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Sustainable packaging fuels growth and innovation in specialty papers

Demand for more greener packaging is aligning with innovation in industrial applications to future drive sales of specialty papers, according to the latest Smithers research.

Data from its new study – The Future of Specialty Papers to 2028 – show production of these engineered premium paper grades will reach 26.52 million tons in 2023, up from 24.23 million tons in 2018. Despite challenging economic conditions in several core markets, an overall positive growth trajectory is forecast by Smithers expert data modelling. Consumption of specialty papers is forecast to increase at a +2.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) across 2023-2028, adding an extra 2.97 million tons of demand, globally, over the five-year period.

The specialty paper market remains febrile, recent changes in paper sales patterns, in particular declining demand for office and printing grades, has seen several graphic paper assets retooled to make specialty grades. Modern papermaking innovations allow these to produce specialty grades on larger, more efficient paper machines, threatening the margins of smaller established specialist paper converters.

To accurately map the shifts in this diverse sector, the Smithers market analysis examines and quantifies demand across 43 distinct specialty paper segments.

The growth outlook is especially positive in the packaging segment. Single-use plastic legislation is combining with policies of brands owners and food-service business to introduce more sustainable, fiber-based products. This is leading to increased sales of flexible packaging and C1S grades, especially those with functional barrier coatings. Luxury brands are equally looking to adopt a greener profile in packaging, but without abandoning premium appearance or textures. This is stimulating sales of more decorative packaging papers and those optimized to carry high-quality printed graphics and decorative effects.

These factors will see packaging and CS1 grades account for nearly a third of the increased consumption Smithers forecasts for 2023-2028.

Smithers analysis detects similar increases for specialty labelstocks and paper release liners. With consumption increasing from 5.92 million tons to 6.54 million tons across 2023-2028. There are also positive signs of a recovery in demand for specialty printing papers, although this will largely be confined to thermal print compatible grades.

For many of the technical applications examined by Smithers, consumption of specialty papers will be determined by the broader economic outlook. With innovation and installations of new power generation, transport, and storage equipment bolstering demand for electrical insulation, cabling, and battery papers.

As markets complete their recovery from Covid-19 disruption, the relatively small industrial filtration segment is recovering strongly, with a +3.8% CAGR forecast to 2028. A post-pandemic recovery of vehicle sales is also fostering a revival in interest in automotive filtration papers.

Several segments are declining, however. Noticeably demand for currency and cheque papers will continue to be constrained by the increased popularity of electrical payments and bank transfers.

The Future of Specialty Papers to 2028 combines expert analysis with authoritative data forecasts for 43 different specialty grades:

  • Décor: Wallpaper, Coverings
  • Flexible packaging: Metallizing base, Waxing base, Laminating base, Machine-glazed, Greaseproof, Parchment, Twisting paper
  • C1S packaging
  • Printing labels: Labels, Specialty uncoated, Labels, Specialty C1S, Release liners
  • Printing: Cover latex saturated and non-latex, Photography, Thermal paper, Binders board, Fine art, Opaque lightweight
  • Filtration: Automotive/engine, Coffee, Tea, Industrial, Laboratory
  • Electrical: Insulation, Battery component, Cable
  • Security: Currency, Cheques, Tickets, Postage stamps
  • Others specialty: Glassine, Tracing, Synthetic, Cigarette, Creped decorative, Gift wrap.

This is segmented by geographic region and major end-use markets:

  • Western Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Spain, UK, Other Western Europe
  • Eastern Europe: Russia, Poland, Other Eastern Europe
  • Middle East & Africa: Turkey, Other Middle East & Africa
  • North America: US, Other North America
  • South & Central America: Brazil, Other South & Central America
  • Asia-Pacific: China, India, Japan, Other Asia-Pacific.

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