Future food packaging in Russia will need to be lightweight, robust and easy to handle, as well as increasing product shelf-life and incorporating a high quality print surface to enable ever more inventive marketing in an increasingly competitive marketplace, according to a report by market analysts Euromonitor.
All these factors mean that flexible packaging is likely to retain its monopoly over the next five years - it already boasts a 72 per cent market share - but other package types such as thin wall plastic and paper-based containers will also benefit.
"Thin wall plastic containers are considered both practical and convenient by the consumer, as they may be re-used. They are popular amongst fillers as they can be used in a wide range of products in a variety of textures and shapes, and are also lightweight, cheap to manufacture and rigid enough to support mechanical pressure," says the report.
Folding cartons are driving paper-based containers forward with a growth of 17.8 per cent through increased sales of ready meals and dried food such as pasta, rice and breakfast cereals.
The Russian dairy industry is currently leading much of the food packaging growth but has been helped along by a continuing switch from unpackaged to packaged products in the bakery and confectionery sectors.
For example, use of liquid cartons rose by 17 per cent between 1998 and 2002 and have now become synonymous with milk, while also profiting from rising demand for drinking yoghurt, which accounted for 66 per cent of filled volume in 2002.
In bakery, thin-wall plastic containers more than doubled their usage in the Euromonitor review period. Flexible plastic packaging has also benefited in bread, biscuit and cake sectors from "a clear shift in the strategy of many domestic companies towards packaged and branded products", although 45 per cent of consumers still prefer unpackaged chocolate.
Competition and advertising is driving this trend. "The consumer has become more discerning about product choice, and is demanding a more sophisticated presentation," says the report, citing leading bakery Pekar's new designs and labelling to help restore the market share of its Baltyisky cake.
"The power of good packaging is underlined by the fact that consumers have reported an improvement in taste although no change to the recipe has been made," adds the report.
Glass and metal have been the casualties of the lightweight, convenient packaging trend, declining by 15 per cent and 16 per cent respectively between 1998 and 2002. Euromonitor believes these two are now in permanent decline.
All is not lost, however, and metal biscuit tins recorded 33.5 per cent in the bakery sector as premium gifts. Consumers associate glass with high-quality products and this has boosted olive oil and ketchup sales, offsetting the material's higher cost. Metal and glass also still have a 6.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent share of the market, narrowly behind rigid plastic at 7.6 per cent.
A continuation of the theme is expected up to 2007, with paper-based containers increasing in volume by 70 per cent, liquid cartons by 32 per cent, rigid plastic by 28 per cent and flexible packaging by 33 per cent. The surprise package is trays, which are expected to rise by 27 per cent through increased use in biscuits, cakes and ready meals.