The long decline in ink prices has taken a toll on ink manufacturers. As prices have declined, ink executives have struggled to find ways to become more efficient, but even with those measures, margins have suffered.
During 2004, the law of supply and demand – the most basic law of economics – has risen up to confront the ink industry. Rising oil prices have dramatically impacted the price of key feedstocks and other ingredients for inks. Meanwhile, other essential raw materials, most notably acrylic acid, are under tremendous pressure, as there is just not enough supply to meet worldwide demand. As a result, many suppliers and ink companies are finding themselves facing allocation, and in some cases, force majeure, on these products.
Suppliers have had to raise their prices to ink manufacturers, and it appears ink companies are passing along increases to their customers. On the packaging ink side, Flint Ink and Color Converting have raised prices in the past month, joining Sun Chemical. Flint Ink and Kohl & Madden have announced price increases on commercial sheetfed inks, as can be seen in our report on this market beginning on page 22.
The same situation is occurring in Europe. As Sean Milmo details in his article beginning on page 16, European ink producers are raising their prices to try to offset the increases they have received.
It is encouraging that major ink companies are taking the lead in trying to secure reasonable price increases, and hopefully these increases will hold.
Also in this issue, we have the privilege of publishing our ninth annual U.S. Ink Directory, the only comprehensive listing of addresses, products, personnel and contact information. Once again, I am happy to note that we have found a variety of new companies to include.
As always, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of the key leaders in the industry to see how business has been and what the future may hold, and for the most part, 2004 was an improvement over recent years. The U.S. Ink Directory remains one of our most popular features, and personally, one of the articles I most enjoy, and I am deeply thankful for the ink industry leaders who help me with this feature.