Increasing consumer demands for convenient packages coupled with an industry-wide push for sustainable shelf-ready designs has the global flexible packaging market poised to eclipse the $290 billion mark by 2023, according to “Flexible Packaging Market Assessment,” a report presented by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, Reston, Va. With an estimated 3.9% CAGR, the U.S. and Canada markets are projected to achieve $44 billion.

The food industry remains the largest user of flexible packaging, accounting for nearly 50% of the circulation. With convenience as a noted driver, food figures to remain the dominant segment due to the overall rise in ready-to-eat foods, snacks and frozen meals. Two segments called out by the report as expected to grow the largest by 2023 are processed fruits and vegetables and baby food, each in flexible pouches.

In addition to convenience and sustainability, the report cites high-performance films and materials, retail-ready packaging, e-commerce and advances in flexible packaging technology as the most impactful drivers going forward.

Current trends in flexible packaging reflect widespread consumer demand for packaging that is convenient, safe and sustainable. Meanwhile, manufacturers are looking for flexible packaging to provide efficient and effective barriers for shelf-ready products. Innovations in flexible packaging are also driving changes in how consumers and retailers respond and accept products that use this packaging method.

Globally, pouches account for the biggest piece of the flexible packaging pie and are the fastest growing category, with the pillow pouch as the predominant pouch format (39%). However, retailers are pushing manufacturers toward stand-up pouches. These retail demands are leading consumer packaged goods (CPGs) companies to shift products traditionally associated with cans into pouches (e.g., sauces, soups and processed meat).

Innovative dispensing functions and easy-open features like snap-seal tops and press-to-close zippers are also helping move products from age-old packages into flexible pouches.