Global Thermoplastic Elastomers: Consumer Goods Market

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TPEs

This study analyzes the global consumer goods markets for thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) by region and product. For the purposes of this study, a thermoplastic elastomer is defined as any thermoplastic material that exhibits elastomeric properties; TPEs therefore offer the functional performance characteristics of thermoset rubber but are processed using the methods and machinery of rigid thermoplastics.

TPEs covered in this report are:

  • copolyester elastomers (COPEs)
  • polyolefin elastomers (POEs)
  • styrenic block copolymers (SBCs)
  • thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs)
  • thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs)
  • thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs)
  • specialty types (including polyether block amide, silicone-based TPEs, fluoropolymer-based TPEs, and vinyl-based TPEs)

SBCs that do not exhibit elastomeric properties (i.e., high styrene products that contain roughly 60% or more styrene) are excluded from the scope of this study.

While TPOs and TPVs are “polyolefin elastomers” in a technical sense, they are defined separately for the purposes of this study. Furthermore, vulcanized olefin elastomers such as EPDM and ethylene-propylene rubber are not TPEs and are thus excluded.

Compounds with vulcanized elastomers are considered to be TPVs rather than TPOs. Various sources and manufacturers differ on the degree of vulcanization required to define an olefinic TPE as a TPV, so estimates of current global demand can vary.

For the purposes of this report, consumer goods TPEs are defined as those used in the manufacture of consumer products such as:

  • footwear
  • appliances and household goods
  • personal care products (e.g., hair brushes, hair clippers and trimmers, razors, toothbrushes)

Historical data (2009, 2014, and 2019) and forecasts for 2024 and 2029 are presented for TPE demand for consumer markets in metric tons.

TPEs

Demand by Elastomer Type

Demand for TPEs in consumer goods is projected to climb 2.3% per year to 1.2 million metric tons in 2024, trailing the global average:

  • SBCs will see slower than average growth due to the mature footwear segment, with gains further tempered by some competition with TPUs, which will see faster increases. Nevertheless, SBC will remain the most widely used TPE type in the consumer goods market with 45% of demand.
  • POEs continue to account for a notable share of demand, as their soft feel, durability, and flexibility making them a good choice for personal care products and seals and gaskets on household appliances.
  • COPEs are expected to see the fastest growth through 2024, as they are increasingly used for consumer goods due to their performance properties, including temperature, chemical, and scratch resistance, in appliance applications.

Demand by Application

Through 2024, global demand for TPEs in consumer goods is expected to grow 2.3% per year to 1.2 million metric tons:

  • Footwear will see the slowest growth among consumer TPE applications (and among the slowest of any major TPE market), limited by market maturity and sluggish increases in footwear production.
  • TPEs will continue to take share from thermoset rubber in appliances and household goods, although further growth will be restrained by a slowdown in appliance demand due to the pandemic.
  • Above-average gains are expected for TPEs in personal care products, driven by rising demand for soft touch grips and handles for products such as toothbrushes and razors.

Pricing Trends

Comparative prices and final installed cost are important considerations in determining the market potential for thermoplastic elastomers:

  • The price range for TPEs is wide, with actual cost to the customer depending on product type, proprietary formulation, and grade.
  • Although TPEs are typically more expensive than thermoset rubber on a per kilogram basis, this higher cost can be offset by TPEs’ lower weight and manufacturing cost savings via thermoplastic processing methods such as injection molding.

In 2019, average prices for these TPEs ranged from $2.35 per kilogram for POEs to $8.40 per kilogram for COPEs. Prices can be even higher for niche products such as silicone- or fluoropolymer-based TPEs.

While TPVs have typically been counted among the higher priced TPEs, they are being increasingly commoditized, with the 2019 average price of TPVs ($4.30 per kilogram) only $1.25 more per kilogram than that of SBCs.

Average TPE prices are expected to grow less than 1.0% per year to $3.65 per kilogram in 2024, rebounding from a slump caused by depressed prices for a number of commodities during the 2014-2019 period. A shift in the product mix toward higher value products like TPVs, hydrogenated SBCs, and smaller-volume specialty types will push up average prices. This will be most evident in the SBC segment, which will see the fastest price gains.

Further pricing growth will be restrained by:

  • increasing production capacity in developing regions such as China, where low manufacturing costs result in lower prices for TPE materials
  • TPE manufacturers taking advantage of low-cost feedstocks in the Middle East (inexpensive oil) and the US (shale gas)

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