The packaging industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven around increasing the shelf life of the product, automation, and recyclability, and the growing importance of technologies, such as biodegradable packaging, Internet of Things, and active packaging. In the last three years alone, there have been over 310,000 patents filed and granted in the packaging industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Packaging: Biodegradeable food packaging.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

80+ innovations will shape the packaging industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the packaging industry using innovation intensity models built on over 87,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, mechanical waste processing, flexible receptacle type refuse containers, and blow moulding with energy recovery are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Sustainable packaging paper coating, MFC coated packaging paper, and hydroponic culturing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are starch biopolymer packaging and dismountable greenhouse coverings, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the packaging industry 

Biodegradable food packaging is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Biodegradable packaging is easier to recycle, as it is made from eco-friendly materials. They cause less carbon emission thereby reducing climate change. Moreover, they are produced using less energy and are non-toxic in nature. Despite having its own advantages over plastic, biodegradable packaging has some limitations too. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established packaging companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of biodegradable food packaging. 

Key players in biodegradable food packaging – a disruptive innovation in the packaging industry   

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to biodegradable food packaging

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Huhtamaki 45 Unlock company profile
Zume 33 Unlock company profile
Polymateria 32 Unlock company profile
Gruppo illy 30 Unlock company profile
Clorox 24 Unlock company profile
Better Life Pharmaceuticals 21 Unlock company profile
RPM International 20 Unlock company profile
Coca-Cola Enterprises Great Britain 19 Unlock company profile
MULTISORB TECHNOLOGIES 18 Unlock company profile
Stora Enso 17 Unlock company profile
Finlav 16 Unlock company profile
Corbion 15 Unlock company profile
Graphic Packaging Holding 15 Unlock company profile
Goglio 15 Unlock company profile
Coswell 15 Unlock company profile
Nestle 13 Unlock company profile
Kuraray 12 Unlock company profile
DIC 10 Unlock company profile
Danimer Scientific 9 Unlock company profile
Zume Pizza 9 Unlock company profile
PepsiCo 9 Unlock company profile
Sphere 7 Unlock company profile
BASF 7 Unlock company profile
Vegeplast 6 Unlock company profile
BIOP Biopolymer Technologies 6 Unlock company profile
Youlchon Chemical 6 Unlock company profile
Anhui Chaohu South Membrane Industry 6 Unlock company profile
Plantics 5 Unlock company profile
Novolex 5 Unlock company profile
CJ 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Huhtamaki is one of the leading patent filers in biodegradable food packaging. Huhtamaki launched ICON packaging, an innovative technology, which was initially used for ice cream containers and lids. This technology facilitates recycling in communities across the US that have a paper product recycling programme. 

Some of the other key patent filers in the biodegradable food packaging space include Zume, Polymateria, and Gruppo illy

In terms of application diversity, Kuraray leads the pack, while CJ and Stora Enso stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Multisorb Technologies held the top position, followed by Polymateria and Gruppo illy

With rising consumer awareness pertaining to environmental protection and the impact of packaging materials, biodegradable packaging will potentially become an important aspect in the packaging industry. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the packaging industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Packaging.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.