Products that offer unique or unusual properties have boosted sales for some manufacturers serving the European and North American markets. For example, Pilkington has seen increased demand for its Pilkington Activ® product lines, which offer self-cleaning properties in combination with solar control coatings, low-e energy-saving glass, laminated safety glass and noise-reduction laminates. Chicago, Ill.-based Engineered Glass Products has reported significant success with its new Thermique® Hot Glass Technology®, which can be integrated into windows in cold climates to radiate warmth into building interiors; used as stylish towel warmers in high-end bathrooms; or used to reheat, store and display warm foods in kitchens and restaurants.
While the automotive markets have been relatively flat in North America and Europe, value-added products are also helping glass manufacturers increase sales in these regions. For example, Pilkington has seen growing sales of panoramic and solar reflective windscreen glass, laminated sidelights for security and comfort, and acoustic noise-reducing and heated integrated-wired products. This trend is expected to continue as vehicle manufacturers emphasize the advantages of increased safety, visibility, comfort and noise reduction. The strongest growth is expected in emerging markets such as South America and Asia, where demand for new vehicles is expected to continue to rise. Japan-based Asahi Glass Co., Ltd., reported that it is also seeing strong demand in Russia.
According to Pilkington, glass demand for the construction and automotive industries is expected to continue growing at around 3.9% per year over the long term, driven by economic growth, as well as by legislation and regulations concerning safety, noise attenuation and the response to the growing need for energy conservation. Additionally, architects and car designers are using increasingly more glass in buildings and vehicles. However, like all manufacturers in the ceramic industry, glass manufacturers in North America, Europe and China are experiencing increasing cost pressures due to rising energy prices, and this challenge is expected to continue in the foreseeable future.
Corning, which is also seeing higher demand for LCD glass, forecasted that global LCD glass market volume will grow in excess of 50% in 2005 compared to 2004 levels. The company reported that LCD TVs comprised 5% of all televisions sold in 2004 and believes that they might account for around 21% of the world's television sales by 2007. "As CRT TVs continue to decline in market penetration, we believe LCD TVs will emerge as the primary alternative technology in the below 40-in. market, as they provide the best balance of form, function and cost," said Peter F. Volanakis, president of Corning Technologies.
A recent study from The Freedonia Group, Inc. projects that aggregate global demand for electronic displays will increase more than 13% per year through 2008 to US$113.5 billion.1 While LCDs will continue to see the highest growth rate, plasma displays and microdisplays will also continue to post strong gains, especially in high-definition television (HDTV) applications. Meanwhile, demand for CRTs will continue to decline.
Paris, France-based Compagnie de Saint-Gobain reported that it saw high demand for bottles and jars in Southern Europe, particularly Portugal, as well as in emerging economies such as Latin America and China. The company has also seen increased sales in glass flasks worldwide due to its focus on unique designs. Not all companies have been able to leverage enough international growth to offset increased manufacturing costs and flat North American demand. After closing its Connellsville, Pa., glass container manufacturing facility in late 2004, Anchor Glass Container Corp., headquartered in Tampa, Fla., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 8, 2005, for the third time since 1996. Part of Anchor's bankruptcy reorganization plan could include additional plant closings.
Demand for glass containers is expected to continue to expand in high-end food-and-beverage categories in the developing world. The forecast for other sectors and other regions is less clear. A recent study from The Freedonia Group projects that U.S. demand for cosmetic and toiletry containers will increase 2.6% per year to 24.7 billion units in 2009.2 While plastic is expected to register the fastest growth, glass will continue to hold its niche in cosmetic (e.g., nail enamel) and fragrance uses and is expected to grow at a rate of 0.5% per year.
Editor's note: The foregoing information (except where noted) was compiled from publicly available information in annual reports and news releases.