The packaging industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by light weight, smart packaging, convenience, and ease of handling and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and nano technology. In the last three years alone, there have been over 427,000 patents filed and granted in the packaging industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in packaging: pull-tab cans. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

30+ 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 77,000 patents, there are 30+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, cellulose fiber 3D printing, biodegradable packaging films, and multilayer barrier films are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. RFID packaging, anti-counterfeiting bottle caps, and clamshell-type packaging are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are resealable medication vials and synthetic resin containers, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the packaging industry

Pull-tab cans is a key innovation area in packaging

Pull-tab cans refer to beverage cans that have a tab or a tab-like device attached to the can lid. This tab is used to easily open the can by pulling it up, creating an opening for drinking or pouring the contents of the can. Pull-tab cans provide a convenient and efficient way to access and consume canned beverages.

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 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established packaging companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of pull-tab cans.

Key players in pull-tab cans – a disruptive innovation in the packaging industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to pull-tab cans

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Crown 406 Unlock Company Profile
Ball 324 Unlock Company Profile
Toyo Seikan Group 136 Unlock Company Profile
Impress Group 127 Unlock Company Profile
ARD 99 Unlock Company Profile
Anheuser-Busch InBev 80 Unlock Company Profile
Xolution 46 Unlock Company Profile
Resonac 36 Unlock Company Profile
Red Bull 27 Unlock Company Profile
N2 Packaging Systems 27 Unlock Company Profile
Daiwa Securities Group 26 Unlock Company Profile
SNSTech 24 Unlock Company Profile
Silgan 23 Unlock Company Profile
Ball Europe 21 Unlock Company Profile
International Patents and Brands 17 Unlock Company Profile
Rexam Beverage Can Europe 17 Unlock Company Profile
Soudronic 17 Unlock Company Profile
Walter Robb 16 Unlock Company Profile
Crown Cork & Seal USA 15 Unlock Company Profile
AptarGroup 14 Unlock Company Profile
Sonoco Products 13 Unlock Company Profile
Estavayer Lait 12 Unlock Company Profile
Kotobuki Realty 11 Unlock Company Profile
Alcoa 11 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Steel 10 Unlock Company Profile
Murray, Michael 7 Unlock Company Profile
Nestle 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sherwin-Williams 6 Unlock Company Profile
SZENT 6 Unlock Company Profile
TRICORNTECH 6 Unlock Company Profile
Seidel 6 Unlock Company Profile
Suzhou SLAC Precision Equipment 4 Unlock Company Profile
Tetra Laval International 4 Unlock Company Profile
Eviosys Packaging Switzerland 4 Unlock Company Profile
A&R Carton 4 Unlock Company Profile
Berry Global Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
Molsonors Beverage 3 Unlock Company Profile
Ardagh Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
DRT Mfg 3 Unlock Company Profile
Showa Aluminium 3 Unlock Company Profile
General Mills 2 Unlock Company Profile
Nory 2 Unlock Company Profile
Ball Metal Food Container 2 Unlock Company Profile
Oak Hill Capital Partners 2 Unlock Company Profile
Molecule 2 Unlock Company Profile
Kaiser Aluminum 1 Unlock Company Profile
The Boston Beer 1 Unlock Company Profile
Tata Steel 1 Unlock Company Profile
MURRAY 1 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Materials 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Crown is one of the leading patent filers in pull-tab cans. Some other key patent filers in the space include Ball, Toyo Seikan Group, and Impress Group. Crown acquired Helvetia Packaging, a manufacturer of beverage cans in a strategic move that will further bolster Crown's presence in the European beverage can market, particularly in Germany.

In terms of application diversity, TRICORNTECH leads the pack, while Nippon Steel and Daiwa Securities Group stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Xolution held the top position followed by AptarGroup and N2 Packaging Systems.
Pull-tab cans will find increased application in the beverage industry in the coming years, as they are easy to open and do not need additional tools, making them convenient for on-the-go consumption.

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

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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.