Why 2021 is the key year for industrial packaging

Picture: freepik I wirestock

2021 will be a key year for industrial packaging. The sector will be shaped by a growing demand for sustainable packaging (and a lot of pent-up demand), a global circular economy policy and the application of technology to packaging. We show you facts and figures, trends and drivers, difficulties and developments.


2021 will be a key year for the industrial packaging sector. The dominant influencing factors include:

  • A growing demand for sustainable packaging. The sector has a lot of catching up to do here.
  • Global policy and regulatory activities to enforce a circular economy.
  • The application of technology to packaging.

We show you facts and figures, trends and drivers, difficulties and developments.


Facts about the sector

  • According to data from Global Data, industrial packaging in Europe accounts for only about 0.7 per cent of all packaging in terms of units. The market is growing at a projected 2.7 per cent CAGR. FCMG packaging accounts for the lion’s share of the total packaging market at over 95%.

Industrial packaging

In millions of units 2020 CAGR ’20-’23
Europe Total 8.422 +2,7 %
GER Total 1.828

+3,2 %


  • The biggest players are Grief Inc, Mondi PLC, Amcor Limited, Westrock Company and Berry Global.


in US$ million 2020 CAGR ’20-’23
Europe Total 18.004 +1,8%
GER Drums 830 +5,0%
GER IBCs 626 +5,0%
GER Sacks 963 +2,3%
GER Pails 538 +2,7%
GER Crates/Totes 964 +2,6%
GER Total 3.922 +3,4%


A number of quite different trends can be identified in the industrial packaging sector. These include

  • A growing sensibility about environmental issues and regulatory pressure in the context of sustainability and the circular economy.
  • Smart Packaging. These include temperature sensor labels, chip and radio labels and packaging for automated handling.
  • Reconditioning of barrels: Metal drums of 200 liters or more can be reconditioned 3-10 times, i.e. recycled for reuse. Smaller sizes are not worth the effort. Plastic drums are already worthwhile from 30 litres. They can be reconditioned as often as you like during their five-year lifespan. The CO2 savings are 36-60 per cent, with IBCs even 67 per cent.
  • Downgauging is the process of saving material and weight. For example, about the introduction of multilayer paper bags.
  • Meta-Pail. The Meta-Pail is a semi-rigid, vacuum-formed plastic bucket insert with a hermetically sealed and laminated film lid. This is housed in an eight-sided corrugated cardboard container. Advantages of the solution: it uses less packaging and is about 60 per cent lighter than a plastic bucket. The reduction in CO2 emissions amounts to 52 per cent.



Drivers of the sector include the following

  • a booming construction industry,
  • growth in the food and beverage industry,
  • the increase in international trade and
  • an increasing demand for sustainable packaging solutions. The sector has a lot of catching up to do, especially from a sustainability perspective, as it has not been in the focus of politics and the public in recent decades.



Among the hurdles that the sector is increasingly facing are

  • Strict regulations for volatile organic compounds
  • New legislation regarding recyclability
  • Growing environmental concerns of the population
  • Bottlenecks in the raw material supply chains



Industry 4.0, blockchain, but also other aspects of digitalisation are factors with growing importance for the sector.

  • Industry 4.0, for example, is about seamless traceability and transparency in the supply chain.
  • Danone, meanwhile, is using blockchain decentralised data technology, originally developed for trading cryptocurrencies, to track its baby food.
  • The focus is also on the digitalisation of administrative processes. The goal here is to achieve the most complete process control possible in the supply chains.


Finding the right key

The industrial packaging sector has received little public attention in the last ten years. On the one hand, this has to do with the small market share compared to FMCG packaging.

Above all, however, the sector has not been in the public eye. The dynamically growing climate and environmental debate is changing that. Companies in the sector should therefore prepare themselves. But there is more at stake than “just” sustainability. The advancing digitalisation will also give birth to winners and losers. 2021 will be a key year.

    You have questions about this article?

    Avatar photo

    Your contact person

    Karsten Beutner
    +49 30 / 367 524-25