Market & Industry Review

The aseptic carton market for liquid food and beverages is fuelled by fundamental industry and consumer trends.

  • 7.3 bn

    people with access to processed food

  • 70 %

    lower carbon footprint than other substrates

  • > 10 k

    products packed by SIG

  • 49 %

    of cartons recycled in Europe

Growing demand for packaged food

Safe and affordable packaging solutions are required to serve the growing middle class in developing markets.

The number of people with access to packaged food is growing faster than the overall global population. At the same time, the average spend per person on packaged food is rising. With more people able to consume a little more every day, global spend on packaged food is expected to rise at a cagr of 2.4% per annum1 over the next ten years.

The choice of packaged food is to a large extent determined by consumers’ disposable income. In developing markets, households typically switch from loose milk and beverages to processed or packaged products when they reach an annual income above $5,0002. Aseptic carton as an affordable and safe solution caters to the needs of these rising consumers. Subsequently, as people move into higher income classes, they shift towards higher value or premium food and beverage categories.

Driven by these demographic trends and by consumer behaviour, aseptic carton volumes – currently around 92 billion litres – are expected to grow at a rate well above the total food packaging market and above other forms of ambient packaging.

image of suupermarket

The number of people with access to packaged food is growing faster than the overall global population. At the same time, the average spend per person on packaged food is rising.

Efficient and safe supply chain

Manufacturers need efficient packaging technology and safe supply chains with the transparency increasingly expected by consumers who demand assurances on product origin and quality. Low waste rates – as afforded by SIG’s filling technology – are essential, especially for companies filling premium products such as fruit-based juices or plant-based milks containing valuable nuts and grains.

Products packed aseptically – in other words using the Ultra High Temperature (UHT) process – are heated at a high temperature for two to four seconds and are then immediately cooled before being poured into sterilised packs. They have a longer shelf life – up to 12 months – compared with other forms of packaging. Aseptic carton packaging offers a high level of protection against air and light, so that nutrients, vitamins and taste are protected, maintaining the product’s natural goodness. It is the most cost-efficient packaging solution in most pack sizes for a wide range of liquid dairy and non-carbonated soft drinks.

Demanding consumers

Innovative packaging and filling solutions are required to meet demand for on-the-go consumption, differentiation and convenience. Consumers’ desire for continuous variety is resulting in a proliferation of SKUs. SIG’s sleeve-fed filling system enables food and beverage companies to respond to rapid changes in demand by providing a high level of flexibility in terms of fast change-over times between carton sizes and shapes.

Our technology is enabling both our customers and ourselves to drive growth beyond the traditional liquid dairy and non-carbonated soft drinks segments. Following key food and beverage product trends, we continue to penetrate fast-growing, premium-priced categories such as plant-based dairy alternatives, dairy- or juice-based drinkable snacks and breakfasts, warm or hot on-the-go drinks, flavoured or functional waters, protein or sports drinks and nutraceuticals.

In developing markets, affordability is a key requisite. Carton provides a lightweight affordable option and SIG’s filling flexibility enables customers to respond rapidly to changes in market demand and purchasing power – for example by shifting to smaller sizes at the right price.

Sustainability and going green

Sustainability issues are today at the forefront of public attention and influence people’s perception of every industry. As the impact of packaging on the environment is increasingly monitored by regulators, NGOs, brand owners and consumers, there is a compelling need for sustainable solutions.

Aseptic cartons are among the most ecologically sound packaging solutions for liquid food and beverages. They are made primarily from renewable resources – meaning pulp that is replenished through sustainable forest management. The aseptic carton industry today produces 40% more cartons from the same amount of wood as used 20 years ago. This reflects improvements in processing and advances in the carton structure, including light-weighting.

By eliminating the need for refrigerated transport and storage, aseptic cartons reduce CO2 emissions. Overall, the total carbon footprint of our cartons is up to 70% lower than other types of packaging.

Cartons are fully recyclable and already have a recycling rate in Europe of 49%3. Recycling infrastructure and collection are key, and SIG and the industry work intensively to drive progress in these areas.

1Source: United Nations, Euromonitor, company information.

2Source: Euromonitor, company information.

3Source: The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the environment.