According to United Nations Environment Programme, around 36% of all plastics produced are applied in packaging, including single-use plastic containers. However, plastic pollution is a grave environmental concern, with around 85% of plastic packing ending up in landfills or as unregulated waste. The widespread plastic contamination has fostered the growth of plastic-free packaging solutions like molded pulp. Based on our estimates, the molded pulp packaging market is set to advance significantly over the forecast period 2023-2030, with a CAGR of 7.19%.
Molded pulp or molded fiber packaging has been restricted to niche segments, including egg trays. However, the growing use of various wood and non-wood pulp sources in manufacturing has expanded its application scope to various sectors, including beauty, food, and electronics. For instance, Knoll Packaging introduced its 100% Ecoform molded pulp compacts (using bamboo, wood, and sugarcane fibers) to replace conventional plastic compacts.
Consumer inclination towards greener products has dramatically increased molded fiber inclusion across multiple consumer goods industries, especially food packaging.
Sustainability Reforms Packaging Approach
Food packaging is among the major application categories in the molded pulp packaging market. Since the material is fabricated of a microporous structure enabling water absorption, its demand for perishable food packing has elevated. Moreover, its lightweight and high-strength properties have fueled its adoption for ready-to-eat meals and beverages. Plates, clamshells, cups, and bowls are widely adapted as packing solutions for various consumables, including vegetables, fruits, and juices. As per the World Economic Forum, the food industry accounts for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, which significantly drives the demand for sustainable solutions like molded pulp fibers.
Our analysis shows that Asia-Pacific leads the molded pulp packaging market globally. The rising disposable income and strategic initiatives heavily prompt the region’s growth. For instance, in March 2023, PulPac announced Nippon Molding Co Ltd as its first licensee in Japan, expanding its dry molded fiber production to Asia. Further, in April 2023, Sanofi and Haleon associated with PA Consulting and PulPac’s Bottle Collective Mission to develop a recyclable high-speed, low-cost dry molded fiber bottle production process. Such steps are thus expected to widen the scope of the studied market across the APAC region.
Technology-Driven Packaging: A Step Ahead for Molded Pulp
Advanced technologies like 3D printing have made molded pulp packaging manufacturing less energy-intensive. One such instance is HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Technology, which enables fast and advanced design and production of molder fiber in 2 weeks as opposed to 4-6 weeks via conventional methods. As per the company, the end-to-end solution helps reduce maintenance and offers mass customization capabilities.
Over the past years, manufacturing technology has advanced immensely, giving final products smoother surfaces and refined designs. This upgraded appearance has also expanded the application range of pulp packaging across healthcare, industrial, and personal care industries. Based on the premise of eliminating costly production, 3D printing further emerges as an eco-friendly manufacturing solution. This ultimately creates opportunities for molded pulp manufacturers.
E-Commerce Expansion Amplifies Molded Packaging
Online shopping trends have existed for several years. However, COVID-19 accelerated its growth, resulting in e-commerce sales surging from 16% to 19% in 2020, as per UNCTAD report. Particularly, the food delivery sector witnessed robust growth, leading to the expansion of various delivery applications, including UberEats, Postmates, and DoorDash. Since molded pulp packaging offers easy transportation and supports recycling, several e-commerce players have adopted this packaging method. Therefore, expanding online sales creates a profitable market space for molded pulp in the packaging industry.
Q1) Which are the key types in the molded pulp packaging market?
Thick wall, thermoformed, transfer, and processed as key molded types in the market.
Q2) Which are the major molded pulp manufacturers?
Genpak LLC, UFP Technologies Inc, Sabert Corporation, Eco-Products Inc, Thermoform Engineered Quality LLC, Huhtamaki OYJ, Pro-Pac Packaging Group, Brodrene Hatmann AS, Sonoco Products Company, and Fabri-Kal are major molded pulp manufacturers.