A report published recently by Applied Market Information (AMI) examines trends in the European plastic closures market in 2007, estimated at €1.5bn. The group predicts growth levels for one-piece closures of 4 per cent annually, driven by developments in sports drinks and juice-based drinks and the growing market penetration of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) due to its lightweighting capabilities. Light weight closures are increasingly being used by beverage manufacturers in response to increasing demands from customers to cut raw material costs. AMI said that high density polyethylene (HDPE) one-piece closures now account for 64 per cent of all standard beverage closures, which is an increase of 9 per cent on 2004 figures. Customised closures Custom closures, including pouch spouts and non-standard diameter flat caps, can provide manufacturers with added value, claims AMI, and the group said that this segment is predicted to grow because of a strong demand for sports closures. Following the introduction of the plastic cork for glass bottles, AMI also expects the market for plastic beer closures to grow; however, this demand will stem mainly from Eastern Europe, said the analysts. Non-drink applications In terms of non-beverage applications for plastic closures, AMI predicts growth in the liquid food segment, which represented 18 per cent of the end use of closure applications in Europe in 2007. "The advent of heat stable PET, clarified PP and multilayer containers is opening up new markets to plastic closures," claims AMI. "Demand will be driven by increased penetration of PET bottles in dairy applications, and by growing substitution of glass packaging by plastic containers in table top sauces, baby food, cooking sauces, dehydrated and snack products," added AMI. The analysts also highlight other opportunities for food-related plastic closure use, such as cold fill applications like honey. According to the report, innovation and a sustainable differential advantage will lie at the centre of plastic closure production over the next five years with the focus on functionality, convenience and modernity. Light weighting Bericap recently introduced a range of light weight closures to save their customers money and offer them a greener alternative, according to the manufacturer. In a statement the company said that savings on the newly introduced Hexalite closures amount to almost 2000 tons of resin savings for each one billion bottles produced, an estimated reduction of 15000 tons of green house gas emissions and almost €3m in cost reductions. Sidel also has been developing PET bottle lightweighting, its NoBottle using up to 40 per cent less plastic, according to the French company. The group believes this focus means producers can reduce their equipment's impact on the environment and get a quick return on investment at the same time.