Of the $145 billion packaging market in the United States, about 18% is made up of flexible packaging, including bottles and containers. That segment of the industry directly employs about 79,000 people.
As you might imagine, bottles and containers for food products – including both retail and institutional – account for a large portion of the total flexible packaging shipped, at about 58%. Other significant users include retail classified as non-food (12 percent), miscellaneous consumer products (10%) and industrial (8%). Exports make up about 6% per cent of the total flexible packaging shipped.
Another area of great demand for bottles and containers is the medical and pharmaceutical industry, at 9% of total usage. With nearly 291,000 pharmacists employed in the U.S. in 2014 – along with over 368,000 pharmacy technicians – and the sheer volume of output represented by the industry itself, one can easily see how the demand for flexible packaging can be so immense and ongoing. Worldwide, the sales volume of the drug packaging industry is $66 billion.
The sheer amount of injection molding and blow molding involved in production of this magnitude must depend upon robotics to a great extent. This mirrors an ever-increasing demand for automation across the manufacturing spectrum. In the first half of 2015, a total of 14,232 robots were sold by companies in North America alone. Their aggregate value was $840 million. Companies are seeing the return on their investment in terms of faster production with fewer problems, meaning less down time, and reduced personnel costs. Pay for production workers in the United States is an average $11.95 per hour.
One study predicts that the global flexible packaging market will see an annual growth rate of 3.5% at least until the year 2018. Customers in the United States account for the largest portion of sales, at almost 14% of the total.