As we head toward the last days of 2003 and look forward to 2004, it’s only natural to review what has occurred during the past year. Unfortunately for the ink industry, 2003 was, for the most part, all too reminiscent of the last few years.
As has been the case in the past few years, ink sales continue to suffer along with the printing industry. In the U.S., the publication ink side has been particularly hard hit. A survey conducted by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) for the year-to-date results of the first three quarters of 2003 show that the ink industry has declined 3.3 percent by volume and 4.1 percent in sales.
Publication and commercial inks have declined 3.4 percent by volume from 2002 and 5.0 percent in terms of dollars, with publication gravure suffering double-digit declines in both volume and sales. Packaging inks have declined 2.8 percent by volume and 3.0 percent by value, with water-based flexo particularly hit hard due to the decline in the corrugated market.
There were some good signs, most noticeably in solvent-based flexo and water-based gravure, which are up from last year in terms of volume and value. Heatset sales were flat in terms of volume, although it continues to decline in value. For the third quarter, ink sales rose 7 percent in volume, with sheetfed and water-based flexo showing sizable gains from the previous quarter.
What will next year hold for the industry? In our annual Year in Review, which begins on page 17, industry leaders discuss what’s happened and what may occur in 2004. For the most part, officials said that 2003 was a challenging year, and as for 2004,there is mostly cautious optimism.
Already, there has been major news, as the Siegburg, Germany-based Siegwerk Group has agreed to acquire Color Converting Industries (CCI) of Des Moines, IA. Together, the company will have sales of approximately $500 million, and will be especially formidable in the growing flexible packaging ink market. CCI and Siegwerk have long been technological leaders in the industry, and this acquisition will give Siegwerk Group a greater global presence.
With that blockbuster deal closing 2003, industry leaders are looking forward to 2004. And with the economy showing some signs of improvement and new technologies making their way to the forefront, we can only hope that the cautious optimism for 2004 is borne out in the coming year.