The U.S. Plastic Bottle Market to Struggle With the Pandemic and Rising Environmental Concerns - Global Trade Magazine
  July 13th, 2020 | Written by

The U.S. Plastic Bottle Market to Struggle With the Pandemic and Rising Environmental Concerns

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  • The average plastic bottle import price stood at $5,415 per tonne in 2019, growing by 2.7%.
  • IMF states that even a short-lived outbreak would lead to at least a 3% contraction of the global GDP.

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. – Carboys, Bottles And Similar Articles Of Plastics – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

In 2019, the U.S. plastic bottle market increased by 0.1% to $11.5B, rising for the third consecutive year after two years of decline. Over the period under review, consumption recorded a relatively flat trend pattern.

Since plastic bottles are used in many sectors of consumer goods, the market is affected, on the one hand, by an increase in the population and its income, and on the other hand, the general dynamics of the economy and industrial production also constitute key fundamental factors.

In general, the food and beverage industry maintains modest but robust growth, driven by rising population and their incomes, which will remain the key positive fundamental factor behind the plastic bottle market growth. A moderate increase in production growth is forecast in the soft drinks segment, thereby shaping the possible growth of plastic bottle consumption. Moreover, the non-alcoholic beverages segment remains least competitive with alternative packaging materials. As a rule, soft drinks do not require long-term storage, therefore the possible advantages presented by glass packaging alternatives remain irrelevant for this market. Moreover, the relatively low cost of plastic bottles and their minimal weight make them a suitable option for beverage manufacturers.

However, since this market is well-established and saturated, there are no prerequisites for a sharp increase in the consumption of soft drinks. Moreover, an increasing number of consumers are paying attention to their health, which contributes to a slowdown in the consumption of sugar-based drinks. In terms of plastic bottle consumption, this may be relatively offset by the rising consumption of other types of drinks like mineral water.

A similar situation is also relevant for personal care products – in general, household incomes in the U.S. are relatively high, and the consumer goods markets are saturated, making a sharp increase in consumer demand unlikely. Recently, however, growth in consumer goods consumption has been hampered by a slowdown due to trade tensions with China, which could lead to a reduction in cheap imports and an increase in the prices for consumer goods.

Market Forecast to 2030

In early 2020, the global economy entered a period of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, due to which most countries in the world put on halt production and transport activity. So far, the uncertainty regarding quarantine measures and the depth of the global economic decline is too great to make reliable forecasts. IMF states that even a short-lived outbreak would lead to at least a 3% contraction of the global GDP. The U.S. is expected to face an even deeper short-term recession, with the contraction of GDP of approx. -5.9% in 2020, as the hit of the pandemic was harder than expected, and unemployment soared due to the shutdown and social isolation.

In the medium term, should the pandemic outbreak end in the second half of 2020, the economy is to start recovering in 2021 and then return to the market trend of the gradual growth, driven by the fundamentals existed before 2020 and boosted by support measures imposed by the government. Driven by rising demand for plastic bottles in the U.S., the market is expected to start an upward consumption trend over the next decade. The performance of the market is forecast to increase slightly, with an anticipated CAGR of +0.4% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 3.2M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Plastic bottles as a product appear to be not very sensitive to the quarantine closure of the HoReCa sector since drinks are rarely sold in plastic bottles in restaurants and cafes. A much greater risk comes from a possible change in consumer habits – due to the risk of infection, consumers tend to visit shops much less frequently which also leads for a decrease in the number of impulsive purchases; together those factors may lead to reduced consumption of soft drinks and beauty products. In addition, amid increased attention to health, consumers can drink less sugar-based drinks in favor of products positioned as more “healthy”.

A more noticeable decrease can occur in the segment of chemical and construction containers, containers for fuel and lubricants. As the demand for trips fell sharply, the need for vehicle maintenance also contracted, which in turn reduces the demand for plastic containers for related products. In the construction sector, there may also be a moment of uncertainty due to reduced income for potential home buyers – this, in turn, may also lead to a decrease in the consumption of plastic bottles for construction-related products.

On the other hand, the pandemic leads to an increase in the consumption of detergents and disinfectants, which are packaged in plastic bottles in large quantities. This contributes to an increase in the demand for plastic containers for these products, although here plastic bottles may face competition from soft plastic containers, especially for bulk packaging.

Additional risk comes from the fact that plastic container consumption has recently started to slow down due to environmental concerns. The problem of plastic pollution is an acute problem worldwide, and many countries are trying to limit the consumption of plastic. Thus, in the EU, a ban was introduced on the use of disposable plastic utensils, and restrictions were imposed on the growth of consumption of non-recycled plastic bottles. In the U.S., there were also attempts to ban plastic products, but they have an effect only in individual states. Thus, California, New York, and hundreds of municipalities in the U.S. ban or fine the use of plastic. Some other states, however, refused to restrict the use of plastic packaging thereby letting it be the consumer choice.

Despite the fact that restrictive measures apply primarily to plastic bags and disposable tableware, these concerns could potentially benefit the alternative packaging market. Moreover, rising demand for “natural” and “healthy” drinks also promotes alternative glass bottle consumption, as it benefits from its ‘environment-friendly’ image among consumers. In response, plastic bottle manufacturers are increasing the use of recycled plastics and expanding the use of biodegradable plastics. In the medium term, it is expected that the struggle for and against the use of plastic will generally balance each other out, and a sharp reduction in the use of plastic bottles is unlikely.

Given the above-mentioned factors, the performance of the market is forecast to decrease slightly in 2020 and then to start a slow upward trend. Overall, the market is expected to rise with an anticipated CAGR of +0.2% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 3.1M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Imports into the U.S.

In 2019, approx. 224K tonnes of carboys, bottles and similar articles of plastics were imported into the U.S.; shrinking by -5.3% compared with 2018. The total import volume increased at an average annual rate of +1.0% from 2007 to 2019; the trend pattern remained consistent, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations in certain years. In value terms, plastic bottle imports dropped modestly to $1.2B (IndexBox estimates) in 2019.

Imports by Country

Canada (64K tonnes), China (53K tonnes), and Mexico (53K tonnes) were the main suppliers of plastic bottle imports to the U.S., together comprising 76% of total imports. These countries were followed by Turkey and Taiwan which together accounted for a further 7.8%.

From 2007 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Turkey, while purchases for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest plastic bottle suppliers to the U.S. were China ($385M), Canada ($285M), and Mexico ($196M), with a combined 71% share of total imports. Taiwan and Turkey lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 4.2%.

Import Prices by Country

The average plastic bottle import price stood at $5,415 per tonne in 2019, growing by 2.7% against the previous year. Over the period from 2007 to 2019, it increased at an average annual rate of +3.1%. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2008 when the average import price increased by 16% y-o-y. Over the period under review, the average import price attained the maximum in 2019 and is likely to see steady growth in the near future.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was China ($7,236 per tonne), while the price for Turkey ($1,819 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2007 to 2019, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by China, while the prices for the other major suppliers experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform