The packaging industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by healthy living, urbanisation, safety & trust and the growing importance of technologies, such as near-field communication, Internet of Packaging and bio-degradable 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: Microfibrillated cellulose production.

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, blow moulding with energy recovery, mechanical waste processing, and flexible receptacle type refuse containers 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

Microfibrillated cellulose production is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Microfibrillated cellulose production is a process in which elements are released that make the secondary wall of lignocellulosic fibres. The process is completed through mechanical means, which is combined with enzyme or chemical pre-treatment.

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 10 companies, spanning technology vendors, established packaging companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of microfibrillated cellulose production.

Key players in microfibrillated cellulose production – 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 microfibrillated cellulose production

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Stora Enso 441 Unlock company profile
FiberLean Technologies 38 Unlock company profile
Nippon Paper Industries 19 Unlock company profile
Innventia 18 Unlock company profile
International Paper 18 Unlock company profile
Ahlstrom-Munksjo 12 Unlock company profile
Daio Paper 10 Unlock company profile
UPM-Kymmene 8 Unlock company profile
HS Manufacturing Group 5 Unlock company profile
Orkla 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Stora Enso is one of the leading patent filers in micro-fibrillated cellulose production. Stora Enso partnered with NeFab, a global B2B company dealing in saving environmental and financial resources in supply chains, and providing complete packaging solutions and logistics services, to launch fibre-based wood foam Fibrease, which would replace polymer-based packaging solutions.

Some other key patent filers in micro-fibrillated cellulose production include FiberLean Technologies, Nippon Paper Industries, Innventia, and International Paper.

Orkla leads the pack in terms of application diversity, while Innventia and HS Manufacturing Group stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, FiberLean Technologies held the top position, followed by International Paper and Innventia, respectively.

The micro-fibrillated cellulose production technology will prove to be a boon for the food industry in the coming years as it solves the problem of spillage.

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.