Automatic machines: a new record is set

After 2021, the Italian packaging machine sector closes another record year, exceeding the threshold of 8.5 billion euros (+3.6%). Exports were good, but the domestic market was even better. Chairman Cavanna: “It’s an extraordinary achievement”.

By Luca Baraldi (Mecs-Ucima) and Milena Bernardi

The Italian automatic machine industry for packing and packaging achieved a new record in 2022: a turnover of 8.5 billion euros (+3.6% on 2021, already a record year) confirms the solidity of the sector and the constant growth trend of recent years. Suffice to say that in the period 2019-2022, turnover increased by more than half a billion euros on the global markets compared to the pre-Covid figures. The data, contained in the 11th National Statistical Survey of the sector, carried out by the Mecs-Ucima Research Centre, were disclosed during the Annual General Meeting, held in Villa Marchetti in Modena, on 10 July. The reason for the strong resilience of this Made in Italy niche sector lies in the great ability to diversify the markets covered: the weakness of European demand, and even more so, that of non-EU Europe (caused by the Russia/Ukraine conflict), was offset by growth throughout the American market and in Africa. In the same way, the stop in the “food sector” was offset by the double-figure growth of the “cosmetics” sector, with a driving effect of secondary technologies and the end-of-line for all sectors and markets. The sector has a galaxy of 616 companies employing 37,753 workers (+3.9% and 1,402 workers more against 2021).

«If we look back, we did something really incredible» commented the Chairman of Ucima Riccardo Cavanna. «2022 the sector experienced highs and lows and strong international tensions, from the supply chain to the costs of the Ukraine conflict, but we managed all the same to grow, breaking the ceiling of 8 ½ billion for the first time».

Exports are growing, but the domestic market is flying at double figure growth

Exports, the by now well-consolidated point of strength (impact of 77% on total turnover) recorded an increase of 1.7%, generating a turnover of 6.57 billion euros.

The podium of the geographic areas remains unchanged: with 2.52 billion of revenues, the European Union is confirmed as the main destination area of Made in Italy machines and accounts for 38.4% all exports. Then comes Asia with 1.23 billion euros, equal to 18.8% of the total of international revenues of the sector. Third on the podium is North America, with 1.14 billion and a share of 17,4%. The top three are followed by non-UE Europe (650 million euros), South America (456 million), Africa (447 million) and Oceania with 119 million.

It is at home, however, that, in contrast with the past, manufacturers of technologies for packing and packaging have gained the most satisfaction, with an increase in sales of 10.6% on 2021, equal to 1.96 billion euros (1.78 billion in the previous year) and an impact on total turnover of 23%.

India and Turkey enter the game

Compared to the main competitors Germany and China – which, it should be underlined, grew by 11.2% in the period 2012-2022 – Italy finds itself having to compete with two other countries that are increasing their overseas market share.

Turkey and India, grown respectively to a CAGR 2012/2022 of +11% and +5.7% have, in fact, conquered new space, and in a number of foreign markets already sell more than Italy. In 2022, India exported machines for 265 million euros (93 million in 2012), while Turkey reached the threshold of 208 million against 120 million in 2012.

Food sector leadership confirmed

With 2.72 billion euros, in 2022 the food sector was once more in first place among sector customers (-0.6% against 2021) with a propensity to export of 73.2% and an impact of 31,9% of total turnover. Beverages, in second place, has strengthened, and has grown by 8 percentage points to reach a value of 2.12 billion (24.8% of overall turnover). Third classified is the tissue and other sector with 1.59 billion (18.6% of the total), up 6% (a significant increase in the domestic market, equal to +27.8%). This is followed by pharma (1.43 billion; +1.1%), cosmetics (378 million; +10.7%), chemical and home care (302 million; +5.1%). Breaking down the sectors between food and non-food, there was a growth of +3% and +4.5% respectively.

Turnover by production type

The family of machines for primary packaging remains predominant, with 50.2% of the turnover and sales equal to 4.28 billion (-0.3%), followed by the end-of-line segment, labelling and auxiliary equipment with 2.43 billion and by secondary packaging which absorbs the remaining 21.4% (+6.9%). Although contracting by 2%, the dominant category in terms of turnover is that of form-fill-seal systems (FFS) and thermoforming machines with a value of 1.7 billion euros, 79.2% achieved abroad. Machines for palletizing, depalletizing and securing the load to pallets grew more, achieving a turnover of 1.3 billion (+18.3% against the previous year), followed by cartoning and case packing machines (1.3 billion and +11.4%). Performing less well were filling-sealing machines (-6.8%), wrapping machines (-2.3%) and inspection and control machines (-12.5%).

2023 forecasts

According to Mecs-Ucima’s analysis, in the first six months of 2023, the manufacturers’ sales of automatic packaging machines experienced a strong boost. Turnover grew by 13.5% against the first quarter of 2022 and the order portfolio by +4.5%. Expectations for the entire year remain optimistic, albeit in the presence of some not very encouraging signals: the post-Covid rebound effect has vanished, geopolitical uncertainties remain, interest rates and inflation are affecting global demand. The level of confidence of businessmen remains high, however, with 47% that expect a growth in business, 42% foresee stability and 11% fear a downturn.

«The indicators available to us for 2023 show a slowing down in global demand» continues Cavanna. «Concern for the near future derives from a number of obstacles to investments: the new European packaging regulation (which is not very convincing) and its approval procedure, the increase in interest rates, the uncertainty that still persists in some areas of the world and the lack of new 4.0 policies».

Expected growth between 2023 and 2026

In the reference period, the forecasts of the Mecs-Ucima Research Centre show an annual increase in demand in all geographical areas, with the exception of Non-EU Europe Extra EU (-1.1%). Positive forecasts are given for the European Union (+3.5%), Asia (+4.4%), North America (+3.9%), South America (+3.4%), Africa/Oceania +5.3%. The data therefore paint a positive picture for the future of Made in Italy exports.

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