Your Business Outlook - July 2002

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Although there is more market excitement in food and beverage containers, blow molded industrial packaging remained surprisingly stable during the economic downturn in 2001.

Although there is more market excitement in food and beverage containers, blow molded industrial packaging remained surprisingly stable during the economic downturn in 2001. Mastio & Company’s most recent blow molding market study reveals sluggish growth for the industrial packaging sector—just 1.7% annually through 2006.

The blow molded industrial packaging market consumed 2.5 billion lb in 2001, or 25% of total blow molding resins. By 2006, this sector will consume approximately 2.7 billion lb. The largest segments are household and industrial chemical (HIC) containers, drums, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), tight-head pails (THPs), and motor-oil containers. The HIC market represents 50% of blow molded industrial packaging. Drums, IBCs, and THPs together amount to 18%. Motor-oil packaging accounts for another 14% of the market.


Recovery at idle speed

Mastio’s research indicates that motor-oil bottles will have an average growth of 2%/yr. Continued growth of the quick-lube businesses and the smaller number of people who change their own oil are adversely affecting this bottle market. Development of extended-use motor oil will slow container growth as well. (The same holds true for long-life antifreezes, which only need to be flushed every 100,000 miles.) Because of these trends, many motor-oil container producers believe this market has reached maturity and anticipate very little or no growth during the next five years. However, one large oil-container producer is more optimistic. The company is betting on a new design trend toward global standardization of motor-oil bottles. Oil companies, which have engaged in a number of recent mega-mergers, aspire to container designs that can be molded on different brands of equipment around the world. This processor also based its optimism on the increased numbers of people driving instead of flying since last Sept. 11.

The HIC container market, although the largest segment, is forecasted to increase at only 1.5%/yr. Container growth is being held back by the advent of ultra-concentrated detergent formulations and by the popularity of refillable, extrusion-coated paperboard containers for fabric softeners. On the bright side, one blow molder predicts accelerated growth in containers for light-duty liquids (LDLs) such as dishwashing detergents.


HDPE sets the pace

Consumption of HDPE far exceeds that of any other resin used for blow molded industrial packaging. HDPE accounts for nearly 90% of the poundage in this product segment, surpassing the 2.0 billion lb mark in 2001. Many industrial-container producers say the HDPE market has nowhere to go but up in 2002. Although predicted growth isn’t impressive at 1.7%, it has the potential to rebound back to healthy levels in early 2003.

PET resin has started to appear in bottles for motor oil and other auto and marine fluids. PET is also being utilized more frequently in HIC containers.

PET has high clarity that imparts greater shelf appeal. Growth for PET in food and beverage containers will average 9% to 10%/yr over the next five years, but growth is expected to be only 2% annually for PET industrial blow molded containers due to HDPE’s lower price and greater chemical resistance. If PET can be price-competitive with HDPE, then it is likely that PET will capture market share from HDPE bottles.

PVC is losing popularity but is still used in some industrial packaging. A small volume of automotive and marine fluid bottles and HIC bottles are molded of PVC because it provides hydrocarbon resistance and barrier properties that are not possible with untreated HDPE.

Mastio & Company, based in St. Joseph, Mo., is a well-known consulting firm specializing in industrial-consumer opinion research and market trends in the plastics industry. For more information, call (816) 364-6200 or visit