By Sheri Kasprzak

Active packaging is about to get a whole lot more active.

The global active and intelligent packaging market took in US$13.75 billion in 2016, and those numbers are expected to climb at a 9.25 percent compound annual growth rate by 2021 to US$23.38 million, according to research firm Mordor Intelligence.

The North American market alone is expected to expand at a 7.76 percent compound annual growth rate to about US$8.11 billion by 2022, according to market research firm Research and Markets.

Active packaging refers to a segment of the market that involves the addition or withdrawal of gases and liquids within food packages to extend shelf life. These methods include oxygen scavenging, ethylene scavenging, ethanol release, carbon dioxide release, and water vapor removal. The food industry mostly utilizes these processes because farm-fresh produce and poultry are biologically active when packed in flexible materials, leaving them prone to the release of certain gases, according to Transparency Market Research, a separate research firm.

Absorbent sachets and materials incorporated within the packaging itself are the two most common methods of removing these gases. The latter is expensive, but it’s being used more frequently by contemporary packaging material providers, according to Transparency.

“Besides absorbing gases, active packaging can be designed to absorb dripping liquids, controlling humidity, absorbing odors, and maintaining the right concentration of gases and moisture within the packaged food items,” says a Transparency report.

Foodborne illnesses are a major driving force for the sector.

“This market is majorly driven by the need to control growing foodborne diseases due to improper food packaging solutions,” says Research and Markets. “The growth is attributed to the innovations and the measures taken by the organizations for the proper development of packaging solutions. Geographically, the United States is estimated to account [for the] bulk of the demand for active packaging solutions in the North America region, followed by Canada and Mexico.”

North America and Europe have long been the largest producers of active packaging, but that could change rapidly.

Growth is projected to be strong for the Asian-Pacific market, which is on-target for an 11.55 percent compound annual growth rate by 2022. The active packaging market in that region is expected to be worth US$6.89 billion over the next five years, thanks in no small part to the region’s growing pharmaceutical industry, Research and Markets reports.

“The growing demand for [food] and beverages and upswing in pharmaceutical industry in the region is significantly contributing to the market growth over the forecast period,” says Research and Markets. “The demand for proper packaging solutions for expensive drugs is increasing and creating enough opportunities for active packaging solution vendors in this region.”

The European market, meanwhile, will grow at around the same pace as its North American counterparts. Research and Markets anticipates a 7.76 percent CAGR by 2022 with a market size of about US$8.81 billion. The research firm attributes this growth to the continent’s growing logistics industry and an increased demand for packaged goods.

“The growth is also attributed to the growing food packaging needs in the developed countries such as Germany, [the] United Kingdom, and France,” says Research and Markets.

South America’s active packaging market will grow a little more slowly, with a 6.18 percent CAGR expected over the next five years. This will give the region a market size of about US$3.39 billion.

“This market is majorly driven by rapid urbanization, increasing demand for packaging food and beverage products, and increasing disposable income,” says Research and Markets. “Brazil is the major market for these solutions, and will continue to dominate the South American active packaging market over the forecast period.”