Plastic sacks now account for over half of all sacks used in industrial
packaging in Europe and are set to make significant inroads into markets
which up to now have mainly used paper such as cement, pet food and
food ingredients, as per a report by Applied Market Information Ltd. The
industry has been undergoing a period of significant change driven by
an increased competitive dynamic at the customer level, new developments
in resin technology and restructuring of European supply. Opportunities
but also challenges arise for the plastic sack manufacturers who strive
to keep and expand their market share.
Total demand for plastic heavy duty sacks in Europe during 2011 was
estimated at just over 5,200 million units or just under 600,000 tons.
In unit terms plastic sacks now account for over half of all sacks used
in Europe. While share is forecast to continue growing market growth has
been slowing due to:
• Relative maturity of the market.
• Increasing use of big bags, FIBCs and bulk deliveries due to consolidation within the sectors downstream in the industry.
• Ongoing downgauging trends where still feasible.
The most significant growth has been, and continues to be, in the form
fill & seal sector (FFS), which now represents 70% of plastic heavy
duty sack usage, followed by a 24% share held by open mouth sacks and 6%
share held by valve sacks. The share of FFS material is expected to
increase in future thanks to the processing and economic benefits it
offers, while valve sacks at some point may all but disappear from the
market. Open mouth sacks are likely to maintain a relatively stable
The largest end use applications for plastic heavy duty sacks are
chemicals & fertilizers and horticultural products accounting for
just over 30% and 20% of the market respectively. Although these will
continue driving the market in volume terms, the end uses with the
fastest growing potential are now applications which have been the
traditional strongholds of paper sacks including cementitious products
and food ingredients (such as flour, milk powder or sugar). These have
already seen some shift from paper sacks to plastic and thanks to
developments in technology, special closure sack systems and advanced
film formulations this trend is forecast to be much more profound in the
next five years.
The markets are mainly in Germany, Benelux and the UK which take the
lead in plastic industrial sack consumption and together account for
almost a half of the total European market. While the West European
countries will drive the consumption of sacks in tonnage terms, in fact
it is Central and Eastern Europe which will have the fastest recorded
annual growth rates over the next five years, where penetration levels
are much lower
LDPE was traditionally the major resin used in the production of heavy
duty sacks, however, its use is now in decline, while LLDPE, especially
C6 and C8 grades and metallocene resins have been increasing owing to
the enhanced performance that these resin grades offer. Thanks to much
research and development in resin and technology but also the need for
cost cutting and rationalization during the years of the economic crisis
between 2008 and 2010, the average thickness of plastic heavy duty
sacks has reduced by around 5% between 2009 and 2011. Although it is
increasingly difficult to further down gauge film used for sacks the
industry will continue to strive for more advanced technologies e.g.
pre-stretching (such as MDO) and ever improving film formulations to
allow the use of as little plastic as possible so that heavy duty sacks
becomes lighter, thinner and therefore more environmentally friendly.
Given the strong competition between sack types and the changing
industry structure, all stages of the supply chain require a strong
level of commitment to the business in order to develop successful
strategies. Heavy duty sacks, made of both plastic and paper, have
recorded rapid growth in the past two decades. As the market has been
reaching maturity, the pace of growth, however, has slowed down
significantly, first for paper sacks and in recent years also for
plastic industrial sacks.