Functional additives and barrier coatings are used across a wide range of food, beverages and non-food packaging markets. Food is by far the largest end-use sector for functional demand growth additives and barrier coatings in plastic packaging, accounting for a projected share of just over 60% of market value in 2016. The ‘other human food’ category (ready meals, baby food, soups & sauces and cooking oils), fresh food and savoury snacks are the leading end-use markets states Smithers Pira’s report The Future of Functional Additives and Barrier Coatings for Plastic Packaging to 2021.
Savoury snack foods
Bags and pouches, predominantly form-fill-seal packs, dominate the savoury snacks market. Next are folding cartons and paperboard tubes, used mainly for premium products. Pillow pouches dominate the potato crisp sector and flat pouches are the most widely used pack type for nuts and other savoury snacks.
Snack foods have the largest share of the metallised films market, followed by dried foods. Metallised films are also used to package baked products, confectionery, dairy products, frozen foods and hot beverages. Aluminium is most commonly used for metallisation, because of its cost-effectiveness. Gold, silver, tin, copper, nickel and zinc have been used for specific applications. Printed opaque structures that mimic a paper look are also growing in popularity for premium savoury snacks. There are also opportunities for clear barrier films to enter the market and take share from metallised films.
For several years, oxide-coated films have been commonly used as food packaging in Japan, mainly on microwavable stand-up pouches (SUP). Oxide-coated films are finding growing use in applications including lids for modified atmospheric packaging (MAP) for refrigerated products such as meat, snack foods, confectionery, microwavable food pouches, pet food, pharmaceuticals and medical packaging.
Silicon oxide is a barrier coating with excellent barrier properties. It is also transparent, retortable and recyclable. The silicon oxide bonds to the plastic substrate to create a coating that blocks the passage of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapour and flavour. The coating may not adhere well or uniformly to all surfaces and could cause cracking and brittleness. SiOx is the only oxide with food packaging approval that is suitable for thermal evaporation. SiOx-coated films can be used for a wide variety of products. Non-retort applications include processed meat lidding, snacks, confectionery and cosmetics.
In 2015, the global market for functional additives and barrier coatings in savoury snacks was valued at $217.9 million. Going forward, the market is forecast to grow at an average rate of 3.6% per annum over the period 2016–21, reaching $270.2 million. Demand for nuts has been static in recent years and sales of potato chips have fallen in developed markets, partly due to health concerns, but there has been strong growth in other savoury snacks such as tortilla chips. The potato crisp market is starting to regain momentum with the development of new and exotic flavours; there are growing sales of so-called ‘real’ crisps, targeted at the premium adult segment. These premium brands adopt premium packaging, often a laminate of paper and metal.
The confectionery market can be subdivided into three broad categories: chocolate, sugar confectionery and gum. Chocolate accounts for the majority of global confectionery demand by value, followed by sugar and then gum. Some typical confectionery pack types are flow wrap, vertical form-fill-seal bags, roll wrap, twist wrap and stand-up pouches (SUP). Where longer shelf life is required, the package should have a barrier layer against oxygen, light, oil and moisture, to prevent loss of crispness. PE is a good barrier to moisture and oil seepage, but is less effective as a barrier to light or air.
Acrylic coatings can be applied to plastics as water emulsions or solvent solutions. Due to their good adhesion, acrylics are often applied to materials with low surface energy such as oriented polypropylene (OPP). Unfortunately, acrylic coatings have lower barrier properties than many other barrier resins, such as EVOH. Because of their adhesion and physical surface characteristics, they are mainly used as a protective coating or functional primer for less permeable barrier coatings.
Acrylic emulsion coatings are somewhat sensitive to moisture and generally have to be protected from the environment. Solvent-based acrylic coatings are, however, much less sensitive to moisture than water emulsions. PVdC/acrylic is a common combination on an OPP base film. Acrylic coatings on BOPP film keep in product aromas and keep out environmental odours. Chocolate confectionery is by far the largest end-use sector for acrylic-coated plastic packaging. Acrylic/BOPP is one of the most widely used barrier materials for chocolate confectionery, which is extremely sensitive to odour.
In 2015, the global market for functional additives and barrier coatings in confectionery was valued at $157.9 million. Acrylics is the largest market, but has seen the slowest growth in recent years. The fastest growing markets include SiOx and AlOx.
Going forward, these are set to continue among the fastest growing markets, although metallised films are also set to grow at an equally strong rate. The overall market is forecast to grow at an average rate of 4.8% per annum over the period 2016–21, reaching $208.6 million.