The packaging industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by rising environmental awareness, urbanisation, sustainability, healthy living, and digitisation, and the growing importance of technologies, such as connected packaging, sustainable/eco-friendly packaging, 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: Sustainable packaging paper coating.

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

Sustainable packaging paper coating is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Sustainable packaging paper coatings are eco-friendly and bio-renewable compositions, which are making massive headway in the paper packaging market. Along with providing high tensile strength, these coatings provide ample thermal stability.

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 80+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established packaging companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of sustainable packaging paper coating.

Key players in sustainable packaging paper coating – 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 sustainable packaging paper coating

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Stora Enso 530 Unlock company profile
Westrock 147 Unlock company profile
BASF 94 Unlock company profile
FiberLean Technologies 82 Unlock company profile
BillerudKorsnas 81 Unlock company profile
Nippon Paper Industries 71 Unlock company profile
Mayr-Melnhof Karton 59 Unlock company profile
International Paper 55 Unlock company profile
Tetra Laval International 50 Unlock company profile
Kuraray 48 Unlock company profile
delfortgroup 41 Unlock company profile
Kemira 38 Unlock company profile
Omya International 35 Unlock company profile
Japan Tobacco 33 Unlock company profile
Toppan 33 Unlock company profile
Henkel 33 Unlock company profile
DIC 31 Unlock company profile
Parjointco 29 Unlock company profile
UPM-Kymmene 28 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe 26 Unlock company profile
Philip Morris International 26 Unlock company profile
Huhtamaki 25 Unlock company profile
AGC 25 Unlock company profile
Mondi 24 Unlock company profile
Dow 23 Unlock company profile
Akzo Nobel 23 Unlock company profile
Graphic Packaging Holding 21 Unlock company profile
RPM International 20 Unlock company profile
Yagna 19 Unlock company profile
British American Tobacco 18 Unlock company profile
Ahlstrom-Munksjo 16 Unlock company profile
Unilever 16 Unlock company profile
Oji Holdings 15 Unlock company profile
Procter & Gamble 15 Unlock company profile
China Tobacco International HK 14 Unlock company profile
Daikin Industries 13 Unlock company profile
Ecoinno (H.K.) 13 Unlock company profile
Hansol Holdings 13 Unlock company profile
Solenis Technologies 13 Unlock company profile
Hankuk Paper Manufacturing 12 Unlock company profile
Humanitarian Scientific 12 Unlock company profile
Ashland 12 Unlock company profile
Koch Industries 12 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical 12 Unlock company profile
Smurfit Kappa Group 11 Unlock company profile
Sappi 11 Unlock company profile
CCL Industries 11 Unlock company profile
Kimberly-Clark 11 Unlock company profile
Danapak Flexibles 10 Unlock company profile
Toyobo 10 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Stora Enso is one of the leading patent filers in sustainable packaging paper coating. The company’s recent innovation, UltraThinPE Tec™ significantly helps to reduce the percentage of plastic coating in food service boards (FSB), as well as in applications like single-use paper cups.

Stora Enso, with the help of this innovation, has come up with the thinnest polymer coating for FSBs in the market. This will help brand owners, packaging converters, and retailers to meet their plastic reduction goals. Stora Enso currently uses UltraThinPE coatings in its Cupforma product range of paper cups.

Some other key patent filers in sustainable packaging paper coating include Westrock, BASF, and FiberLean Technologies.

In terms of application diversity, Toyobo leads the pack, followed by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and Tetra Laval International in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Yagna held the top position, followed by Ashland and Mayr-Melnhof Karton.

Sustainable packaging paper coating will potentially become the favoured approach by many future packaging players. The importance of this technology can be witnessed from the various innovations and developments by key players in the market.

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.