The Chinese Ink Market

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 07.19.10

Having recovered more quickly than other nations from the global recession, the Chinese ink market is enjoying growth, particularly in the packaging gravure and sheetfed offset markets.

Of the three major global regions, the Asia-Pacific recovered from the global recession more quickly than Europe and North America. A major reason for that is the continual growth of China as an economic force; the country enjoyed nearly 9 percent growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009.

For China, one of the key growth areas is printing. As China’s printing industry grows, so does its ink industry. The printing ink industry in China is a combination of leading international ink manufacturers and domestic ink companies, with an estimated 400 ink companies in China.

Many of the leading international ink manufacturers have large operations in China. Tianjin Toyo Ink Co., Ltd., a joint venture set up by Tianjin Printing Ink Co., Ltd. and Toyo Ink, is considered to be the largest ink manufacturer in China. The company specializes in offset and news ink.

Hangzhou Toka Ink, T&K Toka’s joint venture in China, is the second-largest ink company in China. DIC Corporation, which has four of the 10 largest Chinese ink facilities, is also well represented, as is Sakata INX, Flint Group and Siegwerk.

Zhejiang Yongzai Chemical Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Peony Printing lnk Co., Ltd. are two of the largest domestic ink producers in China.

Maoming Sakata INX Co. Ltd. will undergo expansion in fiscal year 2010.
Ink manufacturers report that China indeed did enjoy good growth during the past 12 months. In particular, packaging gravure and sheetfed inks have enjoyed the most success recently.

“Since the international financial crisis in 2008, the Chinese printing and ink industries were restored in 2009, along with the Chinese economy,” said Dr. Kotaro Morita, director of Sakata INX. “Exports from China are recovering, but it has not reached levels

Sakata INX Shanghai Co. Ltd.
prior to 2008 and remains weak. With the appearance of new media such as the internet, newspaper printing is on the decline. The commercial offset and gravure packaging printing segments have shown the best results.”

“From the latter half of 2009, demand for offset and gravure ink for food packaging recovered quickly,” said Yu Adachi of Toyo Ink Mfg. Co., Ltd.’s corporate communication

Tianjin Toyo Ink Co., Ltd. is considered to be the largest ink manufacturer in China.
group. “For offset inks, publishing and commercial printing applications have shown the most growth. The market for gravure inks for packaging applications has expanded.”

“Whereas sales of news inks and offset inks fell compared to those of the previous year, sales of gravure inks for packaging increased, supported by firm demand for food packaging. As a result, total sales for 2009 were slightly more than that of the previous year,” Koji Akamatsu of DIC Corporation said. “The ink industry of China depends considerably on demand from export industries. Therefore, the industry has recovered in line with the gradual recovery of global economy.”

Keys to Success

For international ink manufacturers, successfully competing in China requires excellent quality and service.

“Though the country is very large, we have successfully covered the most demanding markets such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing by establishing major production sites in those areas,” said Mr. Akamatsu. “The acquisition of Coates, the printing inks division of France’s Totalfina S.A., in 1999, made the operations in China more dominant since it brought some more major production sites to the operation of DIC in China. In 2001, we constructed a so-called ‘mother plant’ in Nantong city in Jiangsu province. The plant provides base inks to our production sites in China for efficient production group-wide. Also, we have heeded the voices from our local customers well and made the best effort to modify our products to their needs.

“For future growth, we will make the best use of those business resources,” Mr. Akamatsu added. “Furthermore, we will make more efforts to strengthen gravure inks for packaging and will pursue profitability rather than increase of sales. Our skill in product modification for local customers’ needs will work advantageously in the pursuit of this.”

“Tianjin Toyo will remain the focus of our offset ink operations, and we will further our sales network throughout China,” Mr. Adachi said. “We also continue to fine-tune services for our customers’ specific business and technology needs. As for gravure inks, we will conduct greater cooperation across our production bases in Tianjin, Shanghai and Jiangmen. We have in place a structure that enables us to offer superior products and technical service.”

“There are several keys to success for Sakata INX in China,” said Dr. Morita. “These include an ability to keep supplying our customers environmentally friendly printing inks with excellent quality, and timely after-sales service to help our clients overcome any trouble. We also maintain good relationships with our partners.”

Mr. Akamatsu, Dr. Morita and Mr. Adachi all stressed the importance of developing environmentally friendly printing inks.

“We have been focusing on environmentally friendly products, such as environmentally friendly gravure inks, energy curing inks and so on,” Mr. Akamatsu said. “We are also exploring advanced technologies by providing new applications like jet inks.”

“The requirement of environmentally friendly products, such as soybean oil type offset printing ink and both non-toluene and non-MEK type solvent-based inks, is increasing in the Chinese printing market with demands domestically and from overseas,” said Dr. Morita. “It also requires environmental regulation in China.”

“With legal regulations becoming increasingly strict, demand for non-toluene gravure inks has risen,” Mr. Adachi noted. “Relative to other ink makers, Toyo Ink’s eco-friendly products are superior from a quality aspect. Sales in this area have grown considerably.”

With an eye on further growth, both Toyo Ink and Sakata INX are planning on adding new facilities in China in the near future.

“We plan to build a manufacturing facility for resist inks and undergo a production expansion of functional dispersions,” Mr. Adachi said.

“We will expand the production capacity of offset inks at our facility in Maoming, China (Guangdong province) in fiscal year 2010,” Dr. Morita said.