Trends in meat, poultry and seafood packaging

Food Production Daily
By Rory Harrington, 04-May-2011

An ongoing shift to case ready packaging and the growth of value-added features in packs are two factors forecast to boost US demand for meat, poultry and seafood packaging to US$9.2bn by 2015, said a new report.

Market analysts The Freedonia Group added that flexible packaging growth would outstrip its rigid counterpart – with gains bolstered by increasing demands for high barrier films to prolong shelf life. Added-value features that preserve quality and promote ease of opening and consumer convenience will also drive growth.

Overall demand for meat, poultry and seafood packaging will grow by 3.2 per cent per annum in the period, said the Cleveland-based body.

Case ready and flexible packaging

Analyst Joe Iorillo told FoodProductionDaily.com that the continuing shift to case-ready packs had been growing over much of the last decade, driven mainly by Wal-Mart’s transition to the format in 2001.

“Case-ready packaging is valued by retailers because it eliminates in-store labour costs associated with meat cutting and packaging,” he said. “It also improves food safety, because the meat is handled fewer times between processing and retail display, and case-ready packaging is also advantageous to processors because it provides the opportunity for national branding.”

Flexible packaging will continue to outpace rigid formats – growing at 3.7 per cent annually to be worth $3.7bn by the end of 2015. This compares to rigid packaging’s 2.5 per cent per year – but this sector will still be worth $5bn.

Convenience

Flexible growth will be spurred by increased demand for high barrier films for case-ready packaging – which require value-added materials to extend shelf and protect product during transport and storage, said the report Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging.

Value-added features include elements such as zipper closures in bags and pouches; easy-opening features on certain bags; high barrier films and containers for extended shelf-life requirements on flexible packs. In the rigid segment corrugated boxes with recyclable coatings and other packaging features that increase convenience and improve storage capabilities for the consumer or processor are further examples.

“Many of these value-added features will become increasingly important in the years ahead because consumers are constantly drawn to packaging that makes food preparation easier and faster, or enables unused portions to be stored efficiently,” said Iorillo.

He added: “Consumers typically have much less time to devote to meal preparation, so packaging suppliers have responded by developing packaging innovations that make meat, poultry and seafood products easier to use and store.”

Birds Eye’s Bake Perfect pouch, which allows frozen seafood to be cooked directly in-pack without additional preparation and Portion Pull bags from Cryovac are two good examples he said.

Among flexibles, pouch demand will be driven by increased inroads by retort pouches into the traditional can market and healthy gains for stand up pouches in frozen meat, poultry and seafood applications because of their resealability properties.

Rigid packaging

The less dynamic prospects in rigid packaging reflect maturity in large corrugated boxes and “minimal advances” in metal cans, said the analyst.

But plastic containers performance will be fuelled by growth in prepared meat and poultry – again driven by convenience trends from consumers – and predicted to increase by 6.8 per cent to almost $330m by the end of 2015. Demand for plastic lunch meat tubs and continued use of plastic containers in the ready-to-eat prepared foods sector will drive gains, said the analyst.

Increasing use of more expensive bio-based plastics in the segment will lead to value gains.

Accessories and ready-to-eat

Packaging accessories – such as labels, absorbent pads, netting, tape and tags – is forecast to grow by 2.8 per cent a year to $465m in the period. This jump will be supported by regulatory requirements for nutrition information and country-of-origin labels on meat and poultry packs.

In the ready-to-eat market, packaging demand will rise 5.1 per cent per year by 2015 to $410m – particularly for poultry but increasingly for ribs and pork. Plastic containers are widely used for this although some retailers are adopting flexible packaging such as pouches in an effort to improve their environmental image, said Iorillo.

Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging is available from The Freedonia Institute price US$4,500