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Demand for hot fill packaging for food is forecast to increase 1.2% annually to $2.6 billion in 2026, sustained by the ongoing popularity of hot fill packaging for sauces and condiments. However, hot fill packaging will grow at a slow rate and will continue to lose share to aseptic packaging, which affords multiple benefits over hot fill processing, the most important of which is shorter heating times that minimize the impact of thermal processing of flavor, texture, and nutrition.
Hot Fill Packaging Demand for Sauces & Condiments to See Strongest Growth
Sauces and condiments – the largest application for hot fill packaging – is expected to experience relatively healthy gains through 2026 as foodservice revenues continue to rise following a sharp, pandemic-related decline in 2020. Bag-in-box and cups will grow at an above average rate due to their strong performance properties and convenience. Gains will further be supported by the increasing popularity of specialty and ethnic sauces at the retail level.
Plastic Continues to Offer the Best Opportunities Among Packaging Materials
Despite being the leading material used in the production of hot fill packaging, plastic will continue to take share from glass and metal packaging, due to its lower weight and lower cost. Plastic will also benefit from the development of more sustainable products with higher recycled content, as well as technological improvements that facilitate the hot filling process. Oriented polypropylene (OPP) will see particularly good growth due to its high heat capability, light weight, improved clarity, and growing cost competitiveness compared to traditionally used polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Demand by Material
Food packaging can be produced from a variety of materials, and the choice of material impacts not only packaging cost and performance but also product image and corporate sustainability efforts. Hot fill food packaging is primarily made from plastic, although glass also remains relatively significant. Plastic is used to make bottles, jars, and pouches, the dominant hot fill packaging formats.
Demand for hot fill food packaging is forecast to rise 1.2% per year to $2.6 billion in 2026. Cost, performance, and sustainability will continue to be the most significant factors driving packaging material choice in the food market, as packaging producers and end users alike continue to search for the optimal combination of these characteristics to maximize market share and profitability.
All packaging materials have strengths and weaknesses based on their production processes (including raw material and energy usage), performance, weight, appearance, durability, and sustainability (recyclability, use of recycled content, biodegradability, and compostability). In addition, for consumer-facing food products, product differentiation efforts can further shift trends in packaging material usage as food marketers strive to catch consumer attention in a crowded and competitive marketplace:
- Plastic, primarily PET, will remain the most used material in hot fill food packaging applications – despite efforts to reduce single-use plastic consumption – due to its generally low cost, good performance, and the development of more sustainable products with higher recycled content.
- Glass and metal packaging will continue to register below average growth as they lose market share to lower cost and/or better performing packaging types. However, glass has niche applications that will see respectable growth and support continuing material usage.
Historical Market Trends
Shifts in demand for food packaging from year to year are determined by a number of factors, primarily related to the production and marketing of food products. These activities in turn are influenced by:
- demographic trends such as age, average household size, and levels of disposable income
- consumer spending on food and the balance between at-home and away-from-home meals
- food preferences (e.g., demand for enhanced convenience or for organic products)
- restaurant and other foodservice industry trends
In addition, a number of competitive variables determine the mix of packaging types used and their cost, including:
- raw material and conversion costs
- changes in the mix of foods being packaged, particularly in terms of food format (canned, dried, frozen, fresh)
- trends in packaging size and format, such as shifts toward smaller single-serving packages, family-size units, or multipacks
- the proportion of food that is sold via retail channels versus foodservice establishments
- environmental and regulatory factors, including trends such as source reduction, the use of recycled content, and recyclability
Demand growth for hot fill packaging in 2020 increased due to a shift in product mix toward more packaging-intensive retail foods as consumers cooked and ate more frequently at home. However, this increase was partly offset by declining sales of foodservice packaging due to the extensive disruption in the foodservice industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was followed by nearly flat growth in 2021 as consumers reverted to their normal shopping habits, causing declines in key retail sectors such as juices, processed fruits and vegetables, and sauces. This decline was somewhat mitigated by the recovery of the food service industry.