Keeping up with consumer preferences and brand needs is critical for converters to remain competitive. In that vein, one trend that continues to manifest itself is the demand for lighter packaging in the food and beverage industries.

The plastics industry can help brands effectively meet this growing need because of the practical characteristics of plastics. For instance, plastics are much lighter than many other options for packing, storing, and hauling food. Plastic can deliver the same amount of beverage as glass weighing 20 times as much, steel four times the weight, and aluminum that’s 50% heavier.1

Sustainability Goals Drive Demand

Lightweight plastic packaging offers much greater efficiency than alternative, and heavier, options. Less weight for packaging can provide benefits and higher ROI across the entire product spectrum, from converters to brands and then consumers.

Since there’s less mass, lighter packaging products require less energy to produce. That saves energy costs for converters. Lower-weight packaging also reduces manufacturing and transport costs in getting those products to brands.

"40% more energy is expended when transporting beverages in heavy containers like glass bottles as compared to lighter materials like plastic. That can quintuple transit costs per bottle.2"

Flexible packaging is an example of the efficiencies created through lighter weight. Flexible pouches used in place of more traditional tray packs for foodstuffs require fewer packaging components and less work in packing products. It takes up less space in warehouses. And there’s a lower cost to market since lighter loads equal lower shipping costs. More lightweight packaging with less mass also results in less waste at the consumer end.

Consumer Experience Factors In As Well

It isn't just sustainability driving a growing consumer preference for lighter packaging. Such containers can also reduce product waste and improve the user experience.

Let’s look at flexible packaging again. Less rigid and transparent containers can be easier for consumers to handle, and showcase the product itself. It can also eliminate the need to use and clean extra utensils in trying to extract foodstuffs from more rigid containers, and thereby minimize food waste.

For example, J.M. Smuckers Co. and Hormel Foods in 2020 introduced squeeze peanut butter pouches for their Jif and Skippy brands, respectively. Both brands touted the end of “peanut butter knuckles,” where people get the spread on their hands while reaching to scrape out the last bit of peanut butter out of a rigid bottle, in place of leaving some product behind.3

How Shell Polymers Can Help

Businesses looking to keep up to date with the latest developments and thinking in the industry can lean on Shell’s Polymer Pioneers and Pros as a resource. Our resident experts are at the forefront of change, staying abreast of the latest industry developments and leading trade associations and certification bodies.

“Food packaging, which is the largest market segment, is constantly changing. The major brands are increasingly moving away from foam polystyrene trays with plastic overwrap,” among other changes, says Dan Falla, Senior Technical Service Engineer, Film, for Shell Polymers. “New opportunities are emerging all the time.”

With a collective 750 years of industry experience, our team is committed to sharing insights with customers to unlock a business edge. That’s because Shell Polymers wants to be more than just a supplier. We want to help you grow your business by being at the forefront of opportunity.


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