2018 was a watershed year for mergers and acquisitions in the global flexible packaging sector, with Amcor’s $6.8 billion all-stock purchase of US-based Bemis set to shape the industry for years to come.

Says Wood Mackenzie Chemicals’ ‘Global Flexible Packaging Market Overview’, both Europe and North America has seen acquisitions of regional significance in the purchases made by Schur Flexibles and Transcontinental, respectively.

“As the saying goes, it’s quality and not quantity that matters. 2018 won’t stand out for the number of M&A deals but rather the significance of transactions that did take place,” said Wood Mackenzie Chemicals Research analyst, Robert Gilfillan.

China now accounts for approximately 15 per cent of the $90bn global flexible packaging market. “How will the reported slowdown in the Chinese economy, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding US-China trade tariffs, impact the world’s second largest flexible packaging market? Will the country’s relatively low consumption per capita offer a potential opportunity for growth? And with China’s plastics waste ban creating a domino effect in South East Asia, how are Western nations responding to sustaability pressures without an obvious export market? These are all important questions that will shape the flexible packaging market throughout 2019,” continued Gilfillan.

Recent focus on sustainability, and the inherent difficulties in recycling flexible packaging, has brought the industry and its products into the glare of the mainstream global media. Sustainability is a global issue, necessitating co-ordinated global action, but how are individual national legislatures and transnational bodies responding to calls for new laws and regulations on flexible packaging?

“Europe is currently leading the way in its approach to handling plastics packaging waste. A comprehensive new law that has recently come into effect in Germany, as well as new taxes in France and the UK, are a few examples of how member states are falling in line with the European Union’s directive on hitting more ambitious packaging waste recyclability targets. As a high consumption per capita region, Europe is setting a trend for other regions to follow,” he concluded.