Rising 5.1 percent a year, US demand for tube and stick packaging is forecasted to hit nearly $1.8 billion in 2014, says a just-released Freedonia Group report. Overall growth in this area is expected to speed up a little from the 4.8-percent annual rate of 2004-2009, predicts the Cleveland-based market researcher.
Advances will be driven by increased production of cosmetics, toiletries and pharmaceuticals, the report says. Gains will be boosted by a recovery in the US economy, particularly improved outlooks for construction and manufacturing activity. A construction recovery (as well as the new Cash for Caulkers program) bodes well for sales of the tube cartridges used to package caulks and sealants.
The fastest gains are expected for stick packs—with demand climbing 11.8 percent annually from a small base of $15 million in 2004 to $70 million four years from now, the study says. Growth will be propelled by its advantages: product differentiation, portability and material savings versus conventional pouches or other configurations. (For example, Kraft Foods’ Crystal Light drink mixes moved from foil-lidded rigid tubs to metallized-film stick packs last year. A great source-reduction move as well as product differentiator.)
By far the largest tube/stick-pack product type, squeeze tubes made up 61 percent of value demand in 2009. Through 2014, squeeze-tube demand is predicted to rise 4.8 percent a year from $845 million in 2009 to $1.1 billion.
Plastics dominate material use for tube/stick packaging based on their light weight, relatively low cost, decorative capabilities and barrier properties. Though paper will remain a small player due to a more limited range of applications, favorable growth will be based on healthy prospects for fiberboard cartridges and the growing popularity of stick packs for single-portion dry products.
My thoughts: Per usual, the US seems to be behind the curve in this and some other packaging/container trends, but it is catching up fast. Europe and Asia have been hotbeds of stick packs for years for everything from single-serve foodservice sugars and instant coffee to OTC medications. (Flexible-packaging converters, take note: This is a great new area for expansion. Wide-web flexo printing of films and papers for downstream laminating, then slitting into finished rolls to run on vertical form-fill-seal machines is the key. Expect to see much more of this on display at Pack Expo Intl. this fall in Chicago.)