It takes no more than elementary school math to deduce that if the U.S. food industry continues to maintain steady upward growth, the need for more food packaging also increases.

Respondents to the 2016 Food Packaging Trends & Advances Study confirm food packaging follows the growth of the food industry itself, but they were quick to note packaging is also affected by the demands of retailers and consumers, food manufacturing challenges in distribution or production and changes in regulations or technology.

Commissioned by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technology, the new study estimates the U.S. food packaging market will mature at a rate of 2.9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2022, to $31.7 billion. Of the markets researched, only meat and related products and the snack market appear poised to outpace the industry average. These two segments are expected to grow at more than 3 percent as the movement toward single-serve and convenience options increase the pace.

In meat and related products, food manufacturers are seeking new packaging options for one- to two-person households and convenient, pre-cooked, case-ready meats. These options create new opportunities for new packages, new materials and new closures. New films are in development to keep meat fresher longer while active labels that sense expired meat continue to appear on the market.

The largest packaging trend directly affecting meat packaging according to the study is an increase of plastic (both flexible and rigid) and the use of reclosable or resealable packaging. This is opening the door for more form/fill/seal machinery in the meat and poultry sectors as pouches become more familiar. These flexible packages offer a better shelf presence than traditional meat packaging as well as user-friendly open/close, zipper packages.

In many cases, the industry is getting ideas on resealable closures and pouches from the medical and industrial markets. This was the type of cross-pollination PMMI and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), had in mind when it added Pharma EXPO to the PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows in 2014.

Now in its third iteration, PACK EXPO International 2016 and Pharma EXPO (Nov. 6–9; McCormick Place, Chicago) will address trends and spotlight solutions across industries. With more than 2,300 exhibitors targeted to make this year’s show the largest in its more than 60-year history, it would be impossible to reveal here all the opportunities for meat and poultry producers to find viable solutions among the event’s more than 40 vertical markets.

As an example, PMMI’s 2015 PACK EXPO Las Vegas Trend Report described Presto Products’ reclosable slider zippers for flexible packs of medical marijuana. The Appleton, Wis.-based company found success in this niche market with its Child-Guard reclosable slider zipper but attended PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2015 and Pharma EXPO with bigger markets in mind. Presto was one of the many exhibitors looking to take its product into different product categories, recognizing resealable closures add convenience and extend the shelf life of meat and related products. NP