On the surface the North American bottle blow molding business has enjoyed buoyant growth over the past few years. The volume of consumption of plastic material has been growing at an average annual rate of 6%, reaching 10.8 billion lbs. by 2004. In the same way the value of output has been growing at an average annual rate of 8.75%, reaching $14.3 billion by 2004. However, a large measure of the growth in value terms is attributable to soaring resin price inflation in 2003 and 2004. The result is what economists would term 'immiserizing growth' - that is, nominal growth accompanied by declining profitability as many bottle blow molders have been unable to pass along these relentless raw material cost increases to their customers.
In 2002 PCRS researched and published its original report on the North American bottle blow molding business. Here in 2005 we have revisited this marketplace, conducting over the period April-June a telephone-based survey of over 100 North American companies with bottle blow molding operations, as well as the companies on their material and machinery supply chain. The focus of this new research program has been on identifying and rationalizing the changes taking place in this business - changes in the industry infrastructure, changes in industry concentration as the processors pursue economies of scale in production and greater leverage in material and equipment sourcing, changes in plastic material preferences and bottle designs among their customers, technological changes that enhance the processors' competitive position vis-a-vis domestic and foreign competitors, and so on.
The growth dynamic in bottle blow molding is quite remarkable insofar as the leading end-use market, soft drinks, has experienced a marked slowdown from the boom conditions of previous decades. Sales of 2-liter soft drink bottles have plateaued, and consumers have become disenchanted with the 3-liter bottles. Yet the 20-ounce soft drink bottle remains popular, and prospects seem bright for the 12-ounce soft drink bottle.
The softening apparent in soft drink packaging stems in large part from the trend to healthy life-styles and diets. This has spurred strong growth in still and carbonated water packaging, making water the third largest blow molded bottle category. Juice consumption is also rising as a result of this new-found health consciousness, and plastic bottles capable of hot-filling are steadily replacing glass and metal containers. Meanwhile the #2 ranked plastic bottle end-use market, household and industrial chemicals (HIC), continues to record steady 5% average annual growth.
This report presents the most up-to-date and comprehensive analysis of the past, current and likely future state of the regional bottle blow molding business. The data and insights in this report represent critical market intelligence for processors and the companies on their material and machinery supply chain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Peter J. Mooney is the founder and president of Plastics Custom Research Services. Dr. Mooney holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina, and he has covered the plastics industry as a technical/economic market research analyst and consultant since 1980. He is a member of several plastics industry associations such as the Society of the Plastics Industry, the Society of Plastics Engineers, and the Association of Rotational Molders International. He is also a member of the National Association of Business Economists. He has researched and written over 75 multi-client reports, as well as over 100 single-client reports, in the field of plastics and related industries. He has organized, chaired, and made presentations to numerous conferences on critical issues facing the domestic and global plastics industry.