The Future of Thermal Paper Markets to 2018 - Multi Client Report

Smithers Pira's multi-client study on global thermal paper consumption, trends and forecasts to 2018. Stay ahead of your competition with this in-depth report.


Product detail
Product type: Market report
Date of publication: 05 Nov 2013
Product format: Digital Copy, Hard Copy
Number of pages: 85
Number of tables: 20
Number of figures: 5
Forecast range: 2013-2018
  • As with many other paper products, demand was severely hit by the economic recession, as consumer spending reduced and travel plans were put on hold
  • Unlike other printed paper products where there has been no return to pre-recession levels, thermal paper demand has returned.


Thermal paper is used in a wide range of applications including the retail, entertainment, medical and transport sectors. The two largest end uses of thermal paper are point of sale (POS) and labels. Although widespread in their use, as with many printed paper products, technology developments have enabled alternative systems and processes to develop that are and will continue to impact thermal paper demand.

For example, currently there is much optimistic data and media about e-receipts replacing paper receipts as smart phones, tablets and contactless bank cards are increasingly used for retail transactions. In recent times myriad examples of new retailing technology likely to impact receipt formats are appearing and it is too early to predict exactly what will predominate and precisely how it will evolve. The e-receipt market is in its infancy and paper receipts are likely to be a mainstream feature of consumer retailing for the future.


  • Legal Requirements - Until all retailers and all consumers are able to deliver e-receipts, there will be some need for paper receipts
  • Perceived Legal Requirements - Regardless of statute law, there is widespread belief that a paper receipt as opposed to a receipt (or in fact no receipt) is a universal consumer right. Retailers will not want to create widespread customer discontent by removing paper receipts too quickly. The overriding issue is 'customer satisfaction' meaning the merchant will provide a receipt if requested.
  • Business Operational and Trading Requirements - The traditional Point of Sale (POS) terminal will undoubtedly become the Point of Interaction (POI) and this will introduce new hardware into the hands of either the customer, the merchant, or both and potentially changes the emphasis and the way in which a sale transaction is completed. However each retail category and to a lesser degree location, has different requirements and certain payment transactions and customers will continue to require a paper receipt as proof of contract. Many merchants will want to provide a receipt partly for the same reason.

Future thermal paper use in a range of application sectors will be influenced by a range of factors. These include:

  • The green effect - including accreditation; use of bisphenol A; lower basis weights
  • Technological developments - including the impact of digital and mobile communication, e receipts, smart phones
  • Market effects - including regional differences, economic issues, developed vs developing countries, trade issues
  • Changing end user needs and requirements - including 'etailing', 'value' of paper receipt vs e receipt
  • Competitive landscape - including new entrants, trade 'wars'

The nature and magnitude of these factors on future thermal paper demand will form the focus of research in this study and provide a view on the future for thermal paper through to 2018.


The project evaluated the impact of a range of factors on future attitudes to and the use of thermal paper based products.

The evaluation assesses:

  • How are these factors affecting overall consumption and demand of the thermal paper products?
  • When will their effect start having more impact on paper suppliers and others involved in the paper supply chain?


In addition to the overarching economic considerations brought about by the global financial situation, a number of behavioural and technological trends and issues will have a significant impact on the demand for thermal paper based products.

Key trends that are explored in the context of the study are:

  • Impact of 'green' related issues
  • Growth of 'tablet' computers and mobile phones and their impact on retailing
  • Requirement for thermal paper in developing economies
  • Evolution of end use markets/end users in relation to their need future need for thermal paper


  • B2B use of e-receipts
  • Green corporate social responsibility
  • Contactless/mobile commerce
  • Retail uptake of new POS technology
  • On-line shopping
  • Use of paper receipts for retailer promotions
  • Political pressures
  • Demographics

Some but not all of these trends and issues will be affected by geographical factors. To address these and other question the research provides a global view, with a specific focus on particular regions as required.

The effect of these issues on the market and future demand are assessed and the following aspects quantified:

  • Supply - production and capacity by region
  • Demand - by region
  • Supply: demand balance
  • End Use Segmentation: POS, labels, lottery & gaming, entertainment, medical & pharmacy, transportation, other
  • Future Demand


The project was completed using a combination of primary and secondary research. The output of this research was assessed and analysed using a PESTEL analysis. T

his will investigate and evaluate a series of factors and trends including those outlined in the scope of the project that are impacting the future demand for thermal paper products. These factors and trends were used to develop a number of scenarios that were used to forecast the consumption of thermal paper over the next 1, 3 and 5 years. Such scenarios and the assumptions on which they are based can then be interrogated in line with specific needs and requirements.

