Thermoforming, a manufacturing process that transforms a plastic sheet into a 3-dimensional shape using heat, vacuum and pressure, is experiencing an increase in demand due to its outstanding features such as transparency, sealing, shatter-resistant nature and lightweight design. As a result, it has become an excellent choice for packaging products ranging from fresh fruit and salads, to grass fed and various other items. Rising demand for ready-to-eat products is expected to drive significant growth in the global thermoform packaging market, which is estimated to grow at a rate of more than 6% by 2025.
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Advantages of thermoforming
Thermoforming offers several benefits that set it apart from other forms of forming. These advantages include:
- Multiple finished parts from a single material: Thermoforming allows the production of multiple finished parts from a single piece of plastic material, increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
- Early detection of design flaws: Thermoforming allows early detection of potential design and fit defects, saving time and money during the manufacturing process.
- Versatility with large numbers of parts: It is very useful when working with large numbers of parts, making it an ideal choice for mass production.
The growing demand for packaged food products drives the growth of the market
Thermoformed packaging finds its most common application in the food industry. It meets a wide range of food-related needs, including meat trays, microwave and freezer containers, ice cream and margarine tubs, food tubs, food tubs, bakery and pastry packaging, sandwich packs and vending cups, among others. Moreover, it is used for non-food purposes such as production of sorting trays, blister packaging and display trays at the point of sale.
The growing trend of on-the-go food consumption, contactless manufacturing practices, changing e-commerce delivery methods and preference for sophisticated packaging are contributing to significant growth in the thermoform packaging market. As online platforms gain increasing popularity, companies like Takeaway.com, Ele.me, Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd., and Doordash are expanding their pickup and delivery options, further driving demand for thermoformed products in the foodservice sector. The cost-effectiveness, lightweight design and high aesthetic appeal of thermoform packaging make it a preferred choice for packaged food manufacturers. Additionally, its ability to provide extended shelf life for food products increases its appeal in demanding applications.
Increase in middle class income and convenience preferences Market growth
Rising incomes of the middle class and a growing preference for convenience are the major factors driving the demand for thermoform packaging in the food & beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. Thermoform packaging offers benefits such as ease of use, extended shelf life and high adaptability to the food and beverage industry. In the pharmaceutical sector, the versatility, reliability and excellent transparency of thermoforming blister products are gaining traction. These factors are expected to drive the demand for thermoformed packaging in the near future.
PET continues to lead the market
Among the various types of materials, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) holds a major share in the global market. PET is favored over other materials due to its competitive cost, low greenhouse gas emissions, transparency and excellent recyclability. It can withstand mechanical loads, external abrasion and changing environmental conditions, making it an ideal choice for thermoform packaging. Poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) is expected to witness the fastest gains over the forecast period, owing to its excellent oxygen barrier properties and economic advantages. Various other materials such as HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene), PC (Polycarbonate), PP (Polypropylene), RPET (Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate) and TPO (Thermoplastic PolyOlefin) are also used for thermoforming packaging, depending on the specific requirements.
Clamshell and bubble wrap show strong growth
The oyster shell product category is expected to witness significant growth from 2021 to 2025. With high aesthetic appeal, ease of use, and versatility, oyster shells are gaining popularity in the food and beverage industry, especially for product display. Bubbles, on the other hand, find wide use in the pharmaceutical, personal care and electronics industries due to their ability to provide high integrity and extended shelf life for products.
North America dominates, while Asia Pacific shows high growth potential
In terms of regions, North America is leading the global thermoform packaging market, driven by the presence of key players such as Anchor Packaging Inc., Sonoco Products Company, and D&W Fine Pack, along with extensive research and development activities. Meanwhile, Asia Pacific is expected to witness high growth in the coming years, driven by increasing urbanization, rising middle-class population, and growing demand for packaged food products in countries such as India, China, and Japan.
Major players embrace strategic alliances
Key players in the thermoform packaging market, including Amcor PLC, Sonoco Products Company, Placon Corp., Neven-Lemmens Plastics NV and Display Pack, Inc., are constantly innovating and expanding their product offerings. New product launches and mergers and acquisitions are common strategies adopted by these players. For example, Sonoco Products Company recently completed the acquisition of Thermoform Engineered Quality, LLC and Plastique Holdings, LTD, consolidating its position as a global manufacturer of thermoformed packaging products for the healthcare, medical and consumer sectors.
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