Plastics container demand in the US is forecast to increase over 4% a year to 13.7bn pounds in 2006 and, over this period, container value will expand 5.7% a year to nearly $15bn says market analyst Freedonia.

Advances made at the expense of glass, metal and other materials will be attributable to plastics’ clarity, light weight, design flexibility, strength, shatter resistance, favourable barrier properties, tamper evidence, and ease of opening and dispensing.

Technological improvements in heat resistance, coextrusion and barrier properties will also continue to drive advances for plastics’ containers.

Faster unit gains will be attributable to the increased prevalence of smaller, lighter containers, especially in the beverage market.

Plastics bottles, which accounted for nearly 80% of plastics container poundage in 2001, will register the strongest growth, advancing 4.3% yearly through 2006 to 10.9bn pounds. Gains will trail unit growth as the average weight per bottle continues to decline.

A thriving market for bottled waters, supported by the entry of the major soft drink companies in the mid-to-late 1990s will fuel beverage bottle opportunities.

Gains will also result from rapid proliferation of single-serving carbonated soft drinks, juices and other beverages, while improved processing and barrier technologies will heighten demand in relatively untapped areas such as beer.

More limited expansion is anticipated for tubs and cups due to saturated applications, although healthy expansion of single-serving food uses will create good opportunities.

Among other plastics container types, trays will benefit from the proliferation of prepared refrigerated and frozen meals as well as pre-cut produce and case-ready poultry and meat.

By 2006 PET will displace HDPE as the leading container resin as a result of technological improvements, rapid advances in bottled water and expanded usage in other container applications such as food and household chemicals.

Despite slower growth as a result of maturity in key end markets, HDPE will still account for nearly 45% of poundage based on its low cost and entrenched position in a variety of container uses.