Flexible packaging could be seeing high demand in China in order to prevent future COVID-19 coronavirus outbreaks.

Analysis released yesterday by Scottish research company Wood Mackenzie associate Brendan Connell-French revealed that China’s packaging industry could be seeing tighter packaging regulations. This is due to COVID-19 drawing attention to health and safety in the food supply chain.

Connell-French said: “The coronavirus outbreak is reportedly thought to have started at a wholesale seafood and meat market in Wuhan. These wet markets can be a breeding ground for the spread of animal-borne diseases and viruses, as both live and butchered animals are handled by staff and customers in a confined area.

“In response to the risk, the Chinese government is reportedly considering a change to meat handling and distribution practices, and tighter regulations could lie ahead. In our view, such a change would likely result in an increased demand for flexible packaging.” 

Flexible packaging is any type of packaging where the shape can be easily changed, for example, bags, pouches, tubes, and shrink films.

According to Connell-French, China has a very low average consumption of flexible packaging for the meat and fresh-produce market when compared with Japan, the US, and Western Europe. An increase in consumption through distributing meat in flexible plastic packaging could reduce the risk of a future outbreak.

Connell-French said: “Flexible packaging demand in Asia has been hit by a sluggish regional economy, growing by 4.8% in 2019 – down from 5.6% in 2018. Chinese per capita consumption of flexible packaging for fresh and processed meat and seafood is currently so low, that even subtle shifting of production to larger corporations could have an impact on growth.”

He predicts that there is unlikely to be a complete change in meat-purchasing preferences in China; however, COVID-19 could potentially stimulate a redesign of the meat and fresh-food market and therefore create a need for more flexible packaging.