Your Business Outlook - August 2006

Mastiogale’s latest blow molding market study shows modest growth for industrial products.

Mastiogale’s latest blow molding market study shows modest growth for industrial products. At around 1.77 billion lb, they represented 15% of U.S. blow molded resin consumption in 2005. With an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3.4%, industrial (non-container) blow molding is expected to reach 1.95 billion lb in 2008. The largest sectors are automotive (23% of the total), lawn and garden (20%), and fuel tanks (18%). Others are recreation and leisure, toys, appliances, furniture, housewares, and highway safety barrels. HDPE accounted for nearly 1.3 billion lb, or 83% of this market in 2005. Polypropylene was the second largest material.

With 2006 passing the halfway mark, some industry analysts predict growth around 3.4% for the year. On the downside, processors predict that high resin prices will lead to the failure of 5% to 10% of U.S. industrial blow molders in the next few years, and will force many survivors to rely on imported resins from Pacific Rim countries.

Sector-by-sector rundown

Automotive components other than fuel tanks are growing 4.3%/yr from 400.9 million lb in 2005 to 456 million lb in 2008.

Blow molded lawn and garden products reached 362 million lb in 2005. These products are forecasted to increase 5.8%/yr to hit 430 million lb in 2008.

Blow molded automotive fuel tanks ranked third in market size at 321 million lb in 2005. Annual growth is expected to be 3.3%, reaching 353.8 million lb in 2008. However, this depends on the ability of fuel-tank makers to comply with strict new hydrocarbon emission standards spearheaded by California and later adopted by a few Northeastern states. One concern is that these environmental regulations are reversing some of the progress from metal to plastic fuel tanks.

Blow molded recreation and leisure products will grow at a moderate rate of 3.6%/yr. They consumed 287.4 million lb in 2005 and are expected to reach 320 million lb by 2008. Makers of small fuel tanks for boats, lawn/garden products, and recreational vehicles are preparing for new hydrocarbon emissions standards from the U.S. EPA and California. Under these guidelines, new fuel tanks must be in production by 2007.

The market for blow molded toys consumed 165.6 million lb in 2005, but it has an AAGR of –4.9%, so demand is expected to decline to 142 million lb by 2008. Retailers are giving less space to blow molded toys and more to video and computer games. Increased toy imports and outsourcing to China also play a part in this decline.

Blow molded appliance parts are a small segment, only 78 million lb in 2005, but one of the healthier ones with a predicted AAGR of 4.3%. Plastic is gaining a larger presence in appliances for both aesthetic and structural parts and should reach 88.5 million lb in 2008.

Blow molded housewares will continue to be plagued by imports and high domestic material costs, leading to a predicted AAGR of only 2.5%. This segment consumed 96.5 million lb and will grow to 104 million lb by 2008.

Blow molded furniture producers expect an AAGR of 2.4%, which will push consumption from 50.2 million lb in 2005 to 54 million lb by 2008.

Highway safety barrels are a very small and mature market that will remain small over the next several years. In 2005 they represented 8.3 million lb; with an AAGR of only 0.4%, they will reach only 8.4 million lb by 2008. Some safety-barrel suppliers attribute this slow growth to other road-barrier products replacing the barrel design.