The figures, compiled by the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) for the first six months of 2004, are very much in line with the strong sales in the same period last year at 422,000 tons (2003: 419,000), and maintain the healthy level set in the first quarter of the year.
Approximately three quarters of aluminium foil is now used in packaging where its characteristics of strength, formability and barrier properties have made it an essential part of many flexible packaging and container applications. The number of new products that feature innovative uses of alufoil based packaging indicates a healthy future for the material.
"Consumption has been good, largely because of the increasing quality of the product," European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA) executive director Stefan Glimm told FoodProductionDaily.com. "There has also been a general trend towards flexible packaging, which is substituting rigid packaging."
Glimm contends that as the demand for low-weight, flexible packaging increases, the market of aluminium is set to expand further. One perceived advantage of flexible packaging is that it offers excellent barrier protection.
However, alternatives to aluminium are beginning to enter the market. At the start of the year, ExxonMobil Chemical Films Europe launched two new metallyte films that provide an ultra-high-barrier alternative to the material.
According to the company, a major advantage of these films, compared to metallised polyester or aluminium foil, is their exceptional performance after flexing and their better puncture resistance, both of which contribute to improved product protection and shelf life. The company believes that the material is perfect for long conservation of products packed under modified atmosphere with little oxygen uptake in the pack headspace.
Nonetheless, aluminium exports continue to advance strongly, with a two per cent increase over 2003. Within much of Europe, usage for the six month period has shown stable demand (+ 0.3 per cent) compared to last year in spite of a generally unfavourable European economic background.
Of particular interest within these figures has been the increase (three per cent) in demand for thicker foil (over 60µm) combined by a small decrease of shipments of thinner foil (- one per cent). Taking the ongoing down gauging into consideration, thus results in at least stable use of foil in flexible packaging applications, too.
Industry opinion is that last year's disappointing third quarter will not be repeated this year, and general expectations for the rest of 2004 are the continuation of a high level of sales with even some further growth over the year as a whole.
The European Aluminium Foil Association is the international body representing companies engaged in the rolling and converting of aluminium foil and in the manufacture of alufoil containers. More than 100 members include companies in Western, Central and Eastern Europe.