Industries can change dramatically over time. For example, the resin business has undergone major transformations. A look back at the 2007 Ink World Buyers’ Guide shows just how different the resin industry looks today.
Major players like Air Products & Chemicals, Arez International, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Cognis, Cytec Industries, Hexion Specialty Chemicals, MeadWestvaco and Rohm & Haas were industry leaders in their respective fields in 2007; now, these suppliers have been consolidated, with BASF (Ciba and Cognis), Evonik (Air Products & Chemicals), Hydrite (Rohm & Haas), Ingevity (Mead Westvaco) and Alvar (Arez) acquiring these companies. (Hexion is a different matter; after a series of moves, they had acquired what had originally been Lawter, which eventually was divested and is now back under its original name.)
Before 2007, industry leaders like Akzo Nobel Resins (Hexion), Johnson Polymer (BASF) and Noveon (Lubrizol) were similarly acquired. All in all, it is a changing market, and will like continue to evolve over time.
Key Resin Sectors
The resin market is a diverse business. Generally speaking, there are different types of resins for the different types of inks.
Hydrocarbon-based inks, for example, are used for publication printing; acrylic-based and nitrocellulose-based resins are among those used for packaging. Trying to get a size on the graphic arts market for resins is a challenge, as these types of resins also have uses in other fields.
In its 2016 report, “Petroleum Resin Market by Type (C5, C9, Hydrogenated Hydrocarbon Resins and C5/C9 Resins), Application (Adhesive & Sealants, Printing Inks, Paints & Coatings), End-Use Industry (Building & Construction, Tire) and by Region – Global Forecast to 2021,” marketsandmarkets.com says that the global petroleum resin market is estimated to reach $2.58 billion by 2021, with a CAGR of 7.7%.
marketsandmarkets.com reports that the major end use markets are rubber compounding for tires, paints and coatings and adhesives and sealants, with printing inks much smaller by comparison. The firm reports that the petroleum resins market is driven by increasing demand for low VOC, green and sustainable resins.
In its study, “Global Acrylic Resin Market, 2nd Edition,” published in 2015, Acmite Market Intelligence places the global acrylic resin industry at $16.82 billion in 2014, rising to $25.8 billion by 2023. Key applications include automotive, paints and coatings, adhesive and sealants and construction and architecture.
In its 2016 report, “Nitrocellulose Market Analysis By Application (Printing Inks, Automotive Paints, Wood Coatings, Leather Finishes, Nail Varnishes) and Segment Forecasts to 2024,” Grand View Research sizes the nitrocellulose market at $622.5 million in 2015. Demand from printing ink accounted for more than 25% of the global market in 2015, according to Grand View Research.
“The printing ink industry is being driven by technology advancements and the demand for eco-friendly inks,” Grand View Research reports. “Use of nitrocellulose-based ink in flexography and gravure printing gives high quality and durable color print result. All these factors are anticipated to further fuel the global market demand. Increasing construction spending, particularly in Asia Pacific, is expected to be directly proportional to the growth of the market.”
The Resin Market in 2017
Overall, the resin market fared well during the past year.
“The ink resin market in 2016 experienced growth in many market sub-segments within flexible packaging, such as plastic carrier bags, baked goods packaging, meat, fish and poultry packaging, shrink sleeves for bottles, microwaveable and retort packaging,” said Jaime Manon, market segment manager – Flexible Packaging for BASF.
Manon added that uncertainty in the political sphere is a concern going forward.
“Despite the optimism of increased economic growth in 2017, there is a lot of uncertainty in North America (Canada, US and Mexico) due to the new political environment in the region,” Manon added. “The Consumer Confidence Index has increased considerably in the last months after the election, which brought optimism for the economy, jobs and income prospects, as well as for stock prices; however, looking ahead to the following quarter of 2017, consumers’ continued optimism will depend on whether or not their expectations are realized.”
“As with previous years, 2016 was a year of changes for the resin industry with the continued consolidation on the ink side and additional volatility with raw material supply and pricing,” Terry Chomniak, director of sales – process organics for Hydrite, said.
