As the printing ink industry closes the books on 2012 and head into 2013, it is an ideal time to look at how the ink industry fared throughout the year. Without a doubt, the past few years have been difficult for printing ink companies, as the industry has been impacted in countless ways by the overall economy, consumer attitudes and technology.
The printing industry is in transition. In recent years, digital printing technologies have made inroads, changing the landscape in screenprinting and, to a lesser extent, label printing. New digital printers are now taking aim on the commercial sheetfed market.
However, new technology has really made its impact felt in the publication and commercial printing fields. People are increasingly getting their news and purchasing information from the internet. As a result, newspapers, magazines and catalogs have suffered; Newsweek is the latest publication to announce it will suspend its print edition and go to an online-only version starting in 2013. The economic downturn of a few years ago hastened many of these changes, as ad pages slumped further, and many printers consolidated or left the field.
The economy also forced raw material suppliers to eliminate facilities, consolidate or leave the market, leading to raw material shortages and dramatic price increases.
For ink manufacturers, declining volume combined with higher costs proved to be a brutal combination. Due to their inability to raise prices to their printing customers, ink industry margins have suffered.
As 2012 comes to an end, leading ink industry officials I spoke with for our annual Year in Review report, which begins on page 18, report slight sales improvements, particularly in packaging inks. Publication and commercial sheetfed inks remain stagnant or in decline.
In terms of raw materials, availability and prices stabilized somewhat, although at a much higher level than pre-recession days.
Overall, ink industry leaders say they are prepared for what lies ahead in 2013 and beyond, and are cautiously optimistic about the future.
Of course, we have no idea what the future holds. We can only hope that 2013 is a better year for the ink industry, its customers and suppliers.
Ink World Editor