A new focus on safety of the food supply chain in China over the spread of COVID-19 may increase demand for flexible plastic packaging in the country, according to an industry watcher.
"The coronavirus outbreak is reportedly thought to have started at a wholesale seafood and meat market in Wuhan," Brendan Connell-French, a research associate at Wood Mackenzie, the global energy and chemicals research and consultancy group, said in a March 4 news release. "These 'wet markets' can be a breeding ground for the spread of animal-borne diseases and viruses. In response to the risk, the Chinese government is reportedly considering a change to meat handling and distribution practices, and tighter regulations could lie ahead."
Increased use of flexible packaging for fresh and processed meats and seafoods in China could make a difference in reducing the risk of future virus outbreaks, he said, by improving sterilization, tracing and recall and extending shelf life.
"However, wet markets are an integral part of Chinese life. Local preference for freshly butchered meat won't evaporate overnight, even with a strong government stance," Connell-French said. "But while the likelihood of wholesale changes in purchasing habits remains low, a public health crisis of the nature and magnitude of the coronavirus outbreak could spark a change in tastes and preferences."
Because Chinese use of flexible packaging for fresh and processed meat and seafood is so low, even a subtle shift of production to larger corporations with more packaging used in distribution could have an impact on growth, he said.
"The coronavirus outbreak could stimulate a redesign of wet markets and start to alter the landscape for fresh meat and its distribution," Connell-French said.