging. In particular, PET will present an increasingly persuasive case in terms of sustainability, technical performance and aesthetics gaining increased access to applications hitherto unavailable to it. AMI forecasts demand for plastic bottles (under five litres) will continue to grow at over two per cent a year for the next five years, largely driven by the growth in PET packaging.
 
The potential in beer and alcoholic drinks is highlighted by the low penetration achieved to date with plastic bottles estimated by AMI to account for just seven per cent of the packaging in these markets. However there is a growing interest in and acceptance of PET for beer and other alcoholic drinks driven by improved economics of bottle production compared to glass, its favorable LCA and the growing emphasis on pack weight reduction.
 
Other opportunities are expected to emerge in food markets, where plastic bottles have yet to make a major impact constrained by the hot filling and retort technology used to package products and the high speed filling lines that already exist for jars, cans and cartons. However, plastic bottles are expected to be able to make penetration gains over the next few years thanks to growing investment in aseptic cold filling, improved barrier monolayer PET bottles and the sustainability argument. For example, jam in PET is well established in the U.S. and Europe is expected to see an increasing number of introductions in squeezable PET bottles over the next five years.

Highest penetration has been achieved in the mineral water and household chemicals markets where the penetration is in excess of 90 per cent. In these markets the trends are more about inter-material competition with growing volumes of recycled PET being used in mineral water bottles and growing use of PET bottles in household chemicals packaging thanks to a reduction in the price point of PET versus HDPE and a growing preference for clear packaging to display the product.
 
However, while growth prospects may be promising, the business remains challenging for raw material suppliers and converters alike in Europe. The forward focus for fillers is resource-efficient supply, driving the market toward on-site manufacturing options be it HTW (hole-through-the-wall), self manufacture or blowmolding of preforms.  This is limiting the ability of traditional converters to add value, while for European resin suppliers this is mainly a commodity business increasingly threatened by cheaper Asian and Middle East imports.
 
 “Growth opportunities for blowmolded bottles in Europe” is a detailed multi-client report available from AMI. For further information please contact Carole Kluth: cmk@amiplastics.com.