Trends Impacting Converters

It's that time of year again when PFFC checks the pulse of converters with our “Critical Trends” survey that we send out to the full breadth of our very horizontal industry. This year we learned about some noteworthy developing trends in comparison to the past two years, so you'll want to check out the full results of our survey, featured this month on p40.

Unlike surveys sent to much smaller universes — typically subsets of our industry distributed by dedicated but vertically oriented associations soliciting information from members serving a specific niche — the PFFC survey is distributed to a selected representative group of electronic subscribers, numbering at over 15,000. The qualified respondents grew this year to 293, comprising converters of flexible packaging; tapes, labels, and tags; unprinted rolls and sheets (including coated substrates); and paperboard products.

By asking the same set of questions to the full universe of converter participants — regardless of their niche — we receive a clearer view of our expansive industry's health and issues. The primary objectives we set for this survey, as in previous years, are four-fold:

  • Examine critical trends in the converting industry, including revenue, business activities, and costs of doing business (including, this year, questions related to sustainability efforts).
  • Measure the impact of imported converted products on US companies.
  • Determine incidence of, and interest in, partnering with companies outside the US.
  • Compare the results to those of previous years.

The responses included in this issue reflect the composite answers of all respondents in all four industry segments. To view a breakout of each question by segment for the sake of comparison — an even more valuable tool in gauging your company's standing — check our website on a monthly basis. On the home page at, under “Economic Trends,” we will feature a close-up, charted view of respondents by industry segment.

But there's more. Here you also will find, through cooperation with the Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL), Fort Mill, SC, the association's quarterly Economic Index, including member responses to questions relevant to current and future activity indexes. This information is available on the association's website in a section accessible by “Members Only.” However, AIMCAL has opted to exclusively partner with PFFC in giving this information to our website visitors, providing you with even more value as you examine your company's performance.

This year we opted to include two new questions to our survey dealing with the subject of sustainability. We wanted to know whether the cost of meeting demands by consumers and retailers alike for more environmentally friendly packaging has become more of a burden to manufacturers or whether, indeed, it might actually prove a boon to business. As it turns out, a significant number of respondents (56%) felt sustainability efforts' impact on sales both helped attract new business and retain old business with only 16% reporting it neither helped attract new or retain old business.

We then asked if respondents were able to pass along the costs of their sustainability efforts. One third said they successfully passed along increased costs, but nearly half (47%) were not able to pass along these costs. Ouch! But get this: 12% actually reported sustainability efforts reduced costs of doing business — especially for those in the unprinted rolls and sheets segment as well as tapes, labels, and tags! Now that's good news.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise, however, that converted imports continue to plague converters in the US, but China has new rivals now: India and Eastern Europe. One other major factor impacting business for US converters is materials costs (duh) that for 33% of the respondents increased 8%-10% this year. For 14% of the respondents, they felt a greater than 10% increase. Now that hurts.

There's good news too, with converters' customers most often experiencing increased revenue. But go look for yourself, and let me know if there are other questions we should add for next year.

My friends call me…

What question would you ask in our Critical Trends survey? Write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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