Successful packaging is about more than the materials you use

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 23, 2014 1:49 pm ET
Updated: July 23, 2014 1:55 pm ET

Image By: Jim Johnson Marla Donahue

Related to this story

Topics Packaging

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — The recent passing of poet Maya Angelou, and one of her famous quotes, got Marla Donahue thinking.

Donahue, president of the Flexible Packaging Association, gets paid to think about, promote and even protect her industry.

So when she was listening to recent National Public Radio coverage of Angelou’s death, it was only natural for her to relate what she heard to her own job.

And this particular quote from Angelou stood out: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“Well,” Donahue said during the recent Global Pouch Forum in Fort Lauderdale, “after thinking that I was thrilled that people have forgotten what I had said and done, I thought more deeply about what the message was. And as I thought about it, it occurred to me that it also applies to packaging.”

“People do not forget how packaging makes them feel. Remember how frustrated you felt when you couldn’t get that packaging open? Or how delighted you were when it actually did open, right?” she said.

“Consumers remember how that packaging makes them feel. Just ask them. Let them hear at a cocktail party that you are with packaging and you will get an earful,” she said.

And consumers, more and more every year, are being given the opportunity to feel elated or frustrated with their use of flexible packaging.

In total, the global flexible packaging market is $76 billion annually, and of that amount, North America has 28 percent of the market with 5 percent of the population, Europe has 22 percent of the market with 10 percent of the population, and the rest of the world has the other half of the market with 85 percent of the population, Donahue said.

The value of per capita consumption of flexible packaging is $22.59 in Europe, $60.60 in the North America and $6.29 in developing countries.

“So, very clearly, developing world is where huge growth opportunities are for value added flexible packaging,” she said.

In the United States, the total packaging industry is valued at $155 billion, with flexible packaging checking in at No. 2 with 18 percent of the market. Corrugated packaging leads with 23 percent, rigid plastics and bottles has 16 percent and metal cans come in at 13 percent, Donahue said. Paperboard is at 12 percent, glass at 4 percent and other materials at 14 percent.

Plastic, by far, is the preferred material for flexible packaging in the United States with 69 percent of the materials used. Paper is in second place at 15 percent, and foil is a distant third at 4 percent. The remaining 12 percent of the materials used are items such as adhesives, coatings and inks.

FPA estimates the total U.S. flexible packaging industry to be at $27.2 billion, including $21.2 billion for what Donahue calls “value added” packaging that requires multiple processes such as printing, laminating and coating.

Retail poly bags are a $2 billion annual business, consumer products including garbage bags, storage bags and wraps are worth $2.7 billion and other poly bags and wraps are worth $1.3 billion annually, she said.

In total, the flexible packaging industry employs 79,000 people these days

There are about 400 companies in the business with 950 manufacturing sites. The top five companies capture 36 percent of the market by revenue while the top 10 capture 47 percent. The top 100 have 77 percent of the revenue.

A decade ago, the industry employed 89,000 people through 650 companies and 950 manufacturing facilities.

 “So, very clearly, we’re seeing consolidation in the companies. We’re seeing efficiencies in manufacturing, which is reducing employees. But we’re seeing the same number of manufacturing facilities,” Donahue said.

Pouches, on an annual basis, are a $6.8 billion business in the United States Donahue told the pouch-centric crowd. “That’s about 25 percent of the industry in terms of dollars and materials used. And the stand-up pouch segment of the industry has grown by 277 percent since 2002 —277 percent. That’s why this room is at capacity,” she said.


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Successful packaging is about more than the materials you use

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 23, 2014 1:49 pm ET
Updated: July 23, 2014 1:55 pm ET

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