The opening presentation at the recent Specialty Papers USA 2019 conference took a broad brush to the technical developments, regional market forecasts and end-use application trends for this niche but growing field. About 150 attendees from around the globe were on hand for the two days of talks, organized by Smithers, at the historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, WI.
Here are some Converting Curmudgeon bullet “points of interest” from Dr. Graham K. Moore, senior consultant-
Paper at Smithers:
- The overall global market for specialty papers is estimated at just over 25 million tonnes this year and is forecasted to reach 28+ million tonnes in 2024, representing a CAGR of 2.3%. This is up slightly from a few years ago.
- Packaging-related end uses remain the largest and fastest-growing market, particularly for luxury packaging, high-end/bespoke printing applications, and barrier-treated papers. Expect at least 3-5 new entrants into specialties by 2024, likely in release liners and flexible packaging where there is still room for additional supply expansion.
- Flex-pack specialty papers will be a 4.7-million-tonne worldwide market this year as lighter paper weights, improved product protection and shelf life, and flavor retention are providing opps for innovation. This category has been getting plenty of new attention as a sustainable and potentially recyclable alternative to petroleum-based plastics. Demand will rise 2.4% CAGR to reach 5.3 million tonnes in 2024.
- While glue-applied and pressure-sensitive paper labels are still dominate the container-decoration field, they are seeing competition from plastics, shrink sleeves and in-mold labels. Still, specialty label papers will be a 3.8-million-tonne market this year, rising 1.4% CAGR to 4.0 million tonnes in 2024.
- As technology changes further influence end-use markets, demand for some products will increasingly decline, i.e.: cheque paper, photographic paper. And as speed of change increases, product development cycles will become shorter to exploit potential opportunities.
- Asia-Pacific continues to have the largest share (+40%) of the global specialty-papers market at a projected 12.2 million tonnes in 2024, driving by demand in China and India. Western Europe is the second-largest region with a forecasted 5.9 million tonnes in 2024, and then North America with 4.8 million tonnes.
- Successful specialty-paper mills are those that maintain flexible production and cultivate strong relationships with converters who have the most direct contact with end-user customers.
Upcoming Smithers' conferences on specialty papers will take place April 20-22, 2020, in Vienna, Austria, and Oct. 5-7, 2020, in Milwaukee, WI.