The scenarios developed around the output of research investigating significant issues and trends. These included:

  • The 'green' effect - for example double sided printing; lightweighting; use of certified/recovered fibre
  • Cutting edge technological developments - including replacement technologies, advances in security technologies;
  • Market effects - including effect of new entrants; planned capacity increases; trade related issues
  • A digital and mobile communication world.


Primary research
A number of telephone interviews with a representative cross section of players across the supply chain and across the designated geographical areas. Smithers Pira's experience indicates that up to 50 telephone interviews should be carried out. These interviews were global in scope, with a particular focus on designated regions and regional players.
Smithers Pira used its well-developed approach to maximise the amount of information gathered during each interview. Due to its extensive background and the knowledge of the industry, Smithers Pira is routinely successful in engaging participants in detailed discussions.
Secondary desk research
Information and internal and external data was sourced from:

  • Smithers Pira market reports and journals - Smithers Pira publishes many market reports and journals.
  • Smithers Pira Database - Smithers Pira's Information Centre subscribes to over 1000 industry journals, and relevant articles from the journals are abstracted into the Smithers Pira Database. Conference papers are also abstracted.
  • Various online market research databases and directories including Eurostat, UN Comtrade, Bureau of the Census, Kompass, Birkner, Lockwood Post.
  • Web sites, industry directories and trade associations.
  • All these will be searched to maximise the primary research.


  • Copies of proposed investigative questionnaires for comment and revision
  • A report describing the results and analysis of the research, the scenario development, the assumptions on which they are built, and the consequences of realisation of a given scenario on future thermal paper consumption
  • Quantification of market and forecasts through to 2018 including
  • o Supply - production and capacity by region
  • o Demand - by region
  • o Supply: demand balance
  • o End Use Segmentation: POS, labels, lottery & gaming, entertainment, medical & pharmacy, transportation, other
  • o Future Demand
  • An optional on-site presentation of the findings and their implications for individual sponsors

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
1.1 Scope of the report

2. Thermal paper label demand trends 
2.1 e-labelling

3. Receipt demand trends 
3.1 Paper receipts and legislation
3.2 Paperless receipt evolution

4. Interview highlights 
4.1 Label market respondents
4.1.1 Thermal label demand
4.1.2 Selected technology supplier comments
4.1.3 Selected label converter comments 
4.1.4 Impact of substrate and technology innovations
4.2 Thermal paper receipt respondents
4.2.1 E-receipt drivers 
4.2.2 Barriers to e-receipts
4.2.3 Demographics and e-receipts 
4.2.4 E-receipts and retail sectors 
4.2.5 E-receipts versus paper receipts: Tipping Point 
4.2.6 Views on the factors influencing migration to e-receipts

5. The Market and Forward Projections 
5.1 Supply - production and capacity
5.2 Demand 
5.2.1 Supply: demand balance 
5.3 End Use Segmentation 
5.4 Future Demand 
5.4.1 Projected future demand of thermal paper 
5.4.2 Estimated growth rate by application

Research Team

The project was managed by Dr Graham Moore Strategic Consultant, Paper. Nick Waite, Head of Market Research, developed and led the quantitative research and Jane O'Hear, Associate Consultant developed and led the qualitative research programme. The consultant team was supported by Smithers Pira's global network of industry consultants and associates.

Dr Graham Moore - Graham has over thirty years experience of the paper industry, encompassing process and product knowledge, wet end chemistry, recycling, de-inking, product performance and strategic futures related research. He has carried out many technical and strategic based consultancies for clients around the world examining issues related to product development and market positioning. He has directed and managed European, UK and client funded research programmes. 

Nick Waite - Nick has worked in market research since 1994, initially as a Market Analyst with Market Tracking International (MTI) before taking on the role of Research Manager with responsibility for projects in consumer goods, packaging and other areas. He subsequently moved into independent market research consultancy, and wrote a number of reports for Pira (including Global Packaging), before joining Pira in 2004 as Head of Research in the Publications division with general responsibility for statistical output, survey preparation/computation and research management. Nick will be involved in the provision of market data for this project as well as providing research support.

Jane O'Hear - Since 2003, Jane has managed a wide range of investigative Pira projects involving business and consumer research and strategic analysis across the paper, packaging and printing supply chains. She has over 25 years international experience of research management and analysis as well as training and communications in Europe, North America and Asia. Professional roles have included business research, analysis and consultancy, mainstream secondary and higher education, management training, consumer product research as well as political research for the European Parliament.