Featuring 148 tables and 79 figures – available in Excel and Powerpoint!
This report includes data from 2011-2031 in 5 year intervals and tables featuring year-by-year data for 2018-2025.
This Freedonia industry study analyzes the $9 billion global IBC industry. It presents historical demand data (2011, 2016 and 2021) and forecasts (2026 and 2031) by type (rigid, flexible), and market (chemicals and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, agricultural products, plastic/rubber/fiber products, durable goods, other). The study also evaluates discusses leading suppliers including Armando Alvarez, AUER, Brambles, Greif, Mauser Packaging Solutions,
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Global demand for intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) is projected to increase 4.2% per year to $11.0 billion in 2026, a faster rate than for bulk packaging as a whole during this period. As the world's manufacturing economies continue to develop, more users will opt for IBCs, which present larger upfront costs but offer functional advantages and long term cost savings that justify the larger initial expenditures.
RIBCs Will Lead Growth, but FIBCs Will Also Offer Substantial Opportunities
Rigid IBCs can be used for both liquids and dry flowable products. This versatility, among other performance advantages, will continue to contribute to their larger absolute gains through 2026. However, flexible IBCsâ€™ lower cost will allow them to remain competitive in applications for which they are suitable, which include flowable powders (such as bulk food and pharmaceutical ingredients) as well as mined materials and other mineral products.
Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Drive Advances, While Smaller Outlets Support Growth
Chemicals and pharmaceuticals will remain the largest applications for RIBCs and FIBCs, accounting for nearly 60% of IBC demand in 2026. These applications frequently rely on reusable containers like IBCs for use in closed-loop systems, which reduces both costs and the threat of cross-contamination by the previous container's contents. However, some smaller applications - like FIBCs used to ship plastic pellets and RIBCs used for bulk agricultural products - will register stronger growth.
Both IBC Types to Benefit From Sustainability Efforts
Both FIBCs and RIBCs can be reused, which makes them attractive to users attempting to improve their sustainability postures through reduced reliance on single-use packaging. In closed systems, IBCs can be used repeatedly; increased investment in reconditioning programs can reduce overall packaging expenditures. In addition, their shape and stackability allow for more efficient use of space during transport, reducing both shipping and energy costs.
Historical Market Trends
The bulk packaging industry in general – and the IBC segment in particular – rely heavily on trends in economic growth and manufacturing activity, with demand generally tracking manufacturers’ shipments:
Some large nondurable goods markets – such as food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products – are necessities and demand tends to be less cyclical.
Other nondurables – such as industrial chemicals, rubber, paints and coatings, and adhesives – are more sensitive to economic swings due to their extensive usage in the cyclical industrial, automotive, and construction markets.
Construction activity and durable goods production levels also affect demand for IBCs.
Environmental and regulatory considerations are important factors in the larger packaging industry, especially in developed areas of the world (e.g., the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia such as Japan and Taiwan). Since packaging largely consists of single-use, disposable items, public awareness has grown regarding solid waste disposal problems. Discarded packaging not only clogs landfills, but also accounts for a large share of roadside litter. As a result, demand has grown for packaging that is perceived as “environmentally friendly” or sustainable. That includes packaging that is:
biodegradable and/or compostable
made with recycled content
fabricated from reduced quantities of materials
seen as “natural”
While consumer packaging has received most of the attention regarding environmental concerns, bulk packaging products, including IBCs, have not been completely exempt from this scrutiny.
While a large portion of product competition in the bulk packaging market is from other bulk packaging products (e.g., IBCs compete with drums, large pails, and bulk boxes in certain applications), IBCs also face competition from other shipping containers. In terms of markets:
The chemical and pharmaceuticals market utilizes many liquid ingredients, and these can be transported in tanker trucks or metal tanks instead of in RIBCs. Food and beverage production and the agricultural goods markets also utilize large amounts of liquid ingredients. While tanker trucks can contain up to six separate compartments, it is possible to transport a larger number of different liquids using bulk packaging such as RIBCs.
Dry ingredients can be shipped in cans, bottles, jars, and other rigid packaging. However, these containers can be more costly than bulk packaging (such as IBCs) and generate more waste.
Reconditioned & Refurbished Packaging
The use of reconditioned and refurbished packaging is much more prevalent in bulk packaging applications than consumer packaging. RIBCs and FIBCs are among the most reused bulk packaging products, along with plastic and steel drums.
Currently, many producers in the rigid bulk packaging industry handle recycling internally or utilize firms that specialize in the collection and reconditioning of steel and plastic IBCs. The use of reconditioned IBCs reduces disposal costs and operating expenses.
Reconditioning services are viewed by IBC producers as a logical added-revenue stream because they enable producers to meet broader ranges of customer needs, which is particularly important for retaining customers who wish to deal with fewer suppliers.