Italian packaging machinery: first-half 2021 sales return to 2019 levels

Italian packaging machinery sees 21% growth in first half of 2021

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packaging machinery|Italian packaging
Matteo Gentili, chairman of Ucima

The automatic packaging machinery industry recorded robust 21% growth in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. In the period from January to June, exports were 19.3% higher than in the first half of 2020, and domestic sales up 31.2%. With these figures, the entire industry has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with a difference of just -1.8% compared to the first half of 2019 (a record year that saw year-end sales in excess of EUR 8 billion, approximately Rs 70,346 crore). This performance was the combined result of 9.2% growth in the first quarter and an even higher 29.4% growth in the second quarter compared to the same period the previous year. The growth is similar in the domestic market (+34%) and in the export market (+28.4% compared to the previous year). The Ucima-Mecs Research Center also published data on orders, which were up by 10.9% in the second quarter and 10.7% over the entire first half of the year.

The research center also reported the results for 2020 in the ninth National Statistical Survey, which every year provides an overview of the sector’s performance. Last year the Italian automatic packaging machinery manufacturers essentially maintained the previous year’s turnover levels. Following the record figures of 2019, the sector saw a modest year-on-year decline of 2.9% to EUR 7.81 billion, in line with the result of 2018 (EUR 7.9 billion, approximately Rs 69,466 crore). Last year also saw an increase in both the number of companies in business (635 in total, +3.1%) and in the number of employees, which grew by 7% to 35,630.

International markets

In line with 2019, export sales accounted for 78% of the total (EUR 6,08 billion) but fell by 4,1%. The European Union remained the main target market for Italian packaging machinery and accounted for 41% of total turnover (EUR 2,087 million) including sales in Italy, followed in second place by Asia with a value of EUR 985.8 million and a 19.4% share, then North America in third place with EUR 733.1 million (14.4%). North America is the only macro-region that saw growth in turnover (+5.9%) with respect to 2019, a year when exports dropped to EUR 691.9 million. Next came non-EU Europe (8.6%, or EUR 439.7 million), Africa and Oceania (8.4%), and Central and South America (8.2%).

The domestic market

The domestic market continued the positive trend seen in recent years with sales up 1.9% year-on-year in 2020 to EUR 1.72 billion (approximately Rs 15,123 crore).

Client sectors

In the breakdown of turnover amongst the various client sectors, food and beverage maintained its dominant position in 2020 and accounted for 58.2% of total turnover. More specifically, food alone made up 32.2% of total sales (EUR 2,516 million) and beverages 26.0% with EUR 2,032 million. Together food and beverage recorded 1.7% growth in 2019.

As in 2019, third place by volume went to the pharmaceutical sector with EUR 1,356 million (17.4% of the total). Next came cosmetics, the only non-food sector to show growth, with a turnover of EUR 348.7 million (+11.4%). The chemicals industry closes out the rankings with EUR 270 million.

Turnover by machinery type

Primary packaging machinery remains the dominant category with a 53.2% share of turnover, followed by secondary packaging (18.8%) and end-of-line machinery (13.9%).

Industrial structure

The 635 Italian packaging machinery manufacturers are mainly concentrated along the Via Emilia between Piacenza and Rimini (the so-called Packaging Valley), with further production districts located in Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Tuscany. The breakdown by turnover class reveals a marked predominance of small companies (companies with revenues under EUR 10 million make up 79% of the total), although they account for just 17% of total turnover. By contrast, the more structured industrial companies (51 with revenues of over EUR 25 million) account for 68% of turnover and 74% of exports.

Outlook for 2021

“The figures for the first half of 2021 speak volumes about the good work done in 2020 when our companies continued to operate,” comments Matteo Gentili, chairman of Ucima. “Indeed, the industry took advantage of the difficult national and international situation to further develop and improve its solutions in terms of digital technologies and we are now reaping the benefits. The resilience displayed in 2020 and the growth in the first 6 months of 2021 confirm the solidity and dynamism of our sector, which continues to play a strategic role within the Italian capital goods industry. We are confident about the second half of the year and expect to see growth in several markets.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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