Will the World Have Enough Masks?

Analysts at the Freedonia group recently finished an analysis of the global disposable mask market, primarily to answer these questions:

  • What will demand for masks be in 2020?
  • Will there be enough supply to meet demand?
  • Will the current COVID-19 pandemic change mask use in the future?

Answering those questions in the second quarter of 2020 is difficult with so many moving pieces and trends that change on a daily basis.

  • Tracking changes in countries where growth curves have flattened and economies are already opening for business gives some direction but not the full story as every country is different.
  • Comparing masks sales to sales trends in other products impacted by the pandemic such as disposable gloves and I&I disinfectants helps see what key factors determine changes in sales levels. Will annual sales gains be higher than ever before due to spikes in usage and prices or will they be restrained by business closures, overcapacity, or the lack of a widespread need outside of healthcare?

The question in the title is easier to answer. Production of masks is skyrocketing.  

  • In normal years masks are mostly produced by small to medium sized companies you’ve never heard of. (3M and Honeywell are exceptions but they operate in the critical N95 respirator market niche.)
  • In 2020, mask makers now include GM, Boeing, Foxconn, Prada, Eddie Bauer, and Panasonic, to name just a few. These companies barely have anything in common except the desire to help and factories that can produce.

The contributions of these new industry participants are noble but temporary. In the end the availability of masks comes down to China. With an estimated 9,000 or more mask companies ramping up in the country, requirements for 2020 will likely be met (especially if exacting production standards are not enforced). And if China doesn’t have enough capacity, Vietnam and other large Asian textile powerhouses are also ramping up operations and production of key raw materials is increasing.

Factors that will ultimately determine sales levels or the risk of product surpluses include:

  • 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
  • when a vaccine or drug treatment for COVID-19 is widely available
  • the introduction and use of competitive products or processes including mask sterilization and reusable masks

Freedonia’s analysis projects that sales of masks worldwide in 2020 will see triple digit increases in market value due to the combination of sharp growth in usage in unit terms by all sectors of the economy, strong increases in average prices, a shift in product mix toward higher value products, and a need to replenish stockpiles. Healthcare drove the market early in 2020 and will continue to see above average mask requirements for the rest of the year. But growth in the second half of 2020 will come from consumers and retailers and manufacturers as businesses are reopened and the world strives to be safe while also getting back some sense of normalcy.

Learn more: Global Disposable Masks & Respirators: COVID-19 Impact Analysis

Also see: Global Disposable Medical Gloves: COVID-19 Impact Analysis

Industrial and Institutional (I&I) Cleaning Chemicals

Global Nonwovens