Color Pigments, Inorganic
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Published: February 2011
The worldwide pigments industry produces hundreds of colorant, extender and functional pigments for a wide spectrum of industrial and consumer markets. The major markets are paints and coatings, plastics (including spin-dyed fibers) and construction materials. Other markets include paper, ceramics, elastomers, inks, textiles, glass, food and cosmetics.
This report focuses on inorganic pigments classified as colorants—those that possess opacity and contribute to the color or color-related properties of the vehicles into which they are incorporated. Pigments can be defined as color, black, white or fluorescent particulate organic or inorganic solids that are usually insoluble in and essentially physically and chemically unaffected by the vehicle or substrate in which they are incorporated. They alter appearance by selective absorption and/or by scattering of light. Pigments are usually dispersed in vehicles or substrates for application and retain a crystal or particulate structure throughout the coloration process.
The largest-volume inorganic color pigment is synthetic iron oxide, accounting for nearly 73% of the market by volume; production is dominated by China at 40%, followed by North America at 23% and Europe at a little over 18%. Worldwide, the top producers of synthetic iron oxide pigments in 2010 were LANXESS (formerly Bayer), which holds roughly half of the world's market; Rockwood (including the recently acquired Elementis); and Toda Kogyo.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of inorganic color pigments:
The global economic downturn seriously affected the pigment industry, especially in the construction and automotive industries. Producers were forced to cut back production in the United States and Asia. Weak demand for consumer goods affected the plastics segment, along with print and cosmetic products. In 2009, demand was also affected as consumers reduced their inventory levels, requiring less or even no pigments from manufacturers. Demand started to pick up toward the end of 2009 and has been steadily growing since. However, as a result of the challenging economic environment, recovery is expected to be uneven, depending on regional demand and end-use markets, and growth patterns can vary accordingly.
The primary drivers of the consumption of inorganic color pigments are growth in urbanization, which develops new application areas for paints and coatings, building materials and plastics; market changes where developing countries' needs are increasing with their affordability; and environmental regulations and standards. Worldwide markets for inorganic color pigments are expected to grow at slightly less than GDP growth rates during the next five years, at about 3.5–4.0%. While demand has been declining in Western countries for the past few years, it has shown an increase in Asian countries, particularly China, where construction markets grew strongly in 2010. In Japan, overall inorganic color pigment consumption is expected to grow slightly, while growth will be stronger in Europe at 2.0–2.5% and in the United States at 4.5–5.0%. In Asian countries other than Japan, primarily China and India, consumption of pigments will grow significantly, particularly in construction materials and paints and coatings at a rate of 6–7%.
The most important challenges for pigment producers will be to cope with the continuing globalization of the business, the maturing markets in some applications and regions, the oversupply of commodity pigments (keeping prices depressed) and some significant changes in health and environmental regulations, particularly under Europe's REACH legislation; however, much of the market impact is a continuation of existing consumption trends.