The global e-commerce plastic packaging market was valued at USD 18.2 billion in 2021, and it is estimated to reach USD 64.7 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 17.2% during 2022-2030. The e-commerce plastic packaging market comprises different product types, such as pouches, protective packaging, like air pillows, bubble packaging, shrink films, and other product types, such as labels and tapes. The complete e-commerce supply chain moves at a significant pace, and co-packers and brands need packaging that keeps pace while withstanding the rigors of this channel. Small and medium-sized brands with niche products have found that e-commerce supports their growth.
The key drivers in the studied market include the proliferation of online retailing and the emergence of omnichannel presence, along with the increasing usage of biodegradable plastic packaging for online retail. Companies adopt an omnichannel distribution strategy for their products, including online purchasing, fueling e-commerce plastic packaging growth. The boundaries between the several sales channels will diminish even further, providing a seamless shopping experience to the consumers. The factors challenging the market growth include the regulations over the use of plastic, pollution due to the generation of significant plastic waste through e-commerce channels, and lack of exposure to good manufacturing practices.
However, multiple e-commerce players are switching to sustainable packaging materials, increasing the use of bioplastics. In June 2021, business-facing online retailer Btab announced sustainable packaging materials for e-commerce fulfillment across its operations. The company will utilize packaging materials that are both recyclable and biodegradable. Btab is undertaking multiple measures in the bioplastics industry to meet sustainability requirements that include the development of advanced, biodegradable packaging that is recyclable in the existing recycling systems
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COVID–19 Impact on the Global E-commerce Plastic Packaging Market
During the pandemic, the shift from physical to virtual shopping was accelerated, forcing most businesses to migrate from on-premise to cloud operations. COVID-19 has expanded the e-commerce customer base beyond millennials and digital natives to include people of all ages. Even if lockdown orders are removed, many people will continue to use this sales channel, fundamentally changing the retail landscape.
The European Plastics Converters (EuPC) comprises 50.000 SMEs, and it is currently working to mitigate the effects of this crisis. Industries and governments are focusing their efforts entirely on crisis management. They have put all non-essential activities on hold for the next 12 months to focus on European citizens’ health and safety. Even if online shopping falls again after in-store shopping resumes, the share of e-commerce in retail is anticipated to grow significantly and permanently. According to a new Loqate study, 69% of retailers reported a massive increase in their online sales average order value (AOV).
Furthermore, many plastic e-commerce packaging companies that are unable to increase production in response to high demand will be unable to survive in the post-pandemic market, as most of the organizations that rely on those packaging companies have already shifted to new companies to meet market demand.
Global E-commerce Plastic Packaging Market Dynamics
Drivers: Growing Proliferation of Online Retailing and Emergence of Omni-channel Presence
The past few years have seen a continual consumer purchasing shift toward e-commerce and away from brick-and-mortar stores. However, the e-commerce trend that was supposed to be a slow and steady trajectory upwards has turned into a significant rise due to pandemic shopping habits. On a parallel path, omnichannel fulfillment gained a foothold. Retailers are challenged to offer their customers a superior purchasing experience regardless of where the product is shipped. The objective is to make the right packaging choices that positively impact quality, speed, and shipping costs.
Packaging design could help brands significantly overcome the challenges in the omnichannel era. For instance, replacing aluminum cans and glass with flexible pouches and PET containers that are e-commerce-ready prevents damage. It reduces the need for extra protective wrapping, polybags, and secondary packaging, cutting costs considerably, thus, driving the usage of plastic packaging. A channel-specific packaging strategy works well for many companies, particularly nimbler e-commerce brands such as meal kit company Hello Fresh and toothbrush brand Goby.
Challenges: Lack of Exposure to Good Manufacturing Practices
Increasing concerns over additives used to manufacture some virgin plastics complicate recycling or pose risks to human or ecological health. For manufacturers of recycled plastics, uncertainty about the presence of these additives in the plastic waste can hinder recycling altogether. The lack of information and transparency regarding the use of additives in some plastic waste streams is thus a significant barrier to the increased recycling of those products.
