Food-safe printing inks to grow faster than the food packaging market

foodprintinginks1-inFood packaging will grow at a faster rate than the overall packaging market from 2016 to 2021, at a 3% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) in real value and print area. Food-safe inks will also grow at a fast rate in the coming years, as pressure from brand owners and regulators sees them adopted in larger amounts of food packaging, according to marketing research firm Smithers Pira. Special food-grade inks are increasingly used in printing for food packaging to ensure that there is no contamination of the products when they’re used correctly, thereby ensuring food safety. Smithers Pira’s new report – The Future of Printing for Food Packaging to 2021 – reported that in 2016, the market was over 250,000 tonnes costing $1.83 billion, with growth prospects ahead of the general food packaging market growing at 6% annually in volume terms to 2021 as the use of food-safe inks is adopted. The value is growing at a higher rate, showing the high cost of these materials, which is why many converters don’t use them. But this is changing following pressure from brands, and growing regulation of food safety from regional and national governments.

Dr. Sean Smyth.
Dr. Sean Smyth.

Report author Dr. Sean Smyth added: “Food packaging developments are driven by consumer preferences, which are making brands and retailers change and refresh their offerings. Safety concerns override these trends, and have to fit in with pressures to make supply chains increasingly sustainable. This may work against safety, as work to minimize packaging materials may down-gauge a barrier film – for example, making it less effective at protecting the contents.”

Food can be contaminated by migration of printed material through diffusion, setoff from a printed surface, or in use – particularly cooking at high temperatures. Food-safe, low-migration ink or coating will release levels below the accepted levels of contamination when they’re properly applied and dried after printing. Using the appropriate materials is important, and following good manufacturing processes to demonstrate compliance and minimize the risks, is the direction the packaging industry is taking.

The Future of Printing for Food Packaging to 2021 is based on extensive primary research, including comprehensive interviews and conversations with industry experts and participants around the world in order to gauge the most up-to-date views on the industry from the inside. This report also draws upon a wide range of sources – including printing and packaging reports, forecasts, websites and government sources – and has been compiled using Smithers Pira’s expanded database of magazine and journal abstracts, reviews of previous Smithers Pira reports, and conference papers. For more information please visit http://www.smitherspira.com/news/2016/december/printing-for-food-packaging.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.