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Bulk packaging in the fast lane
Friday, November 30, 2012 08:00 IST
Hasan Mulani, Mumbai

Being the seventh-largest country in the world in terms of geographical size – India is the second-largest producer of food next to China. The country is the second-largest vegetable and third-largest fruit producer across the world.

In addition, it also ranks second only to Japan in inland sector fish production and produces over 7 million tonne fish every year. This plethora of production also boosts its parallel sectors like agro-products and F&B packaging.

In India, packaging fulfils sundry role from shielding products, preventing spoilage, contagion, extending shelf life, and ensuring safe storage thereby helping to make them readily available to consumers at any time.

The Indian packaging industry encompasses myriad segments like rigid packaging and flexible packaging. Of these, the bulk packaging segment under flexible packaging is one of the fastest growing businesses in India.

The Indian bulk packaging business started moving significantly in the 1990s thanks to LPG –Liberalisation, Globalisation and Privatisation. This was the time when the Indian food & beverage, pharmaceuticals and other chemical based industries acquired bulk handling capabilities to compete in the globalised world.

“The Indian bulk packaging markets really took inoculation of the new millennium spurred by an export led and domestic growth in the agro produce & food, chemicals & pesticides, petroleum & lubricants and bulk drugs & generics. The market grew at around 25 per cent for the first 6-7 years and then settled down to around 15 per cent band largely the worldwide meltdown,” S Siddiqui, industry analyst, said.

Bulky global picture

As per Visiongain, an international media organisation’s latest report titled The Industrial & Bulk Packaging Market 2011-2021 bulk packaging sector is gaining prominence in the global packaging market and is experiencing a rise in demand from retailers, especially advanced packaging technologies, along with the underlying increased demand for chemicals and pharmaceuticals in rapidly emerging economies.

Although the industrial & bulk packaging market was negatively impacted by reduced margins due to pressure from higher production costs, the industrial & bulk packaging industry still stands firm and is likely to enhance its market share in the global packaging industry, it said.

Further, Visiongain calculates that the global industrial & bulk packaging market will reach $134.9 billion in 2011. The growth in the industrial and bulk packaging market will also be backed by the rising demand for containers that comply with state, federal and international regulatory requirements, especially those concerning the transport and handling of hazardous chemicals and the management of hazardous waste.

Additionally, demand is likely to be strong from the chemical and oil/lubricants sectors, mainly driven by rising pharmaceutical production due to increasing reliance on medications influenced by health and safety concerns.

The North American and Western European economies are successfully established markets. However, the growing economies of Asia-Pacific (India and China), Eastern Europe (Germany and Russia) and Latin America (Brazil) offer tremendous potential to explore.

The market research firm also expects the global industrial & bulk packaging market to be mainly influenced by the promising performance from the Indian and Chinese, as well as Middle-Eastern and Latin American industrial & bulk packaging markets.

“Packaging demands are increasing constantly. To meet these packaging demands companies are striving to serve the customer base with the best resources, strategically coping with the customer trends and needs. The industrial packaging companies regularly monitor these changes in order to utilise, direct and prioritise their packaging works as per the market requirements. To substantiate, the retail market is now heavily dependent on 'just in time' and fresh delivery of products. This involves organised industrial packaging standards and planning. With advanced packaging technologies, cost-effective methods and technologies in place, the industrial & bulk packaging market is expected to expand globally,” the research firm added.

Bulk Packaging: Indian Outlook

The Indian economy is growing and so is the bulk packaging segment of country’s packaging industry. The packaging industry in India has been registering a constant growth rate of 15%.

As growth rides on increased industrial production and international trade, demands on bulk package have become more intense and sophisticated.

For Indian food & beverage and pharmaceuticals industry, bulk packaging provides a solution for commodities weighing 10 to 50 kg during handling, storage and transportation.

As per industry experts, bulk packaging for various commodities, suitability of Polypropylene (PP) Woven Sacks for packaging of food grains, sugar, tea, similarly for packaging and transport of vegetables and other horticulture produce PP leno bag is an effective packaging system.

Currently, widely used materials for bulk packaging systems are PP woven sacks, paper bags, paper boxes, FIBC, leno bags, wrapping fabric and jute.



“With changing packaging need, optimisation of packaging role of Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container (FIBC) and its future has been highlighted as trend. PP Woven sacks are worldwide material of choice for bulk packaging of edible commodities for domestic use and exports,” a packaging expert said in its paper titled Opportunities in Bulk Packaging – Polypropylene Woven Sacks the Ideal Choice.

Apart from food & beverage and pharmaceuticals, this methodology is commonly used in cement, fertiliser and chemicals industries.

Meanwhile, Indian industries are accepting plastics as another bulk packaging material because of inherent advantages of functional performance and cost benefits.

“The Indian bulk packaging sector primarily targets meeting the needs of industrial production and bulk wholesale distribution. It is also an essential element of transitional and transport packaging of even retail packs. Right now, what needs to be cherished is that for the production of retail products like consumer packaged goods, there are several intermediate stages of production in which inputs and intermediates need to be packaged, transported and handled. These range from very basic materials like agro-products, minerals, metals, and chemicals to refined finished components for assembly or integration into a finished and packaged final product. These intermediate stages of production could range from just one to as much four or five depending on the product and packaging is required across this entire supply chain,” S Chidambar, a packaging consultant, said in one of his papers on bulk packaging.

“The primary advantages of bulk packaging are derived from total system benefits. While such systems add costs if viewed purely from materials cost and investment in infrastructure basis, the total system delivers significant benefits in expenses, time and convenience because of logistic considerations like costs of handling, transportation, storage and dispensing in bulk as compared to smaller package denominations and in substantially lower turnaround times.

To be able to reap the real benefits of bulk packaging systems, it is necessary to set up suitable infrastructure in-plant and during transit at the facilities of both the despatcher/packer and



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