Since at least 2014, the global pigments market has remained stable and enjoyed healthy year-over-year growth. Recent research has found that this progress will likely continue for several more years. According to an August 2016 report by Global Market Insights, the global pigments market was worth $12.7 billion in 2015. It is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% through 2024.
Growth is expected to be fueled largely by developments in the paints, coatings and construction industries. According to the report, pigments are primarily used as colorants and are extensively utilized in the paint and coatings industries to impart color and finish, as well as to protect from weathering and corrosion. The global paint and coatings market size is forecast to expand at more than 3% CAGR; researchers found that positive growth in this industry will complement the pigment market. As such, both inorganic pigments and specialty and high-performance pigments are expected to be areas of focus.
As global economies return to sustainable levels of growth, middle class consumers have resumed spending. Demand for high-quality paints in homes – which includes interior, exterior, and environmentally-friendly products – has swelled. New automobiles with higher-end metallic paints are also increasing in popularity.
The report confirmed that the Asia Pacific region is anticipated to witness highest regional gains at over 5% CAGR. Pigment market growth in Asia Pacific is primarily driven by the automotive and construction industries, as well as increasing manufacturing and infrastructure development (specifically in China and India). Specific to North America, the printing inks industry is significantly contributing to overall growth.
According to Oliver Pfefferkorn, sales director, Union Colours Limited, major regional areas for growth include Africa, Asia and South America. This growth is driven by consumers using more color, he said.
“We have again seen several closures of pigment producers, specifically in China, but also starting in India because of growing environmental legislations and their enforcement. This is happening at the same time within our raw material supplier base and securing supply is one of our most important tasks now and in the future,” Pfefferkorn said.
In addition to regional shifts, specific areas of growth within the market have been demonstrated already this year. Peter O’Loughlin, director of marketing, performance pigments, Sun Chemical, said that early indications in 2017 are showing increases in water- and solvent-based packaging inks using both flexographic and gravure processes.
“In the packaging ink market segment, the trend in the market is moving toward functional and sensory packaging,” he said. “The packaging market faces different challenges than other market segments, such as low migration, the push toward smaller package size, recyclability, and other efforts to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment.”
O’Loughlin added that these trends have resulted in a greater demand for higher quality and more consistent pigments that are both color stable and viscosity stable, compatible with a wide range of resin systems, and print on a wide variety of substrates.
“We have also seen a significant increase in the amount of printing on packaging for food products. This has led to the growth of a wider variety of colors and special effect pigments, which in turn has led to the need for a wider selection of pigment color index types and special mica and metallic pigments,” he said.
Alternative ink types, such as UV and EB, have seen significant growth according to O’Loughlin. He noted that these types of inks place an even greater demand on pigment properties such as viscosity stability and compatibility. “The growth of digital printing and the special demands it places on the pigments for quality of dispersion, viscosity and consistency is another trend we are seeing,” he said.
Aesthetics of packaging, particularly in food packaging, is of utmost importance. Competition on the shelf is ever-increasing, as are regulations. Striking the balance between eye-catching color and meeting international regulations for low-migration inks is a challenge met by many ink manufacturers every day.
Bryan Haltom, business development and marketing manager, performance chemicals, DyStar, said that color strength “definitely matters” for packaging.
“Knowing there are multiple packaging medias play a factor, too,” he said. “Some are focused on PP vs. PET media and this can matter when making your best-in-class formulation. The choices of raw materials do play a factor when migration is in the spotlight. The key for DyStar is that we have internal experts inside our global EH&S departments to guide us when trying to develop the best product for the ink maker and the printer. At DyStar, we also make a focused effort to meet the EH&S leaders of each customer to make sure we are on the same page for packaging and food packaging needs and expectations from country to country.”
Specific to carbon black inks, achieving desired aesthetics can be even more complicated.
Sanjay Monie, marketing manager at Orion Engineered Carbons, said that ink manufacturers must balance ink or pigment holdout to attain the desired color density while maintaining polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) levels within regulatory limits and meeting safe-handling requirements.
“Carbon black is just one component of a low migration ink. Orion offers several carbon black products that meet PAH thresholds. The development of the low migration ink is really controlled by the ink manufacturers who combine our raw materials with other formulation ingredients.”
Monie added, “We are seeing an increasing demand for grades offered in the US that meet European food packaging standards. We have several grades that are compliant with European food packaging regulations, and we have several grades that additionally are US FDA-certified.”
