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Published: December 2006
Found in high-quality inks, high performance paints and coatings, plastics and cosmetics, specialty pigments provide the first impressions for many of our most prized possessions and add unique color to our lives. From security printing and anticounterfeiting labeling to bold new automotive finishes to color shifting lip glosses and eye shadow, specialty pigments provide high performance and high value.
Specialty pigments range in price from $5 to $8 per kilogram at the low end of the spectrum to as high as $3,000 per kilogram at the high end. The largest consuming region is NAFTA (Canada, Mexico and the United States), followed by Europe and Asia.
Most of the specialty pigment classes are made by only a few producers. While these are high-value products as measured by purchase price and, in some cases, profit margins, they also present substantial barriers to entry. This is particularly so for pigment classes other than classic organic pigments.
Specialty pigments are made in production volumes that are as much as two or three orders of magnitude smaller than those of commodity pigments. In turn, a smaller number of companies produce specialty pigments than commodity pigments. Specialty pigment producers offer significantly greater levels of customer support and invest more heavily in research and development than commodity pigment producers.
The following pie charts show world consumption of specialty pigments by type and by region.
The fastest growing region is China, particularly for classic organic pigments. Chinese consumption of many other specialty pigment classes is also growing, but from lower volumes. Both China and India have emerged as important sources of the world's supply of classic organic pigments.
Most specialty pigments, other than classic organic pigments, are supplied to China, India and many other developing markets as finished products, particularly in the form of formulated printing inks.