Run the numbers: what's in it for packaged drinks in 2018

15 December 2017

Data underpins strategy, and provides a benchmark for performance and direction for investors and companies. GlobalData helps Beverage Packaging Innovation review the year in figures and anticipate what’s in store for 2018.

The first part of this article takes a look at the data that shows what materials are being used to package drinks. The second part is from GlobalData’s Wisdom analytics database, and provides volume information by market segment.

Materials information is covered in the table, below. Although there is an option to source the data in millions of litres – the metric used for beverage forecasts – the more meaningful metric of millions of pack units has been used. In this case, a packaging unit is the single individual pack in its smallest form.

This tracks how many products are going to be in the market, and the different sizes and portions in each segment should balance each other out; a 33, 70 and 197cl bottle of wine would each be a single pack unit, though they hold drastically different volumes.

Rigid plastics will continue to dominate, in terms of volume and growth, with a projected 4.50% increase in 2018. The ubiquitous material is continually finding new markets such as wine, beer and milk to move into, and will continue to be the biggest market and platform for innovation.

The biggest growth is expected to be in milk alternatives, where an astounding 10% growth rate has been forecast. Water will also anjoy healthy growth in 2018.

Size isn’t everything, as the 3.73% increase in the ‘other’ category shows. While microscopic compared with the key materials, the need for engaging packaging, tracking and tracing, and shelf differentiation are driving an evolution in packaging materials and hybrid structures. Expect to see this market continue to grow; while the volume might be small at present, its future looks assured.

Paper and board (3.71%) and flexible packaging (3.25%) command attention as the next-highest performers. Again, they are not the biggest markets by volume; in fact, even combined they are smaller than glass or metal packaging. They are also less recyclable than glass or metal – and yet consumer demand for them remains strong.

Heavily metal

Metal and glass are the two slowest growth markets (1.87 and 1.67% respectively), but their high volumes make that growth significant. As the EU and other regions continue to move towards a circular economy, and brands keep faith with glass and metal as the best materials to support this seismic change, these figures may increase as we approach the changeover from 2018–19, unless a means of increasing global plastic recycling rates can be found.

The table, right, takes us to the beverage forecast. The leader by far is hot tea, which accounts for 22.4% of all drinks by volume, an astonishing figure.

The next highest by volume is packaged water at 12.76%, just over half that of tea. While there is an increase forecast for next year in tea, it will still account for an almost identical amount of the market, making it a major market by volume, but also one that is very mature and slow-moving.

The biggest growth is expected to be in milk alternatives, where an astounding 10% growth rate has been forecast. Water – packaged (5.58%) and flavoured (5.55%) – will also enjoy healthy growth in 2018. The demand for milk alternatives, such as soy or almond-based products, is being driven by a combination of health-conscious lifestyle trends and the increasing popularity of veganism. There are a couple of worrying losses on the horizon – in juices and sake, for example – but most other segments will grow.

Overall, the methods by which we quench are thirst will continue to provide numerous opportunities for innovation in materials and packaging.

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