- October 01, 2003, Corey M. Reardon, AWA Alexander Watson Assoc.
The release liner market continues to offer significant opportunities to industry players at all levels — particularly in self-adhesive label stock applications, which represent 55% of global demand.
Currently, three issues continue to affect the self-adhesive label stock market's movement — and that of the release liner manufacturers concerned. Backward and forward integration in the value chain, the implications — present and future — of waste management legislation for release liner, and the increasing popularity of systems other than self-adhesive technologies (e.g., unsupported film pouches) are changing the focus of market players.
The Changing Value Chain
The value chain itself is undergoing a change: The historical disconnection of raw material supplier from release liner producer and user is being eroded as user requirements become more performance-critical and margins come under pressure at all levels.
Consolidation is the name of the game, and overcapacity is a worldwide issue.
Release liner manufacturers are being pressured by end-users to effect a continuous process of product differentiation against competition, and develop new, high-performance products. This is becoming increasingly difficult in the relatively mature self-adhesive label market. The end-users themselves are reacting to increased pressures from the consumer and an increased desire — in prime label applications — for supermarket shelf space for high-volume consumer brands.
Release Liners' Future Growth
Our research shows industrial self-adhesive tapes, both double- and single-coated, will be the major growth area for release liners in the future — particularly as the world's developing economies change to disposable medical, healthcare, and personal care products.
Meanwhile, in terms of geographical usage, North America's lead — at 42.6% of the world release liner market — is extending as growth slows in Europe.
The most preferred substrate for release liners is calendered kraft paper, with 50% of the world market, followed by polyethylene-coated papers at 21%, still much favored in Asia.
While North America and Europe choose solvent-free siliconization, Asia currently uses solvent-based silicones, but there are real opportunities for change here.
A Healthy Future
Overall, within the constraints of current economic pressures, we have every reason to be confident in a healthy future for release liners. While the self-adhesive label market may be maturing, it still commands a high percentage of the labeling/product decoration market overall — and the laminate manufacturers are developing new, niche products for new, niche (and high value) applications all the time.
Of course, there are many other applications for release liners — including graphic arts materials, film casting, covering films, and envelopes — which, along with tapes, represent a continuing base of opportunities for industry suppliers at all levels.