The top 5 innovation activities in the packaging industry

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We show you which areas of innovation in the packaging sector are leading the way in terms of R&D activities and what the outlook is. We also name the most important players in terms of patent diversity, geographical reach and variety of applications. In focus: 3D printing of cellulose fibres, biodegradable packaging films (bio-based), multilayer barrier films, plastic recycling and waterproof organic paper.


Patents as a basis

According to a technology foresight by GlobalData, there are more than 30 areas of innovation that will shape the future of the industry. The corresponding S-curve for the packaging industry (representing relevant cumulative data over time) is created using innovation intensity modelling based on over 77,000 patents.

Patents are a good indicator of innovation fields in which a lot of brainpower and R&D investments are being channelled.


Clear direction

In addition to plastics recycling, the top areas of innovation based on patent applications include four “emerging” fields of innovation that are still at a relatively early stage of application and should be monitored closely.

What quickly becomes apparent is that the packaging industry is clearly moving in the direction of renewable raw materials and recycling.


Top 5: Waterproof organic paper

Even if waterproof organic paper may not be the first thing that comes to mind, it is an important area of innovation in packaging.

  • Waterproof organic paper is a type of paper that has been treated or coated in such a way that it is resistant to water absorption. As a result, water can no longer penetrate the paper fibres. This opens up numerous fields of application that require water resistance.
  • The material offers a waterproof solution that is also biodegradable.
  • Waterproof organic paper can be used in packaging for a variety of products, including food, cosmetics and personal care items.
  • Outlook: Waterproof organic paper will become increasingly popular in the coming years. An important driver is the sustainability pressure on the packaging industry. Here, for example, the material can offer options for substituting plastic or composites.
  • The leading patent applicant is Stora Enso. Other important players include International Paper, delfortgroup and Clariant.
  • PulPac leads the field in terms of application diversity, followed by Tokyo Ink and OrganoClick in second and third place.
  • Clariant leads the field in terms of geographical reach, followed by Yagna and delfortgroup.


Top 4: Plastic recycling

Innovations relating to the recycling of plastic have long played an important role in the packaging sector.

  • Plastic recycling refers to a process in which plastic waste is collected, sorted, cleaned and then converted into new products or raw materials.
  • Recycling allows plastics to be reused, which reduces dependence on landfill, conserves resources and protects the environment from plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There are various recycling processes, including mechanical recycling, chemical recycling and energy recovery.
  • Outlook: The recycling of plastics will be of the utmost importance in the coming years, as both companies and consumers are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint in the interests of climate and environmental protection. National and European legislation, which stipulates minimum recyclate utilisation quotas among other things, is also a key driver.
  • Krones is the leading patent applicant in the field of plastics recycling. Saperatec, Procter & Gamble, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and Mankiewicz are important players in the area of resealable packaging.
  • Coca-Cola is the front runner in terms of application diversity. It is followed by E. Khashoggi Industries and Colgate-Palmolive.
  • Smart Planet Technologies and Saperatec lead in terms of geographical reach, followed by Avient and Mankiewicz.


Top 3: Multilayer barrier films

Multilayer barrier films are an important area of innovation in the packaging sector, particularly for food, beverages and pharmaceuticals.

  • Multilayer barrier films consist of several layers of different materials, with each layer fulfilling a specific task.
  • The films are designed to provide a high level of protection and barrier properties for the packaged product.
  • They are used in various sectors, for example in the food and beverage industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the electronics sector.
  • Their main tasks include extending the shelf life of products, preventing contamination and maintaining product quality.
  • Outlook: Multilayer barrier films are expected to continue to gain in attractiveness as they offer improved product protection, extended shelf life and versatile application possibilities. The key drivers here are also the evolving requirements of consumers and the industry. Sustainable and efficient packaging solutions that fulfil strict safety regulations are in demand.
  • The leading patent applicant for multilayer barrier films is Dai Nippo Printing. Other top players are Toppan, Zhejiang Goldstone Packing, Kuraray, Resonac and Unitika.
  • The Mitsubishi Chemical Group leads the field in terms of application diversity. Roland DG and DIC follow in second and third place.
  • Roland DG leads in terms of geographical reach, followed by Samsung and T&K Toka.


Top 2: Biodegradable packaging films

Biodegradable packaging films are an important area of innovation in the industry.

  • Biodegradable packaging films are films or materials that are used for packaging and can decompose into natural components in the environment without causing damage.
  • The films are usually made from natural materials such as starch, cellulose and various biodegradable polymers.
  • They can be used for various packaging applications, including food packaging and consumer goods.
  • Outlook: The demand for biodegradable packaging films is driven by their ability to provide effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging solutions. This makes them a solution to the changing needs of consumers, businesses and regulators.
  • The leading patent applicant for biodegradable packaging films is Novamont. Other important players are Polymateria, TIPA, CCL Industries, Corbion and Huhtamaki. CCL Industries recently announced an investment of $70 million to increase its capacity for sustainable films with a low resin content.
  • TIPA leads the field in terms of application diversity. CCL Industries and 3M follow.
  • TIPA is also the leader in terms of geographical reach, followed by CCL Industries and Polymateria.


Top 1: 3D printing of cellulose fibres

The 3D printing of cellulose fibres is an important area of innovation for packaging and a key component in 3D printing processes.

  • Cellulose is a renewable and biodegradable material. It is often found in the form of nanocellulose, a light and strong material obtained from plant fibres.
  • Cellulose is mixed with other materials to produce bioinks or filaments.
  • These materials can then be used in 3D printers to produce a variety of objects.
  • Outlook: Cellulose fibre 3D printing will gain popularity in various industries due to its sustainability and versatility. As environmental concerns continue to change consumer behaviour and industry practices, the technology is expected to play an important role in sustainable manufacturing and product design.
  • The leading patent applicant in the field of 3D printing of cellulose fibres is the Finnish technology company Tutkimuskeskus VTT. Other important patent applicants are Kao, Konica Minolta, Seiko Epson, Arkema and CelLink.
  • The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich is the leader in terms of application diversity. Spiderwort and Franklin Electric follow in second and third place.
  • Kao takes first place in terms of geographical reach. It is followed by CelLink and Wilh.

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