The packaging industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by reusability, recyclability, light weight, and convenience, and growing importance of technologies such as circular economy, shrink wrapping, RFID technology, and virtual reality. In the last three years alone, there have been over 427,000 patents filed and granted in the packaging industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in packaging: MFC coated packaging paper. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

30+ innovations will shape the packaging industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the packaging industry using innovation intensity models built on over 77,000 patents, there are 30+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, cellulose fiber 3D printing, biodegradable packaging films, and multilayer barrier films are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. RFID packaging, anti-counterfeiting bottle caps, and clamshell-type packaging are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are resealable medication vials and synthetic resin containers, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the packaging industry

MFC coated packaging paper is a key innovation area in packaging

Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) is a nanomaterial derived from cellulose, which is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth and a major component of plant cell walls. MFC is produced through mechanical or chemical treatments that break down cellulose fibers into extremely fine, nanoscale fibrils or microfibrils. It acts as a natural performance enhancer, used for creating lighter and stronger packaging. It is used primarily for the food industry.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 110+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established packaging companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of MFC coated packaging paper.

Key players in MFC coated packaging paper – a disruptive innovation in the packaging industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to MFC coated packaging paper

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Stora Enso 250 Unlock Company Profile
Billerud 78 Unlock Company Profile
Wilh. Werhahn 58 Unlock Company Profile
FiberLean Technologies 38 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Paper Industries 36 Unlock Company Profile
Kemira 34 Unlock Company Profile
Kimberly-Clark 28 Unlock Company Profile
Klabin 25 Unlock Company Profile
Westrock 24 Unlock Company Profile
Oji 23 Unlock Company Profile
Eastman Chemical 22 Unlock Company Profile
Tokushu Tokai Paper 20 Unlock Company Profile
Smurfit Kappa Group 20 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 18 Unlock Company Profile
Innventia 17 Unlock Company Profile
Ecoinno (H.K.) 17 Unlock Company Profile
Mayr-Melnhof Karton 15 Unlock Company Profile
FP Innovations 15 Unlock Company Profile
Theca-Cola 14 Unlock Company Profile
Cargill 14 Unlock Company Profile
Mondi 13 Unlock Company Profile
Mativ 13 Unlock Company Profile
Parjointco 13 Unlock Company Profile
Coca-Cola Europacific Partners 12 Unlock Company Profile
KT&G 12 Unlock Company Profile
Sodra Skogsagarna ekonomisk forening 12 Unlock Company Profile
Tetra Laval International 12 Unlock Company Profile
Kuraray 11 Unlock Company Profile
Novo Nordisk Foundation 11 Unlock Company Profile
Enzymatic Deinking Technologies 11 Unlock Company Profile
AGC 9 Unlock Company Profile
Koch Industries 9 Unlock Company Profile
Anheuser-Busch InBev 9 Unlock Company Profile
Solenis Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile
Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing 7 Unlock Company Profile
Visy Industries 7 Unlock Company Profile
Metsaliitto Cooperative 7 Unlock Company Profile
Sonoco Products 6 Unlock Company Profile
Yueyang Forest and Paper 6 Unlock Company Profile
Södra Skogsägarna ekonomisk förening 6 Unlock Company Profile
KTH 6 Unlock Company Profile
delfortgroup 5 Unlock Company Profile
Tetra Laval & Finance 5 Unlock Company Profile
OneWorld Packaging 5 Unlock Company Profile
JMV 5 Unlock Company Profile
UPM-Kymmene 5 Unlock Company Profile
Orkla 5 Unlock Company Profile
The Siam Cement Public 4 Unlock Company Profile
Carlsberg 4 Unlock Company Profile
Creapaper 4 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Stora Enso is the leading patent filer in MFC coated packaging paper. It recently acquired a Dutch company, De Jong Packaging Group, to accelerate growth in renewable corrugated packaging. The acquisition will greatly enhance Stora Enso's foothold in the European packaging sectors and serve as an entry point into the corrugated packaging market in the Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and the UK. Some other key patent filers in the MFC coated packaging paper include Billerud, Wilh. Werhahn, FiberLean Technologies and Nippon Paper Industries.

In terms of application diversity, OneWorld Packaging leads the pack. Mayr-Melnhof Karton and UPM-Kymmene stand in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Tokushu Tokai Paper holds the top position, followed by FiberLean Technologies, Wilh. Werhahn and Smurfit Kappa Group.

MFC coated paper will be revolutionary for the food industry in coming years as it will help store the food for a longer time.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the packaging industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Packaging.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.