The past few years have been challenging for most printing ink manufacturers, particularly on the publication and commercial side. They have been forced to contend with the difficult combination of a global economic downturn and a dramatically changing printing market where consumers are increasing turning to other sources such as the Internet for their information. Meanwhile, raw material prices soared, particularly crude oil, leaving ink companies at a loss, in many cases quite literally, as they tried to get their own price increases from printer customers.
As we proceed into 2013, things seem somewhat quieter for the moment. The worldwide economy is growing slightly, although that could change quickly. Raw material costs have stabilized for the most part, although at much higher levels that previously seen. Raw material supply has stabilized.
Unfortunately, the publication and commercial printing markets have not improved, which is bad news for ink manufacturers who specialize in these markets, as overcapacity continues to put pressure on margins.
For ink companies primarily in the packaging and digital fields, the news is much better. These markets have proved to be recession resistant, and continue to grow.
In this year’s North American Top 20 Report, the ink executives we spoke with reported that stable raw material prices are allowing them to catch their breath and contemplate what needs to be done next, including trying to improve depressed margins.
In most cases, these leaders are cautiously optimistic about 2013, although these executives remain wary, knowing that changes can come quickly. If recent years are a guide, 2013 will likely hold more challenges to come.
The North American Top 20 Rankings
1: Sun Chemical
2: Flint Group
3: INX International
6: DuPont Ink Jet
7: Wikoff Color
9: Sanchez SA de CV
10: Toyo Ink America
11: EFI, Inc.
12: Fujifilm North America, GSD
13: American Inks & Coatings
15: Central Ink
16: SICPA Securink
16: Superior Ink
16: Van Son
19: Color Resolutions
19: Ink Systems
19: Sensient Technologies