A trio of new studies from The Freedonia Group analyze market prospects for three types of packaging that are expected to see a boost amid spiking e-commerce orders amid the coronavirus pandemic:
- protective mailers
- bubble packaging
- insulated packaging containers and shippers
These products are used in e-commerce applications for their protective properties, which are especially needed for products – such as cleaning supplies, pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, and perishable food items – that consumers were more likely to buy in person pre-pandemic, but are increasingly buying online now due to voluntary social distancing and mandatory stay-at-home orders.
The acceleration of these e-commerce trends are likely to hold beyond the pandemic: The more accustomed consumers grow to going online for these types of purchases, the likelier they will be to continue doing so in the future, and suggest it to family and friends.
Highlighted below are some of the key e-commerce trends affecting these packaging markets:
Protective Mailers to See the Fastest Growth of the Three Packaging Types
Demand for protective mailers is projected to increase 5.0% annually to $1.3 billion in 2024, supported by continued robust growth in online sales and gains in the total number of packages shipped. (By comparison, manufacturing markets will register more moderate growth, as US manufacturing is not expanding at nearly the rate of e-commerce activity.)
Protective mailers offer a number of advantages over competitive products, including:
- lighter weight than boxes, which reduces postage and shipping costs
- lower cost than boxes or other shipping containers
- self-contained protective components such as bubble linings or pulp, eliminating the need for separate protective materials
- reduced tape-purchasing requirements, since they are usually self-sealing
The near-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on protective mailer demand will be a boost in retail segments in which e-commerce’s share has heretofore been small, such as personal care items and nonperishable foods. Protective mailers will also continue to see use with nondurable manufactured products due to the essential nature of items such as hygiene products, pharmaceuticals, and cleaning products, many of which require protection to prevent cracks and spillage during shipment.
Despite Increasing Competition, Bubble Packaging to See Healthy Growth
Demand for bubble packaging is forecast to increase 4.0% per year to $847 million in 2024. In addition to strong e-commerce sales growth and the increasing number of parcels shipped, sales gains will be driven by:
- key product advantages of bubble packaging, including its competitive cost structure, reduced messiness (compared to loose fill), and ability to be used with smaller packages
- the development of innovative bubble packaging products, such as onsite inflatable and recyclable types
Like protective mailers, bubble packaging is seeing increased use amid the pandemic for the shipment of essential nondurable goods such as hygiene products, pharmaceuticals, and cleaning supplies. However, a number of factors will continue to limit faster growth for bubble packaging, including:
- strong competition from protective mailers, which feature the protective properties of bubble packaging in a more convenient, all-in-one format
- increasing use of air pillows in place of bubble packaging, with air pillows’ share of the market expected to continue to increase through 2024, especially at bubble packaging’s expense
- right-sizing trends reducing void fill requirements per e-commerce order
Insulated Shipping Containers Get Boost from Resurging Consumer Interest in Meal Kits
Through 2024, demand for insulated packaging containers and shippers is forecast to increase 3.5% per year to $945 million. Advances will be driven primarily by trends in the dominant pharmaceuticals and medical supplies markets, particularly growing demand for protective packaging solutions for high-value specialty drugs – such as medicines for cancers and vaccines for infectious diseases – that require temperature controls throughout the supply chain to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Compared to bubble packaging and protective mailers, e-commerce accounts for much smaller share of insulated packaging container and shipper demand. Nevertheless, the resurgence of meal kits – demand for which was on the wane pre-pandemic – as well as the rapid growth in online sales of other perishable groceries are driving strong growth in e-commerce sales of insulated shipping containers:
- Many packages containing fresh and frozen items require good insulation during shipping, (e.g., packages are often left outdoors until the intended recipient arrives home).
- However, in these applications insulated shipping containers will continue to face competition from more sustainable protective packaging alternatives such as insulated liners and reusable shipping containers.
Want to Learn More?
Protective Mailers, Bubble Packaging, and Insulated Packaging Containers & Shippers are now available from The Freedonia Group.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.