US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

What’s Next For the Disposable Mask Industry in 2020

The Freedonia Group recently finished an analysis of the global disposable mask market. Two of the many important questions answered in this report center on if there will be sufficient supply and if the pandemic will fundamentally change future mask demand.

Production of masks is skyrocketing. In normal years, masks are mostly manufactured by small to medium sized companies you’ve never heard of (with the notable exceptions of 3M and Honeywell, which operate in the critical N95 respirator market niche). In 2020, mask makers now include disparate firms such as GM, Boeing, Foxconn, Prada, Eddie Bauer, and Panasonic. However, their contributions are temporary, so the long-term availability of masks depends largely on China’s 9,000 or more mask companies ramping up production, supplemented by increased activity among other textile powerhouses in Asia. Requirements for 2020 will likely be met, especially if exacting production standards are not enforced.

Whether this extra supply will be satisfied with additional future sales or lead to product surplus and unused capacity will be determined by factors such as:

  • how quickly virus cases level out and hospitalizations decrease
  • when and how countries open up their economies and what mask requirements are in place both for businesses and consumers
  • what medical stockpiling of these products looks like following economies reopening
  • when a vaccine or drug treatment for COVID-19 becomes widely available
  • the introduction and use of competitive products or processes including mask sterilization and reusable masks

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of Global Disposable Masks & Respirators, Global Filters, Global Nonwovens. Additional targeted research is available from Freedonia Custom Research.

  Consumer Goods      Textiles & Nonwovens    

Why Are Disinfecting Wipes Still So Hard To Find?

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, disinfecting wipes weren’t a high priority repeat shopping item for most households. According to data from The Freedonia Group’s National Online Consumer Survey conducted in July-August 2019, only 38% of respondents reported buying surface cleaning wipes (disinfecting or otherwise) more than once in the previous 12 months.

However, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, disinfecting wipes became a particularly hot object. They are a convenient cleaning option at a time when many people find themselves cleaning surfaces at home or at work multiple times a day. According to data from The Freedonia Group’s newest National Online Consumer Survey conducted in April-May 2020, 62% of respondents reported buying surface cleaning wipes (disinfecting or otherwise) more than once in the previous 12 months.

This big shift in new consumer demand was on top of increased use by existing wipes users at home and heightened demand from places such as commercial businesses, factories, retail stores, hospitals, and eldercare facilities.

So why is it getting easier to find toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but not disinfecting wipes? The spike in use was bigger and the barriers to entry are higher.

In response to the increased demand, Clorox has been running more shifts, shifted production capacity to the basic versions, and reached out to third-party manufacturers. The company is also making investments in capacity expansions, presuming that demand will remain high in the longer term.

Reckitt Benckiser, which sells Lysol and Dettol disinfectant products, expanded capacity and concentrated production on core needed production.

With heightened demand expected to continue through this crisis period and beyond, other wipes manufacturers may develop products for consumer markets. For instance, firms such as NicePak, which do a lot of business in healthcare and contract cleaning markets, could make headway by sending similar products to the consumer market once supplies are steady in the markets they already serve.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s Wipes, Global Nonwovens, and Industrial & Institutional Cleaning Chemicals. Contact your sales representative or The Freedonia Group’s customer service for information on our upcoming special Industrial & Institutional Disinfectants & Sanitizers report. Additional targeted research is available from Freedonia Custom Research.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Ready-to-Sew Consumer Face Mask Kits Available Via a Partnership With Filtration & Textile Companies

Hollingsworth & Vose has partnered with Midwest Textiles to offer ready-to-sew face masks for consumer use. This kit includes a layer of Hollingsworth & Vose’s Nanoweb FM filtration media made of spunbonded nonwovens not used by medical personnel, so it has no negative impact on the industry’s ability to provide personal protective equipment for first responders. This filter media can be inserted into the pocket of a reusable mask or stitched into a disposable one.

This is one way for the market to provide supplies to consumers, who are often struggling to obtain what they need for their own protection and to comply with orders or recommendations to wear face coverings when away from home. Filter companies can use this as an opportunity to repurpose breathable filter media that might otherwise be used in other applications that are not in high demand in the current economic climate. Consumer protection needs are not as high as those of medical personnel because consumers are generally able to use social distancing measures to mitigate their risk.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of the Global Face Masks and Global Filters industry as well as Global Disposable Medical Supplies and US Disposable Medical Supplies.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Textiles & Nonwovens    

Surface Disinfecting Wet Wipes Suppliers Seeking Certification of Efficacy Against Coronavirus

Nice-Pak, a leading producer of private label wipes including varieties for surface disinfection applications, is working with Microbac, a testing laboratory, to determine if its products are effective specifically against SARS-CoV-2. Its sister company, PDI, which concentrates on the commercial and institutional sectors, is also submitting products to these tests.

Nice-Pak, which already has a number of products listed on the EPA’s list of disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2, will be among the first to get this certification.

This is an important angle, as Nielsen notes that the ability protect against germs and bacteria is a high priority for consumers. Consumers throughout the world are willing to pay more for homecare products that keep the family protected against germs/bacteria or that kill germs/bacteria in an effective way. Products that give consumers greater confidence will have a leg up on the competition.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of the Wipes and  Global Nonwovens industries.

  Chemicals      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

North American Truck Sales Hit Unprecedented Lows

A softening of truck orders in 2019 – which followed a record spike in 2018, when the strength of the US economy and changes to business taxes encouraged equipment investment – has now been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. While orders increased in January 2020, orders began to fall again in February until they unprecedented lows in April at just 4,000 vehicles, according to an article published by the Wall Street Journal. Most traditional markets for trucks have experienced severe turmoil since March, causing a dramatic decline in orders for the models needed to transport materials and goods.

The COVID 19 pandemic has caused weakness throughout much of the North American economy, and fewer trucks are needed on the road right now as there are fewer goods being produced and distributed. Even as states reopen manufacturing plants and employees return to work, the uncertainty regarding how long the economy will be depressed will likely reduce order rates in the coming months as well.

Further complicating matters, it is not clear how many existing orders for heavy trucks in North America will be cancelled in coming months as companies go out of business and others reduce production and delay plant openings.

While 2020 is shaping up to be a year or record lows, the North American heavy truck industry will increasingly look to 2021 and beyond for new opportunities as it weathers the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s Global Diesel Engines and North American Medium- and Heavy-Duty Truck Aftermarket studies as well as our Medium- & Heavy-Duty Trucks & Buses: United States and Global Medium- & Heavy-Duty Trucks & Buses Freedonia Focus reports. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Covid-19