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Freedonia Group Forecasts the U.S. Natural Polymers Market to Reach $4 Billion in 2016

December 10, 2012

The study 'Natural Polymers to 2016' analyzes the U.S. natural polymer industry. It presents historical demand data for the years 2001, 2006 and 2011, and forecasts for 2016 and 2021 by market (e.g., medical, food and beverages, oilfield, construction, cosmetics and toiletries, adhesives, packaging, paint and ink) and product (e.g., cellulose ethers, starch and fermentation products, exudate and vegetable gums, marine polymers, natural phenolics and polyphenols). The study also considers market environment factors, details industry structure, evaluates company market share and profiles industry players.

U.S. Natural Polymer Demand to Surpass $4 billion in 2016

U.S. demand for natural polymers is forecast to expand at a strong pace to over $4 billion in 2016. Growth in market value will stem primarily from expanding volume demand, spurred by an improving economic outlook that will boost industrial activity. Of particular importance will be the rebound in nondurable goods output, as this will generate significant opportunities for natural polymers. However, growth will continue to be impacted by the climatic and political uncertainties associated with natural products, particularly those such as guar gum and gum arabic, which are derived from plants that are grown only in certain parts of the world.

Methyl Cellulose to Remain Top Cellulose Ether Segment

Cellulose ethers represent the single largest natural polymer type, with about one-third of the market. Methyl cellulose will continue to lead the category, although demand for hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC), microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) will also be significant. Methyl cellulose is widely used in construction materials such as grouts, mortar, plaster, and stucco, and will therefore benefit from a notable rebound in construction activity. The improving construction outlook will also fuel rapid growth for HEC, which is utilized primarily in water-based paint. Demand for MCC, which is employed in tablet filling and binding uses in the pharmaceutical market segment, will benefit from its advantages in terms of quality and performance, in addition to increased production of pharmaceuticals.

Exudate, Vegetable Gums to be Fastest Growing Products

Exudate and vegetable gums are forecast to see the fastest gains of any product type through 2016, with guar gum responsible for the vast majority of growth. This will nevertheless represent a deceleration from the stellar gains achieved between 2001 and 2011, when demand for guar gum skyrocketed due to the rising use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the US oil and gas industry. Increased demand, combined with the limited availability of this material -- which is derived from a plant grown mainly in India and Pakistan -- has resulted in strong upward pricing pressure in recent years. This, in turn, has caused users, especially those in the more price-sensitive food and beverage industry, to seek out substitutes for guar gum. However, there are currently few alternatives available at a low cost, so demand for guar gum will continue to expand strongly going forward.

This study covers the U.S. market for natural polymers by type and market. Natural polymers are defined as polymeric products derived from plant and/or animal sources, including copolymers containing synthetic compounds such as cellulose ethers, starch and fermentation products, exudate and vegetable gums, protein-based polymers, marine polymers, and others. Excluded from this study are large volume commodities (e.g., latex, lignin), commodity-type nonwovens (e.g., rayon), inexpensive adhesives (e.g., starch and animal glue), and nutritive foodstuffs (e.g., wheat gluten and soy protein), as well as bio-based conventional polymers (e.g., bio-based polyethylene and bio-based polyethylene terephthalate).

Historical data for 2001, 2006, and 2011 and forecasts for 2016 and 2021 are provided in dollars and pounds unless otherwise indicated. The macroeconomic indicators used in this study were obtained from The Freedonia Group Consensus Forecasts dated August 2012. The term "demand" is defined as production plus imports minus exports, and is therefore synonymous with "sales" and "apparent consumption." Throughout this study, demand is related to various indicators for comparative purposes and to facilitate further analysis. Tabular details may not add to totals due to independent rounding, and calculated ratios reflect unrounded numbers. Due to the Bureau of Economic Analysis' use of chain weighted price indices, inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product components (2005 dollars) do not add to the total. Dollar values cited for the industry are at the basic manufacturers' level.