The global flexible packaging market is projected to grow to 17.5 mln tons in 2014 at an average growth rate of 3.4% from 17.5 mln tons in 2009, as per a report by PIRA Internationa. Flexible packaging has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the packaging market over the past decade. Flexible packaging substrates provide opportunities to reduce materials, lower package weight and cut costs. Properties of flexible packaging can be easily tailored to meet demanding specifications for a wide range of products. Over the years, the flexible packaging market has developed from simple paper wrapping and bags to very sophisticated multilayer and multimaterial packaging for barrier protection and shelf-life extension. Flexible packaging films can be made of single-web substrates such as flexible plastics (PE, PP, polyester or PA), flexible foils and flexible papers or can be coated, laminated or coextruded with other materials to enhance their physical properties in various ways. As per a report by Pira International, there are many choices for material conversion and combination, numerous selection criteria and cost factors and a large number of processing methods and functional requirements. This creates huge opportunities for product innovation and development, a key element in the growth of flexible packaging. According to the study the flexible packaging market also faces key challenges during 2009-14, not least the impact of the global recession on demand for packaged products. Other key market drivers and trends identified for flexible packaging include: • Biodegradable, sustainable and recyclable flexible packaging materials gaining favour as retailers and brand owners seek to improve the environmental footprint of their packaging. • Flexible packaging films and bags being continually downgauged to reduce costs and minimise waste after use. • Public concern about excessive packaging gaining ground in many developed countries. • Flexible packaging products such as SUPs replacing bottles and other traditional pack types for a range of food and beverage products. • Flexible barrier films that preserve product freshness gaining market share. Industrial flexible plastic packaging is the largest category of flexible packaging products; it is projected to be 33.7% of all flexible packaging value in 2009. According to the study other consumer flexible plastic packaging films are projected to be 21.2% of all flexible packaging value in 2009, the next largest category. The fastest-growing flexible packaging products are SUPs, plastic bags and pouches, and industrial flexible plastic packaging. According to the study, flexible plastics, particularly higher-barrier plastics such as BOPET, EVOH and PA, have the highest forecast growth rates. PVC consumption is forecast to remain almost static and RCF will continue to decline. Paper and aluminium foil are forecast to grow at lower rates than all flexible packaging. Cellulosic will continue to decline. PE & PP will grow faster while paper & aluminum foil will grow slowly. Industrial flexible plastic packaging is the largest category of flexible packaging products. Consumer flexible plastic packaging film is the second largest.