As always, raw material prices are a primary concern for pigment suppliers. Changes in both availability and political or environmental policy can result in volatile pricing. Union Colours’
Pfefferkorn said that raw materials have been influenced by temporary or full closures of producers and this has and will have influence on availability and cost.
“Recently there was a shortage of raw materials for oranges due to closures of several raw material producers for environmental reasons,” Pfefferkorn said.
Darren Bianchi, president of Brilliant Group, said that there is not a particular raw material that is a concern at the moment, though “the current administration’s talk of new tariffs on imported goods will impact anyone who sources any raw materials overseas, and most pigment manufacturers do purchase intermediates abroad.”
Pricing for pigments and raw materials seems to have bottomed, according to Frank Lavieri, EVP and GM, Lansco Colors. “Selected pigments have already increased in price due to higher raw material and waste water treatment costs. Pigment Orange 5 and Yellow 83 are examples of this, as are many inorganic pigments,” he said.
Interest in UV LED technology has grown substantially in recent years. The increased use of LED inks has been expected to impact the requirements for pigment suppliers to meet this growing market, though at the moment, they are similar to traditional UV inkjet pigments.
“The pigments and pigment dispersions utilized in UV LED are trending the same as in the traditional UV cure inkjet ink market. Formulators familiar with Sun Chemical’s pigments and pigment dispersions would have the flexibility to optimize their formulations for UV LED inks,” said O’Loughlin.
Don McBride, COO of Heucotech Ltd., said that the pigments utilized in UV LED printing inks must be fully compatible with the chemistries that they are dispersed within. “Much like conventional UV applications, the quality and surface treatment of the pigments is key to achieving system stability and ultimate press performance,” he said.
In the case of inkjet pigments, LED-based systems are driving the R&D landscape, said Rüdiger Baur, head of global technical marketing non-impact printing & color filter at Clariant.
“The basic requirements concerning pigments are not far from classical ones. Key issues are the stability and dispersibility in the monomer/oligomer system as well as the required fastness properties,” Baur said.
Chris Patterson, Clariant’s head of global technical & strategic marketing printing, added that the pigments currently recommended for UV LED cured systems are the same as those already widely used in traditionally cured systems.
“In order to build on one of the advantages of LED cure systems Clariant recently introduced a new UV dispersion series: Hostatint UV. These dispersions are specifically designed for heavy coating weight applications and higher performance applications.”
Pigment suppliers have reason to be optimistic looking into the future. A healthy global economy is prompting spending in the automotive and housing markets, as well as increasing competition on store shelves. As such, suppliers report healthy expectations for growth in the coming year.
Haltom, of DyStar, said that the company’s expectations have grown significantly “because our customer base and our customer targets have expanded due to the fact our portfolio of dyes and pigment base products have grown. We see and expect significant growth with our portfolio inside many digital markets and especially inside the packaging, pharma, and textile digital markets. Keep in mind that less than 5% of the textile market is digital so the growth opportunities for dyes and pigmented dispersions are sky high,” he said.
Despite a shrinking newsprint market, Orion Engineered Carbons’ Monie said that the company is off to a strong start and expects continued growth in packaging.
Lansco Colors’ Lavieri said the company expects moderate growth in 2017. “Demand for pigments seemed to increase during 2016 and was most prominent in the fourth quarter, giving us optimism for the year ahead. This trend seems to be broad-based in terms of products and geography,” he said.
In the graphic arts market, the increasing use of non-impact printing methods, such as inkjet, means increased demand for high performance pigments at the expense of those conventional pigments used in traditional printing inks, according to Sun Chemical’s O’Loughlin. “Overall we expect declining demand for publication offset by continued growth in packaging,” he said.
Clariant expects to see continued growth in products for the packaging arena and increased emphasis by customers and end-users for demonstrably safe, sustainable, cost-effective chemistries, said Patterson. “Geographically, we expect to see continued growth within the Asian markets, a slow return to growth in LATAM and growth with Europe and North America to remain constrained,” he said.
Heucotech Ltd.’s McBride said that Heubach is very optimistic for 2017, following positive growth in both organic pigment, inorganic and dispersion sales in 2016.
“Competitive differentiation continues to be our strategy towards increasing market share in our core businesses,” he said, adding that a focus will continue on capital investments and expansions of rutile yellow, bismuth vanadate, high performance organic pigments and anti-corrosive pigments at the company’s global manufacturing facilities.