The changing face of packaging

With consumer patterns changing throughout the continent, it is inevitable that the demand for more practical and region appropriate packaging will rise.
In the Population Reference Bureau (2012): 2012 World Population Data study conducted in 2012, it is indicated that Africa’s population is expected to grow from 809 million in 2011 to 1,700 million by 2050. The middle class alone is anticipated to grow by 75 million from 32 million people in 2009 to an expected 107 million in 2030. W
ith a growing middle class come various changes, amongst others would be the change in dietary preferences. Speaking at the food & drink technology Africa conference this year, Martina Claus of VDMA, a machinery for the processing of vegetable raw material company, explained the changing consumption patterns, “Milk, eggs and meat (Beef, mutton and pork) have definitely gained popularity and are anticipated to continue being the popular choices. Consumer expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages between 2004 and 2013 have increased by +250% in Nigeria, +133% in South Africa and by +230% in Kenya. So this is a definite contributing factor to the type of packaging innovation.”
Shawn Henning of BMI Research explained the current packaging market, the growing trends and the decline of certain applications. According to the BMI study, paper and board sector volume grew by 3.4% in 2013 with the main growth contributors being corrugated and cores and tubes growing by 3.5% and 9.9% respectively. The growth of quick service restaurants contributed to the recorded carton board growth. Says Henning: “The rapid growth of fast food culture in South Africa is definitely fuelling the demand for folding carbon and paper. Paper sacks declined slightly by 0.2% from last year as they continued to compete with plastic sacks and other flexible plastic packaging for volume share.” This view is supported by Kiril Dimitrov, Woolworths Foods packaging manager. “There is a rise of single person households. This simply means that a person is looking to economise yet experience the convenience of having ready to go meals. Our present day consumers want increasing ease and accessibility, they want to save resources such as time, energy and effort while decreasing their frustration levels.” Dimitrov furthermore explains that factors such as portion sizing, ergonomic sizing and designs, easy-to-dispense and/or open as well as functionalities like being able to re-close and reseal the product along with the product being microwaveable and ovenable are currently driving the packaging design market. “New on our shelves is the Woolworths ‘Easy to Cook’ packaging developed for convenience, using flexible material: it is portion sized, microwaveable & ovenable, keeps the seafood and sauces separate, sealed in two compartments. The central dividing seal has been designed to rupture in a controlled way, allowing the contents to mix during cooking. It also has a second vent in the main compartment which opens to maintain right pressure in the bag, and seals only open at certain temperatures so food is cooked to absolute perfection in just a few minutes. This is the art of convenience that consumers want.”
Total plastic (both rigids and flexibles) packaging grew by 2.5% in 2013, the study revealed. Flexible plastic however is growing at a higher rate than rigid plastic. “Packed product and packaging imports slowed down in this period indirectly affecting local production growth. Imports, however, are expected to maintain a presence in the future due to international production of certain grades that are not manufactured locally,” explains Henning. A case study was done on the Woolworths honey PET bottle where the bottle was redesigned to an ergonomic shape which made dispensing easier and was simpler to open and was re-closable. “Both options were available on our shelves for a set period and through the consumer choices it was evident that the new ergonomic design is preferred.”
The BMI research furthermore showed that metals showed the largest tonnage decline compared to other packaging markets. According to Henning, food cans, the most common usage for metals have declined due to packed product imports and supressed fishing quotas and substitution. Drums lost share to other packaging types such as plastic. Says Henning, “Although it may seem that there is an increase of beverage cans on the market with some ciders like Savannah and the Hunters range from Distell introducing their can ranges, in the bigger market overview beverage cans have dropped by 8% as most of these metal cans are replaced by aluminium cans. The metal industry is expected to decline further until the conversion to aluminium is complete in 2015, then it is forecast to stabilise.” Dimitrov adds that increasing consumer awareness of sustainability could be contributing to the fall off of metal as a packaging choice. “Sustainability concerns will dominate packaging innovation agenda over cost factors. Plant based renewable resins (PLA, PET, PE, PP, etc.) are becoming available and will start to be used for packaging in future. Glass, like metals, will come under further pressure of substitution with plastic. “This industry however is expected to recover as Nampak will be launching a glass bottle furnace in Roodekop, Gauteng,” says Henning.  Flexible formats, says Dimitrov, will continue to replace rigid structures while light weight and cost-effectiveness will give way in importance to renewable and recyclable materials.
“Overall the industry has seen an increase in number of units produced, though total tonnage produced is under pressure as alternate packaging materials that are light in weight are used. The South African economy is struggling and consumer spending is under pressure with living cost increases, which have put the packaging industry under pressure as different materials compete for market and volume share. The local packaging industry is expected to have mixed results in the future with continued increases for some sectors while others, like metal, may decline in volume production for the short to medium term,” Henning concludes.
– Kgaogelo Mamabolo

BMI Research tel +27 11 615 7000; www.bmi.co.za
Woolworths SA tel +27 21 407 9111;  www.woolworths.co.za
VDMA tel: +49 69 66 03-19 31; www.vdma.org