Smithers’ Study Says Functional Coatings Market to Reach $8.56 Billion in 2023

Functional coatings, ideally those that do not compromise recyclability, are central to the continued evolution of more sustainable fiber-based packaging. Several major paper companies have already invested to fit high-throughput coating to paper mills, anticipating a continued increase in demand for new lines of value-added products across multiple sectors.

In its latest dedicated study — The Future of Functional and Barrier Coatings for Paper and Board to 2028 — Smithers projects total value in this market will reach $8.56 billion in 2023, with almost 3.37 million tons (metric) of coating material consumed, globally. With demand strengthening in many segments, pack coatings are also benefitting from increased R&D spending, as new corporate and regulatory targets are set to enter into force. The earliest in 2025.

Expert Smithers forecasting tracks how coating demand will increase to $10.79 billion in 2028, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7% for the five-year period. Across the same time, volume demand will increase at a marginally faster CAGR of +4.8% to reach 4.25 million tons in that year.

In this timely report, Smithers examines the current and future coating technologies critically. Its authoritative quantification of the market tracks the prospects for coated corrugated, flexible papers, cartonboard, liquid paperboard, and molded fiber packaging, across 13 distinct packaging segments.

It shows that greatest potential lies in the food sector, which represents 77% of contemporary coatings demand. Here there is a direct demand for functional barrier coatings that can protect paperboard, from grease, oil, and moisture. Single-use plastics legislation makes paper cups and food trays an immediate priority, as is developing barrier solutions for paper grades made with non-virgin, recycled fiber stocks. Evolution of coating technology will allow for greater diversification of fiber packaging into other formats, with several big-name brand owners actively investigating paper-based bottles.

Beyond food and beverages, suppliers are looking to capitalize on demand for superior functional paperboard coatings for use in chill chains, e-commerce, personal care, and medical packaging. A parallel trend is the development of more aqueous, water-based application systems.

Of the six major coating technologies it profiles, Smithers research shows the fastest growth will be in thermoplastic polymers, closely followed by aluminum barriers, and silicones. Despite overall expansion, the use of wax coatings is set to decline over the Smithers forecast period; while fluorochemical coatings are increasingly being pushed from the market, backed by tightening restrictions on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Smithers functional coatings Figure 1. Geographic demand for functional and barrier coatings in 2022.
Smithers functional coatings Figure 1. Geographic demand for functional and barrier coatings in 2022.

The Future of Functional and Barrier Coatings for Paper and Board to 2028 is available now providing expert insight into this increasingly important technology for sustainable packaging. Its exclusive dataset of over 220 data tables and figures segments the historic, current, and future market (by value and volume) across:

Six coating technologies — Thermoplastic polymer, High-barrier polymer, Aluminum, Wax, Silicone, Fluorochemical;

Three application technologies — Water-based, Solvent, Solid;

Thirteen end-use applications — Beverages & liquids, Fresh food, Chilled food, Frozen food, Non-liquid dairy, Fruit & perishables, Food-service, Bakery, Pet food, Other food (human), Healthcare, Personal care, Other non-food;

Six fiber-based packaging formats — Corrugated, Folding cartons, Flexible papers, Liquid paperboard, Molded fiber, Other.


Founded in 1925 and headquartered in Akron, Ohio, Smithers is a multinational provider of testing, consulting, information, and compliance services.

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SOURCE: Smithers

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