Good growth prospects for flexible packaging in the Gulf Cooperation Council

The emerging market for flexible packaging in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could well become an established one with increasing expatriate population and government initiatives enhancing the demand for processed foods and thereby, packaging. There need for best-in-class packaging solutions and replacement of rigid packaging with flexible packaging could see the market units steadily rise from 273.2 kilo tonnes (KT) in 2009 to 480.95 KT in 2016. New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the market earned revenues of US$0.68 bln in 2009 and estimates this to reach US$1.20 bln in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5%. In this research, Frost & Sullivan's expert analysts thoroughly examine the following markets: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Rest-of-the-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) covering Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. It also covers various product types including polypropylene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephalate and others (polyamide, polyolefin and polycarbonate).

The food industry is growing at 18-20% annually in KSA, and pre-packaged food constitutes 50% of the industry. There has been a shift in attitude among the local population, especially the urbanites, who are willing to spend on processed and packaged food. Like most other regions, the GCC is rebounding from the economic downturn and segments such as retail and consumer goods are on the upswing, creating opportunities for the flexible packaging market. Flexible packaging scores over rigid packaging on several fronts including long-shelf life, barrier properties and aroma retention capabilities, which are essential for packaging moisture-sensitive products. Flexible packaging also offers rigid packaging's benefits of stand-up pouches and re-closable packs, which provide merchandising and marketing advantages to fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturers.
The traditional benefits of rigid packaging can be realized from flexible packaging with the added advantages of lower cost and greater flexibility. Consequently, plastics is estimated to account for 70% of the packaging across the GCC states, against the world figure of 50%.

Despite the potential for this dynamic market, it is held back by the lack of awareness about the flexible packaging solutions. There is also severe pricing pressure from film manufacturers, which is constantly eroding packaging manufacturers' margins. Therefore, small converters operating in the GCC have started procuring the raw materials from countries such as India and China due to the ease of procurement and increased credit period. To stave off this challenge from foreign countries, local manufacturers should start providing converters with a credit period as opposed to the current zero credit period terms. To further distinguish themselves in this intensely competitive market, manufacturers have to demonstrate superior quality and back it up with enhanced customer relationship management. With rising commercial and consumer interest in this market through 2015, it is important to strategically position products to create brand loyalty and retain customers. Apart from credits and maintaining cordial relations with customers, manufacturers can also beat the competition by creating product niches. The market will also get a leg up from the improved production in the GCC, which will result in the higher utilisation of flexible packaging.

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