Packaging applications lead the way in growth of $39 billion printing inks market

Smithers Pira’s new report The Future of Global Ink Markets to 2023 forecasts application opportunities for ink and coating suppliers.

According to new research from Smithers Pira in The Future of Global Ink Markets to 2023, the market for inks and coatings in 2018 will consume 3.4 million tonnes, with a value of $39.1 billion. By 2023, the market is forecast to grow to 3.6 million tonnes and $44.7 billion– a 9% growth in volume, and a much higher growth in value of 14%.

The higher value growth is a consequence of the broad-based technological shift from analogue printing to higher value digital printing processes; a wider use of higher value inks in analogue processes, such as low-migration inks and premium inks for high-speed presses; and increases in raw material prices in 2017/2018, driven by some acute raw material shortages and significant price rises in other parts of the supply chain during 2016–18.

End applications for printing inks covered in this report fall into three broad segments:

  • Publication – books, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, and directories

  • Graphics – advertising, commercial print, transactional and security print

  • Packaging – labels and packaging.

This article looks at some of the trends influencing demand for printing inks in each of these end-use sectors.

Publication inks

As newspaper and magazine circulations fall, advertising revenues are increasingly diverted from print to other channels, especially internet channels. Facebook, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have grown very significant advertising revenues – a combined value of over $110 billion in 2017. Amazon is also developing its advertising revenues from a smaller, but still significant, base. In the UK advertising market, in H1 2018, over 50% of all advertising spending is online. These trends will result in a global decline in consumption of publication inks from 1.22 million tonnes in 2013 to 1.08 million in 2023 – a fall of 11.5%.

Packaging inks

In contrast, the global demand for packaging inks is forecast to grow strongly, driven by a number of factors. Among these are demographic changes. The global population is projected to increase from 7.38 billion in 2015 to 8.18 billion by 2025, and at the same time there is an increasing rate of urbanisation – the global proportion of urban dwellers will increase from 53.9% to 58.3% between 2015 and 2025, according to recent UN statistics. This has the impact of bringing the new generation of city dwellers into modern consumption patterns, including those for packaged goods. 

Then there is the increasing number of one-person households in the developed world, which drives demand for packaging through, for example, increased consumption of food supplied in smaller portion sizes.

Supplementing these drivers, brands are using printed packaging in increasingly sophisticated ways to promote their brand values and to connect with consumers. As a result of these trends, the packaging ink market value is forecast to increase from $5.1 billion in 2013 to $8.7 billion by 2023 – a 70% increase.

Graphics inks

Graphics is the most valuable printing ink segment in 2018, valued at $20.6 billion, and will remain so to 2023, when it is forecast to reach $23.0 billion. It is also forecast to grow, but at a lower rate than packaging. In this sector there is volume growth in transition economies – dominated by Asia – which is offseting declines in print volumes in more mature markets.

The value of this market is growing fast, as higher value digital printing technologies increase share at the expense of offset litho. Flexo is the only analogue print technology forecast to grow in the graphics segment – driven by various factors including improved print quality.

Digital printing inks

One other area of significant change from an inks perspective is in digital print, which is continuing to compete with analogue processes. Digital printing has long held the promise of delivering low-cost, short-run print. Major R&D investment has led to the development of productive and reliable electrophotographic and inkjet printing presses in many different formats that are being adopted in all the main market sectors.

Consequently, there is significant growth in inks and coatings used in digital print processes. Across the period 2013–23, digital inks are forecast to grow by 200% in value, while analogue inks will grow by 15.4%. The value of digital inks and coatings in 2018 is higher than all analogue printing ink and coatings combined, and by 2023 digital inks’ share will increase to 56%. Between 2018 and 2023 inkjet printing will be the fastest-growing print process, with ink revenues growing by nearly $3 billion in value – driven particularly by the adoption of inkjet presses in graphics and packaging applications.

These and other key technology, business, application and regulatory trends are analysed in Smithers Pira’s new report, The Future of Global Ink Markets to 2023.