10 trends for TiO2 in 2010
1) Customer focus:
TiO2 suppliers are competing in a global market and traditionally were chasing volumes for profitability, which has led to some degree of price driven commoditisation and also to a disconnection from markets. A better way to keep and create customers is to understand their requirements in detail and to make a tailored offer (“Make to order” instead of “Make to stock”). Even better when the pigment industry solves some of the problems further down the value chain!
In the past years, some new TiO2 pigments were only incremental improvements to existing technology or even just repackaging. There is also some redundancy within the “big 5” pigment ranges. More innovation is needed to help customers develop new markets, reduce cost and simplify pigment handling.
In the strive for cost optimisation, consolidation is still a topic after Millenium-Cristal, Sachtleben-Kemira and the bankruptcy protection, failed auction and bondholder-sponsored transaction around TRONOX.
Most of the value of TiO2 is beyond whitening and other optical properties, which by now are developed close to the physical limits anyway. Important functionalities are UV protection, catalytical properties, IR reflection or tailored surface chemistry.
5) Green offer:
In 2010, major industry trade fairs like the K2010 in Duesseldorf will focus on sustainability. Although working on the topic, the TiO2 industry has yet to officially show focus and commitment on topics like carbon-footprint reduction etc.
6) Supply & demand:
In 2010, it is likely that mature markets will come out of the recession. In turn, TiO2 consumption will rise again on top of the usual seasonality. With a number of TiO2 production lines either temporarily or terminally switched off, this might lead to a shortness in TiO2 supply. Some experts, like the Economist journal, predict a further softening of global economies around 2011/2012.
7) Growth in “B.R.I.C” area:
Economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China thrive and had high GDP growth rates throughout the time when Europe and the USA were in a recession. Many of the global plastics and coatings players have set up local production sites, which often have a dual strategy: Domestic formulations with local sourcing and higher quality “export” formulations with “western” raw materials.
8) New entries
2nd (Central European) and 3rd tier (CIS and China) manufacturers will continue to catch up on TiO2 technology and will improve their quality with the help of legions of retired TiO2 experts from Western Europe and the USA. Some players already have specialised products for food, drugs and cosmetics applications. For some other niches, they might not have the necessary production capacity. A small but growing market is TiO2 re-finishing.
9) Sulphate vs. Chloride
Chloride lines tend to have better overall economies of scale. If not yet completed, the industry will continue to shift volumes from sulphate to chloride technology and keep the sulphate lines for specialties like printing inks and anatase pigments.
In the past, the TiO2 industry has been pretty conservative when it came to Marketing. Some manufacturers use webinars or product DVDs, but there is still much potential left in new developments like social media. Open the stage for Twitter and LinkedIn as customer service and marketing tools!