“The graphic arts markets continue to see small incremental organic growth with packaging leading the way. Packaging continues to be the growth area and an area where Hydrite continues to focus its resources on.”
“During 2014-15, we experienced a slow-down in sales, but gradually sensed the revitalization of the market since 2016 until present,” said chairman Wen-Jyu Leu and GM Yu-Chin Hsu, Yuen Liang Industrial & Co., Ltd. “Our applications span across a great length of industries, and we do observe a growing amount of customers who use our products in the market of special ink usages – graphic arts and packaging.
“We are seeing the growth in all spheres, as well as the more industrial-specific areas, namely specialty chemicals,” Leu and Hsu added. “For Yuen Liang, innovative materials/ink for packaging and applications for UV absorbers are the areas we witness the most growth in.”
Patrick Weisbruch, technical director at Alvar, Inc., noted he is seeing expansion in flexible packaging, digital and UV. “Most growth is due to consolidation and movement into adjacent areas related to the printing industry,” Weisbruch added.
“The resin industry continued to see some growth in the flexographic packaging ink field,” said Matt Grodd, business and operations for Kane International. “There is certainly a lot of growth within solvent-based flexographic packaging.”
“With regards to the lithographic ink market, we continue to see declines due to offshore competition and further market erosion,” said Matt Weston, director of technical services at Resinall. “We continue to look for lower cost raw materials and are diversifying into other more profitable/growth markets.”
“Within the US, 2016 showed continued growth vs. prior years and we anticipate similar growth for 2017,” Stephen Baron, North America marketing manager, Lubrizol Performance Coatings, said. “The graphic arts market seems to have kept pace with norms of the economy. Liquid inks in the packaging market continue to grow, replacing paste inks in many areas.Digital ink technology is the next trend on the horizon for packaging as advances begin to overcome the shortfalls in the process.”
Felipe Subtil – marketing manager of Nitro Quimica, reported that the resin industry, in general, remained flat in 2016 compared to 2015. “We see important growth on the packaging markets, especially in flexographic and gravure-based technologies,” Subtil said. “This movement is driven especially by the food, beverages and hygiene products consumption, which are growing in some way in all the regions around the world.”
Manon expects the resin industry will continue to experience a contraction in printing inks consumed in publishing due to the continued global growth in electronic media.
“However, the industry will also continue to experience growth in the flexible packaging market segment as three main drivers continue to stand out in the flexible packaging market: cost, compliance/sustainability and performance,” Manon added. “Flexible packaging will continue to grow as it replaces traditional materials such as glass jars and metal cans to address lower cost packaging, lighter weight and a lower carbon footprint for production.
“Also, ‘Convenience’ has been identified as a big driver as well due to demographics, population growth and change of lifestyles demanding an increased shelf life for food packages and overall different technologies and sizes,” Manon noted. “Additionally, flexible packaging provides advantages in packaging design (very attractive at point-of-sale and ‘ease of use’ performance), transportation and handling (protection of the product) and sustainability (biodegradable, compostable, renewable and recyclable options).”
Sustainability and environmental concerns remain key issues for the packaging industry. “A critical challenge the industry is facing is tied to the growth in regulations globally, constant changes as well as interests in sustainability throughout the value chain. There are extensive needs for regulatory information to be exchanged,” noted Flavia Borovsky, BASF’s market segment manager – Paper & Paperboard.
Dirk VanHeddegem of ALVAR, Inc., said that companies are reformulating the packaging inks that they are developing, reducing or removing the raw materials that give an issue in the migration. “Resins are constantly changing to meet the demand of customers; whether it be regulatory like the elimination of Bisphenol A or a system that is phenol-free, formaldehyde-free, or low migration/odor,” VanHeddegem added.
Developing water-based inks for film and foil printing is an area of interest, and resins will play a role.
“The flexible packaging market is segmented by performance level and we expect the industry will continue to convert to more sustainable options such as water-based printing on film and foil to address lower VOC emissions and carbon footprint for production,”Manon said. “We expect overall 2017 will continue with growing optimism of increased economic growth, where the printing market for packaging is estimated to experience growth with emphasis in the flexible packaging and functional coatings packaging segments.”