Saudi Arabia's Plastic Packaging Market Poised for Success

Pharma IQ

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is emerging as a major player within the pharmaceutical industry, and therefore it perhaps only seems right it is making efforts to boost its packaging capabilities for drugs accordingly.

As one polymer producer from Saudi Arabia told "It won't be too long before it becomes the world's premier polymer producer and exporter, edging out less cost-advantaged suppliers from the global marketplace."

According to Duplas Al Sharq, a subsidiary of Emirates Investment & Development, the plastics market within the GCC is growing at an annual rate of 20 percent, and this may increase in the not too distant future.

However, if the region hopes to make such strides within the pharmaceutical industry however, it will need to take note of the trends emerging and the demands of those operating in the MENA.

Packaging is playing an increasingly important role within anti-counterfeiting operations and the industry like many others is also being faced with the task of balancing increasing environmental concerns, with stricter regulatory requirements.

New developments - such as  Borealis' Bormed LE6609-PH, which has a very high melting temperature allowing for increased production speed  -  show the pharmaceutical sector is also considering packaging innovations in its quest to bring its products to market faster.

Market potential in the MENA region

Research conducted by BMI about the pharmaceutical market in the MENA region estimates it will be worth $23.7 billion (£15.3 billion) by the year 2014.

Looking specifically at the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were leading the way, with projected values of $3.8 billion and $2.7 billion respectively.

Saudi Arabia's share of the market was said to stand at 16 percent, with the research suggesting there was a sufficiently large population to support sustained growth within the industry, continuing to make it one of the most attractive pharmaceutical markets in the region.

According to Espicom, as of yet there is little production within Saudi Arabia, and just 15 percent is supplied by domestic manufacturers.

"However, Saudi Arabia imports a large amount of semi-finished medicaments, some of which are then re-labelled, repackaged and exported," the report noted.
Biotechnology has also been identified as a target growth sector for the Saudi Arabian pharmaceutical industry in the coming years.

While producers from developed markets have been slow to enter the market, Sanofi-Aventis announced the construction of a manufacturing plant in the country in July, suggesting the tide may be turning.

Innovation, productivity and quality

As a long-standing centre for the petrochemicals industry, Saudi Arabia is well placed to sit at the forefront of plastic packaging innovations.

Earlier this year, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) announced the creation of a more advanced technology for the manufacturing of polypropylene, which can be used in the production of packaging for use by both the food and pharmaceutical industries.

SABIC is the fourth largest producer of polypropylene in the world and the catalyst is the first of its kind to be developed in the Middle East and Gulf region. "This discovery will contribute to increased productivity, enhanced quality and new product development," SABIC said.

The company also recently announced the creation of the SABIC Plastics Application Development Center, in collaboration with King Saud University.

Another first for the Middle East, the centre will feature 300 items of specialised research equipment for use in extending the company's packaging portfolio, among other innovations.

Researchers at the centre will work in collaboration with customers to design new plastic applications and form part of SABIC's Global Technology Center network, working in partnership with other facilities in the United States, India, China and Japan.