Retort Food Packaging

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Food Packaging

Demand for retort packaging for food is forecast to increase 1.7% annually to $4.7 billion in 2026. Retort will remain the largest type of thermal food processing used due to the low cost and long shelf life afforded by cans for use with soups, processed fruits and vegetables, and dinners, as well as the established nature of retort processing lines. Growth will also be supported by the increasing popularity of alternative retort packaging, such as pouches and cartons.

However, retort packaging will lose share to aseptic processing. Aseptic processing affords multiple benefits over retort processing, which requires the food product to be heated in-container for an extended period of time. The most important advantage of aseptic processing is shorter heating times, which minimizes the impact of thermal processing of flavor, texture, and nutrition.

Metal Cans to Experience Slowest Growth; Pouches & Cartons to Register Strong Gains

Metal cans – the oldest and by far largest format of retort packaging – will experience slow demand growth off of a particularly high base year. Growth will be further restrained by competition from other retort packaging formats, as well as competition from other thermal processes and fresh and frozen products. In addition, canned dairy-based foods and meat, poultry, and seafood will experience especially slow growth, due to both competition from fresh and frozen alternatives, as well as competition from retort pouches.

Pouches and cartons – currently comparatively niche retort formats – will see the strongest gains due to their premium image and lighter weight while maintaining similar shelf lives. Significant demand growth is expected for processed fruits and vegetables, broth, and condiments, which are increasingly packaged in retort pouches and cartons instead of cans.

Sustainability Concerns Spur Packaging Innovation

Sustainability continues to be a key area of concern in the packaging industry and a driving force behind breakthroughs. One of the primary issues regarding retort pouches – a popular and fast-growing segment – is their difficulty in being recycled due to their multi-material composition. To combat this, many companies have released single-material pouches that are still able to withstand the retort process and are easier to recycle, as well as increasing their use of recycled content, reducing material usage, and creating their own recycling programs.

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