Packaging today responds to consumers’ demands for choice and convenience as well as changed production and distribution conditions and systems. By safeguarding product quality, packaging allows products to be transported and distributed locally, regionally and even globally, thereby making valuable food resources available to a wider population. In modern households, people increasingly turn to the use of fully-prepared meals, canned and frozen foods, in a wide variety of portion sizes, to save time in cooking and preparing meals. Packaging makes this possible.
Advantages of Aluminium Packaging
Aluminium packaging offers a high level of corrosion resistance. It provides optimal protection properties by offering an impermeable metal barrier to light, ultra-violet rays, water vapour, oils and fats, oxygen and micro-organisms. When used to package sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals or food, aluminium is hygienic, non-toxic, non-tainting and retaining the product’s flavour. The aluminium barrier also plays the essential role of keeping the contents fresh and protecting them from external influences, thereby guaranteeing a long shelf-life.
Furthermore, aluminium is also by far the lightest ‘complete barrier’ packaging material. For example, a 4.8 g flexible fruit juice pouch with aluminium is 33 times lighter than a traditional bottle and the standard 33 cl aluminium beverage can now only weighs 14 g or less, including lid and opening tab! Where laminates are involved, even the smallest aluminium thickness of 0.006 mm is sometimes enough to provide the required barrier properties. Aluminium leads the way in ‘doing more with less’ for source reduction in packaging. This saves both raw materials costs and energy resources.
Figures published by the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) show that demand for aluminium foil continued to increase significantly in 2000.
The total deliveries of aluminium foil (thickness up to 200 microns) by the EAFA roller members increased to 682,000 tonnes in 2000 (1999: 653,000 t), representing a 4.4% growth rate. This growth again exceeded the previous year’s average, when production rates were already at their highest-ever levels. If the ongoing down-gauging process is taken into consideration, the real growth in numbers of packaging and technical applications would be even higher.
The Driving Force for Growth in Aluminium Foil Consumption
The main driving force for the continued growth in 2000 came from European domestic demand. Sales within the EAFA member countries showed a 5% increase. At a total of 582,000 tonnes, this corresponds to an increase of nearly 30,000 tonnes in comparison with 1999.
Exports to "non-EAFA" countries increased slightly by 1.8%, reaching the 100,000-tonne mark for the first time.
Applications for Aluminium Foil
Approximately 75% of European aluminium foil is used for packaging : flexible and semi-rigid, food and pharmaceutical applications while the remaining 25% goes into heat exchangers for cars, air-conditioning, insulation and other technical applications
Deliveries of empty beverage cans in Western and Central/Eastern Europe continued to increase from 33.8 billion cans in 1999 to 35.4 in 2000, representing a growth rate of 4.9%. Central and Eastern Europe experienced a major market growth of 3.8% while Western Europe showed a more modest 2.9% increase.
Growth of the Aluminium Can Industry
Once again the highest growth rates were to be found in Austria, Spain and Norway, while the UK and Sweden experienced a decline. It is worth noting that the German market is now as large as the UK market, which illustrates how convenient the can is as a beverage packaging in all countries.
Taken as a whole, the market share of aluminium in beverage cans rose to 52% in Western Europe and 55% in Greater Europe (Western and Central/Eastern Europe), with a major increase in the UK from 66% to 70%.
Advantages of Using Aluminium Cans
It is evident that the benefits of the use of aluminium cans, ranging from lightness and decoration flexibility to recycling, are becoming increasingly acknowledged.
Aluminium Aerosol Cans
The European Association of Aluminium Aerosol Container Manufacturers (Aerobal) reports that 1.73 billion aluminium aerosol cans were produced in Europe in 2000. This represents an increase of about 90 million cans compared to 1999 (+5.7%). Given an overall European production volume of roughly 4.2 billion aerosol cans (tinplate and aluminium) the amount of 1.73 billion aluminium aerosol cans corresponds to a European market share of 41%.
Prospects for Aluminium Cans
Whereas future growth potential in a largely saturated Western European market seems to be limited, a surge in demand is expected from Eastern European countries and other newly developing areas in Asia and South America.
Aluminium Packaging vs. Thickness
Table 1. Summarises some of the uses of rolled aluminium as a function of thickness.
Aeptic cartons for beverage, pouches, bags, wraps, push-through packs, bottlenecks, lids, etc.
Containers, trays, etc.
Cans, aerosols, etc.