Office paper is declining around 1% per annum, not as rapid as other grades

According to a new report from Smithers Pira, future use of office paper will increasingly be more segmented, reflecting both geographical and end use sector differences.

The influence on cut-size paper demand of economic, technological and other factors has been the subject of regular, periodic Smithers Pira research since 20061. In the 2012 study2 it was clear that even though demand for office paper was in long term decline in all developed markets, there was still little evidence of an imminent universal paperless business environment. Access to new technology and cheaper printing was also stimulating printing on paper.

Output from the most recent study (2015) addressed the key questions:

  • What is the future for the grade in the next five years?
  • What key factors will influence demand going forward?
  • How will demand be influenced by end use market applications?
  • Will the omnipresent smartphones/tablets further negate paper use?

The research showed that the decline witnessed in the last 10 years will continue. However this decline is not as rapid as other printing and writing grades.  Future use of office paper will increasingly be more segmented, reflecting both geographical and end use sector differences.

Figure 1: Views on future use of office paper in different end use sectors.

Source: Smithers Pira

The rise and rise of digital technology as exemplified by increasing access and use of Wi-Fi and phones/tablets will continue to be the major inhibitor of demand.  Developments in hardware and virtual storage systems will increasingly negate the need for printing and archiving paper based material.In contrast the greater availability of inkjet and laser printers and affordable color print for office applications will lead to increased demand for some specific end uses.

There are clear indications that more end use sectors, including health and legal, are embracing digital systems to replace office paper based systems.  Many public sector organizations have long-established protocols for processing work built on office paper use.  Change here to more digital based systems will continue to occur but will be dependent on the availability of monies for digital based infrastructure investment and a willingness to change. 

It is predicted in two years’ time there will be a worldwide installed base of 905 million tablets equal to over one in eight people on earth.  Such growth in technology, will inevitably lead to replacement of paper systems in a number of end use sectors and negating further paper use.  A long term view is that such systems will ultimately replace paper in the majority of printed applications in business and office environments.  However the speed of replacement may increase more rapidly as the use and familiarity of smartphones and tablets becomes common place with very young children.

Given this rapidly evolving market sector, how should paper suppliers respond?

  • Paper suppliers need to embrace the evolving multi-media office environment and consequently offer a genuinely tailored, flexible and proactive service to all office paper end users from large corporates to SOHO purchasers across the end use spectrum.
  • Further, a measured capacity management response by paper manufacturers is required to enable greater control of supply: demand ratios going forward.

The Future of European Office Paper Markets to 2020 is now available. It provides a market view through to 2020 and forecasts the likely demand by country over the next five years. For more information or to purchase this market report, please contact Steve Hill via phone at +44(0) 1372 802025, or via e-mail at shill@smithers.com, or Josh Rabb via phone at 330-762-7441 ext. 1206, or via e-mail at jrabb@smithers.com. You can also visit us online at www.smitherspira.com.

Smithers Pira is the worldwide authority on packaging, paper and print industry supply chains. Established in 1930, Smithers Pira provides strategic and technical consulting, testing, intelligence and events to help clients gain market insights, identify opportunities, evaluate product performance and manage compliance.

1Future of Office Papers, Smithers Pira 2006

2Changing Paper Demand in Office and Business Environments, Smithers Pira 2012