While there seems to be somewhat of a recovery underway in the U.S., there is no denying that the economic slump that has impacted most of the world in the past few years has strongly affected the U.S. printing ink industry.
This was borne out in the most recent State of the Industry Report issued by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), a summary of which can be found in the NAPIM Convention Review article beginning on page 41.
Among the findings of this year’s NAPIM report, overall ink volume declined 3.3 percent in 2003 compared to 2002, with sales down 4.5 percent. In 2003, litho, the largest sector, was least affected, with volume only down by 0.1 percent and sales off 2.8 percent. Flexo was down 4.8 percent by dollars and 3.8 percent by pounds, while gravure was hardest hit, with a decline of 8.7 percent by volume and 9.3 percent by dollars. Overall, the numbers illustrate the further erosion in pricing.
In terms of publication and commercial printing compared to packaging, the latter fared the best, declining 2.8 percent in volume and 2.0 percent by dollar value, meaning that prices held steady. Publication ink sales declined 6.3 percent while pounds declined 3.3 percent.
However, we live in an increasingly global economy, and there are regions where growth remains a constant. In particular, the Asia-Pacific region remains an excellent opportunity for ink manufacturers.
The economic numbers in our Asian Ink Market review, beginning on page 22, bear this out. China, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8.9 percent, leads the way, with India's economy following at 8.4 percent.
For ink manufacturers, the packaging industry holds much promise in this region. There has been movement of manufacturing away from the U.S. and other nations, and there is also a growing domestic opportunity within China, India and other nations in the region. As a result, ink companies are following their customers to the region, building new relationships with local firms and new facilities to help meet increasing demand.
As I noted before, the printing ink industry is indeed a global business, and for those companies that are investing their resources into the Asia-Pacific region, the opportunities for growth are tremendous.