The Italian automatic packaging machinery sector has reported total sales revenues of €8.24 billion in 2021, an all-time high that eclipses the previous record of €8.04 billion set in 2019. The result marks a 5.5% increase on 2020 and is particularly impressive in view of the pandemic-related restrictions that were in place throughout 2021 along with the global shortage of raw materials and components that hindered production and shipments in the final months of the year.
These figures were contained in the National Statistical Survey for the industry published annually by the MECS – Ucima Research Centre and announced during UCIMA’s Annual Members’ Meeting. The survey counted a total of 633 companies with 36,351 employees, 2% more than the previous year.
Riccardo Cavanna, chairman of UCIMA (Italian Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Association)
The Italian manufacturers of packaging technology and solutions maintained their strong export propensity in 2021 with foreign sales of €6.46 billion, 78.4% of the total. Following the 4% decline in 2020, exports resumed growth at +6.2%. The European Union maintained its position as the largest market for Italian machinery with revenues of €2.15 billion, up 3.4% compared to 2020 and equivalent to 40.8% of total exports. Asia lost ground (-4.4%) but remained the second most important export market for Italian packaging technology with sales of €942 million, 17.8% of the sector’s total exports. In third place was North America with an impressive 13% year-on-year growth to €828 million following the 6% increase reported in 2020. Africa and Oceania followed in fourth place with 9% of the total export turnover (€473 million), overtaking non-EU Europe, while Central and South America closed the ranking in sixth place.
The USA topped the ranking of individual countries with €756 million of machinery sales. This marked 13.1% growth compared to 2020 following the previous years’ increases. Next came France and Germany, which after the falls of 2020 resumed growth (+9.6% and +10.1% respectively). Exports to France totalled €364 million, while German companies purchased €316 million worth of Italian machinery. China remained in fourth place ahead of the UK, which overtook Spain in 2021.
The domestic market
The Italian domestic market also grew to reach sales of €1.77 billion (up 3.2% on 2020), equivalent to 21.6% of the industry’s total revenues. This marked a continuation of the positive trend already in progress.
Client sectors are divided up between food & beverage (57.1%) and non-food industries (42.9%). In detail, the food sector’s technology purchases increased by 8.8% compared to 2020, while the beverage sector’s purchases fell by 3.4%. The combined result for the two segments was a 3.4% increase relative to 2021 and a turnover of €4.7 billion. Topping the ranking of non-food sectors was tissue, tobacco and other machinery, which overtook pharma with €1.5 billion, an 18.2% share of turnover and 16.8% growth with respect to 2020. Next came the pharmaceutical sector with €1.4 billion and a 17.1% share of total revenues. The cosmetics sector ranked third, stabilising after its strong growth in 2020 and generating sales of €341 million last year. Finally, the Chemicals & Home Care sector generated sales of €286 million.
Turnover by machinery type
Primary packaging machinery remained the dominant category with a 52.2% share of turnover (€4.29 billion), followed by secondary packaging (20.7%) and end-of-line machinery (13.0%). Labelling technologies accounted for 6.2% of total revenues.
The industrial structure
The 633 Italian packaging machinery manufacturers are mainly concentrated along the Via Emilia (the so-called Packaging Valley), with further production districts located in Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany. The province with the largest number of companies is Bologna with 73, followed by Parma (55) and Milan (54). The breakdown by turnover category reveals a marked predominance of small companies (81% of all companies have revenues below €10 million), although they account for just 16% of total turnover. The more structured industrial companies with turnovers above €25 million (a total of 55, equivalent to 8.6% of the total number of companies in the sector) account for 72% of the entire 2021 supply chain.
The outlook for 2022
“Considering the severe difficulties experienced in 2021, including significant constraints in day-to-day business, the absence of trade fairs and major supply chain slowdowns, the year-end results are truly extraordinary,” comments Riccardo Cavanna, newly appointed chairman of UCIMA (The Italian Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Association). “This is a result of our companies’ unflagging commitment in terms of innovation, the search for smart solutions and the promotion of Italian technologies. The first quarter of 2022 saw a small decline (-4.4%) compared to the same period in 2021, but the orders received (up 8%) and guaranteed months of production (6.7) bode well for the rest of the year. The current year is likely to be less dynamic than 2021 due to the many problems we are facing, including soaring raw material and transport costs and difficulties in procuring certain components, an issue that prevents companies from shipping completed machines. The difficulties caused by the sanctions imposed on Russia are another factor. However, we remain confident, particularly in the light of the excellent results of our exhibition Ipack-Ima. The show revealed great market dynamism, a determination to get back to business and interesting technological prospects for the immediate future, including increasingly digital and integrated offerings together with even more efficient servitization solutions.”
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