The governments of G7 countries are poised to address these plastic manufacturing challenges through the following policy interventions: the creation of certification standards for recycled plastics; creation of requirements to collect and recycle all types of plastic products; facilitation of better coordination and communication across the plastics value chain, including through the promotion of chemical information systems; and restrictions on the use of hazardous additives in plastics manufacturing.
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Scope of the Global E-commerce Plastic Packaging
The study categorizes the e-commerce plastic packaging market based on product type and end-users at the regional and global levels.
By Product Type Outlook (Sales, USD Million, 2017–2030)
- Pouches and Bags
- Protective Packaging
- Air Pillows
- Bubble Packaging
- Other Protective Packaging Products
- Shrink Films
- Other Product Types
By end-users Outlook (Sales, USD Million, 2017–2030)
- Consumer Electronics and Media
- Food and Beverage
- Personal Care Products
- Fashion and Apparel
- Home Care and Furnishing
- Other End-user Industries
By Region Outlook (Sales, USD Million, 2017–2030)
- North America (US, Canada, Mexico)
- South America (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Rest of Latin America)
- Europe (Germany, Italy, France, UK, Spain, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Rest of Europe)
- Asia Pacific (China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand, Rest of Asia Pacific)
- The Middle East & Africa (Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Africa, Northern Africa, Rest of MEA)
The protective packaging segment is projected to account for the largest market share, by product type
The global e-commerce plastic packaging market is divided into pouches and bags, protective packaging, shrink films, and other product types based on product type. In 2021, protective packaging was accounted for the largest market share, with 35.2% of the market revenue share. Protective packing supplies are items designed to protect and buffer a product from potential harm or destruction during transportation or storage. Depending on the goods contained therein, protective packaging is frequently utilized as the primary component of a product’s packaging or as a supplementary type of package supply.
Consumers are giving more attention to their shipments’ packing sustainability, as e-commerce sales have surged under the COVID-19-related stay-at-home mandate. One such sustainable protective packaging material is Flexi-Hex, a 100 % recycled paper-based solution that protects various fragile products of the sports, beverages, industrial, automotive, and marine industries. It can be expanded and pulled over the object to be protected. This efficient design saves room, protects products, and is recyclable and compostable.
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Asia Pacific accounts for the highest CAGR during the forecast period
Based on the regions, the global e-commerce plastic packaging market has segmented as North America, Asia–Pacific, Europe, South America, and the Middle East & Africa. Globally, Asia Pacific is projected to register a CAGR of 18.2% during the forecast period. In Asia-Pacific, China is accounted for the largest market share. Due to expanding consumer preference for online shopping, the proliferation of payment options, online shopping events including single-day offers enticing discounts, and enhanced logistic infrastructure, China is one of the emerging nations where the e-commerce sector is expanding rapidly.
India is the fastest-growing region in the Asia Pacific, with a CAGR of 19.5% during the forecast period. Due to the increasing population, changing lifestyles, rising income levels, and growing economy, India’s demand for e-commerce packaging has increased. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade is reportedly aiming to use the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) to define protocols for cataloging, vendor finding, and price discovery to standardize the onboarding process of retailers on e-commerce platforms. With the broader interest of the country and its citizens, the department aspires to provide equal opportunities to all marketplace players to make the most of the e-commerce ecosystem.
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Key Market Players
The e-commerce plastic packaging market is mildly concentrated in nature, with few numbers of global players operating in the market such as Amcor PLC, Pregis LLC, Sealed Air Corporation, Sonoco Products Company, Storopack Hans Reichenecker GmbH, Berry Global Inc., Huhtamäki Oyj, CCL Industries Inc., Clondalkin Flexible Packaging, and ProAmpac LLC.