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A shift in packaging for China’s shrinking households

10 April 2014

Packaging in China must meet the needs of busier, smaller households, Canadean reports.

China’s one child policy has led to the average number of people per household size shrinking to 2.8. The family structure has also changed, following a new common ‘4-2-1 composition’ of four grandparents, two parents and one child. This family unit will drive demands for family fit packs such as those containing three servings.

In addition, smaller households are looking for smaller pack sizes to reduce waste and provide cost effectiveness. It is now common for both parents in the household to be working, so ready-to-eat and on-the-go products are in demand to suit their busy lifestyles.

Chinese consumers demand ready-to-eat food in convenient, plastic packaging

The changes in household demographics will lead to a shift from traditional paper and board packaging to more convenient rigid and flexible plastic packaging, particularly in the food sector. According to Kirsty Nolan, Canadean Analyst, plastic has the advantage of greater protection against perishing, allowing food to last longer than paper and board packaging does. “This is beneficial for smaller households as they don't get through food as quickly as larger households do. It also means less frequent shopping trips and greater product durability.”

The number of flexible plastic packs in the Chinese food market will increase by 55 billion from 2013 to 2017. Within flexible plastic packaging, bags and sachets will record the fastest growth owing to the demand for single serve, convenient foods such as pasta and noodles.

According to Kirsty Nolan: “Building on convenience, packaging that suits the needs of frozen, chilled, microwaveable and ready meal foods will witness greater demand because these are ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products which complement a busy lifestyle.”



Editor’s notes

These findings are based on the new Canadean report: ‘Latest Trends and Key Issues in the Chinese Retail Packaging Market’.



Nestcafé’s new Smoovlatté, a premium smooth and aromatic coffee latté, can be bought in packs of three; convenient for China’s three person household.


The above chart displays predicted growth in sales of convenient flexible plastic packaging from 2013 to 2017



Flexible plastics: Covers a wide range of packaging that can be single and multi-layered and is supplied in reels or bags. It can be paper/poly/foil, nylon, or a combination of materials that are supplied either plain/printed/coated and/or laminated to provide long shelf-life properties.

Rigid plastics:Freestanding plastic tubs and bottles, among others.

Paper and board:Containers made of cardboard – several layers of fibrous wood pulp, often known as paperboard. Containers are commonly coated in polyethylene and lined with foil, but should be recorded as board if board is the main packaging material.


About Canadean

Canadean has a long-held reputation for providing valuable and in-depth market research initially built up in beverages, and now operates across the FMCG market and related industries, including packaging, ingredients, soft drinks, beer, retail, food, foodservice, wines & spirits and cosmetics & toiletries. Canadean specialises in conducting online survey panels, producing in-depth market insights reports through qualitative and quantitative in-country analysis as well as offering clients bespoke consultancy services. For more information please visit


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