Coated paper market and the fluctuating paper industry

Coated papers provide crisp, sharp results in sharp contrast with a smooth, slick look between the printed image and white space. A coated surface gives excellent image canvas with fine detail, providing better contrast between the printed image and the white space (known as ink snap). These are often used in high-end product catalogs and magazines that need "glossy" or "shiny" optics.

Coated vs. Uncoated Paper

The main difference between coated and uncoated paper is how the paper is made. Coated papers have a coating (typically clay) on them, so they are "sealed." This limits the amount of ink that is absorbed into the paper, helping the ink to remain on top of the paper in a crisply formed dot.

Uncoated papers are not coated and are therefore more porous. The ink soaks into the paper and appears smoother and warmer. Uncoated papers are classified by type: opaque, offset, text & cover. Coated papers are categorized in two ways: by their finish- gloss, dull, silk or matte or by quality (brightness and price). An 88+ brightness coated paper is known as a premium paper. The higher the level of exposure, the more it bounces off the sheet. Most of the inks are translucent, so the mirrored image is clear and clean. The glossier the finish of coated papers, the lesser will be the absorption of ink.

The fluctuating dynamics of the paper industry

  • Rise of papers

Inkjet paper is expanding into the market for direct mail, business, and publishing. The popularity of inkjet coated papers is also on the rise. Paper mills have focused on producing a paper that is ideal for graphics-oriented printing. Not only the paper types being made but also the sizes of the digital sheet have become wider and more complex. To keep pace with the improving equipment, the caliper ranges are also increasing.

Presently, the global production of coated paper for printing is about 45 to 50 million tons per year, with a projected growth rate between 3 and 4%. Coated paper manufacturers had to increase productivity and reduce costs to stay afloat. One way to achieve this is through technological advances that make paper, coating and finishing operations much more effective.

  • The decline of the paper industry

Extensive growth and innovation in the Internet and e-retail sector were described as some of the major factors behind the global drop-in paper demand. The paper industry's main cost-driving factors include raw material and feedstock, which is a large proportion of total production costs. Furthermore, labor costs (which rely on labor abundance) also have an impact on the paper industry.

The global paper and pulp mill industry has been shrinking over the past decade. This is largely due to a shift across most developed economies toward digital media and paperless communication. Due to a shift towards digital media and web advertising, the market for printing & writing and newsprint has decreased. Factors like the rise of e-commerce online have substantially increased paperless advertisement demand. These factors prompted the falling phase of the paper industry, which eventually slowed down the demand for coated papers.

  • Paper and packaging in the next decade

If you thought the paper industry would be gone, consider again. Digitization is squeezing coated papers, but overall the paper and forest products industry has witnessed significant changes in store and exciting new growth prospects. Packaging, along with tissue papers and pulp for hygiene products, is growing worldwide.

Although the market is still relatively small, the pulp is rising for textile applications. And in various laboratories and research centers, there is a wide search for new applications and uses for wood and its components. The business of paper and forest products is not going away. But it changes and evolves. It may be suggested that the sector has experienced the most substantial transition in many decades.

Quick Insights: Here’s how industry players are playing their role in market betterment

Nippon Paper introduced the SHIELDPLUS series in March 2019. The product was a paper-based material that had barrier properties. This paper series was produced from the paper that was obtained from renewable sources of wood, which had a water-based coating technology barrier coating layer. 

Apart from Nippon, Stora Enso, a giant of pulp, paper, and other forest products, launched Cupforma Natura Solo in May 2019. The product range was a renewable paperboard that was intended to serve paper cups manufacturers. The material is fit for cold and hot beverage cups and is produced by avoiding any traditional plastic coating layer.

To conclude

The coated paper market growth has been quite the roller coaster ride. To a large extent, the fluctuating industry patterns have relied on the turmoil within the paper industry. There has been an intense innovation phase over the past few years that have resulted in several new ways of applying coatings to paper substrates while raising the tension on the surface. This has made it more cost-effective to produce coated paper in several ways.

The increasing availability of product choices has ramped up the manufacturers' competition to tap market share, particularly in the fast-moving market for consumer goods. Manufacturers aim to increase the product's visual appearance to draw customers. Coated paper is used to fulfill the packaging's glossy appearance. The coated paper also has a high degree of printability that lets manufacturers interact with customers about business and products and create a brand image in the consumer's subconscious.

The coated paper application also includes invitations for printing and decoration purposes, providing various growth opportunities for players. The increasing popularity of digital and online platforms has driven the e-commerce industry, leading to an increase in home delivery services. This has stimulated the need for packaging and labeling solutions and consequently increased the product's demand.

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