Exploring moulded fibre industry insights at IMFA 2023
Insights from the 25th annual conference of the International Molded Fiber Association
At this year’s annual meeting of the International Molded Fiber Association (IMFA), a diverse group of participants representing various segments of the moulded fibre product (MFP) value chain gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona, to engage in meaningful discussions about the current state of the MFP markets and explore cutting-edge innovations within the industry. Participants had the opportunity to delve into the latest advancements in moulded fibre technology, design and production processes.
AFRY’s Bioindustry Director, Alexander Koukoulas, opened the first conference session, providing AFRY’s outlook on the markets and guidance on how the industry can position itself for what will be an extraordinary period for growth.
During the ensuing panel session, hosted by the conference organiser, Paul Carter, Koukoulas was joined by fellow AFRY colleague Megan McCormick and Chris Robertson from Huhtamaki US. The panel answered a range of questions related to the MFP markets, including how the industry can adopt new technologies and business models that can increase the sectors’ competitiveness and address key regulatory factors that can influence future demand for moulded fibre products.
Innovation in Moulded Fibre Products
Moulded fibre products is a sustainable packaging solution made from renewable sources of both agricultural- and wood-based fibres. The sector is experiencing significant growth due to the increased demand from brand owners, consumers and the actions of regulatory bodies that are restricting the use of plastics.
While moulded fibre offers a number of sustainability benefits, including biodegradability, it faces challenges in terms of functionality, particularly in its water and oxygen barrier properties, as well as resistance to oil and grease. However, the industry is actively developing promising technologies to address these shortcomings.
The Importance of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
One major conference theme is the recognition that life cycle analysis (LCA) will become increasingly important in supporting sustainability claims. Manufacturers will find themselves under greater pressure to furnish robust, science-based data to substantiate their sustainability claims. This shift reflects the growing emphasis on environmental responsibility and underscores the need for a comprehensive understanding of the entire life cycle of products.
ARFY, an industry expert, believes that the moulded fibre sector is poised for substantial growth, especially in light of the escalating bans on expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging. AFRY estimates that by 2030, over half of the U.S. population will be subject to EPS bans, creating a substantial opportunity for moulded fibre. Additionally, AFRY predicts that a global ban on EPS packaging could lead to at least a 50% increase in demand for moulded fibre.
AFRY believes that the moulded fibre industry is ready for consolidation, as it is primarily composed of small businesses serving niche markets. AFRY also sees that success in the MFP industry will depend on achieving scale and operational excellence. Innovation across all levels, from product design to machinery, will be crucial to meet this growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions.