Packaging machinery: first-half 2021 sales return to 2019 levels

Turnover in the first half of 2021 fell by just 1.8% compared to the same period in the record year 2019. The growth with respect to the first half of 2020 was 21%.
The sector held its ground in 2020 with turnover of almost 8 billion euros. The food and cosmetics segments performed well

Modena, July 2021 – The automatic packaging machinery industry recorded robust 21% growth in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. In the period from January to June, exports were 19.3% higher than in the first half of 2020 and domestic sales up 31.2%. With these figures, the entire industry has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with a difference of just -1.8% compared to the first half of 2019 (a record year that saw year-end sales in excess of 8 billion euros). This performance was the combined result of 9.2% growth in the first quarter and an even higher 29.4% growth in the second quarter compared to the same period the previous year. The growth is similar in the domestic market (+34%) and in the export market (+28.4% compared to the previous year). The Ucima-Mecs Research Centre also published data on orders, which were up by 10.9% in the second quarter and 10.7% over the entire first half of the year.

The Research Centre also reported the results for 2020 in the ninth National Statistical Survey, which every year provides an overview of the sector’s performance. Last year the Italian automatic packaging machinery manufacturers essentially maintained the previous year’s turnover levels. Following the record figures of 2019, the sector saw a modest year-on-year decline of 2.9% to 7.81 billion euros, in line with the result of 2018 (7.9 billion euros). Last year also saw an increase in both the number of companies in business (635 in total, +3.1%) and in the number of employees, which grew by 7% to 35,630.


International markets


In line with 2019, export sales accounted for 78% of the total (6,08 billion euros) but fell by 4,1%. The European Union remained the main target market for Italian packaging machinery and accounted for 41% of total turnover (2,087 million euros) including sales in Italy, followed in second place by Asia with a value of 985.8 million euros and a 19.4% share, then North America in third place with 733.1 million euros (14.4%). North America is the only macro region that saw growth in turnover (+5.9%) with respect to 2019, a year when exports dropped to 691.9 million euros. Next came non-EU Europe (8.6%, or 439.7 million euros), Africa and Oceania (8.4%) and Central and South America (8.2%).


The domestic market


The domestic market continued the positive trend seen in recent years with sales up 1.9% year-on-year in 2020 to 1.72 billion euros.


Client sectors


In the breakdown of turnover amongst the various client sectors, food and beverage maintained its dominant position in 2020 and accounted for 58.2% of total turnover. More specifically, food alone made up 32.2% of total sales (2,516 million euros) and beverages 26.0% with 2,032 million euros. Together food and beverage recorded 1.7% growth in 2019.

As in 2019, third place by volume went to the pharmaceutical sector with 1,356 million euros (17.4% of the total). Next came cosmetics, the only non-food sector to show growth, with a turnover of 348.7 million euros (+11.4%). The chemicals industry closes out the rankings with 270 million euros.


Turnover by machinery type


Primary packaging machinery remains the dominant category with a 53.2% share of turnover, followed by secondary packaging (18.8%) and end-of-line machinery (13.9%).


The industrial structure


The 635 Italian packaging machinery manufacturers are mainly concentrated along the Via Emilia between Piacenza and Rimini (the so-called Packaging Valley), with further production districts located in Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany. The breakdown by turnover class reveals a marked predominance of small companies (companies with revenues under 10 million euros make up 79% of the total), although they account for just 17% of total turnover. By contrast, the more structured industrial companies (51 with revenues of over 25 million euros) account for 68% of turnover and 74% of exports.


The outlook for 2021


“The figures for the first half of 2021 speak volumes about the good work done in 2020, when our companies continued to operate,” comments Matteo Gentili, chairman of Ucima. “Indeed, the industry took advantage of the difficult national and international situation to further develop and improve its solutions in terms of digital technologies and we are now reaping the benefits. The resilience displayed in 2020 and the growth in the first 6 months of 2021 confirm the solidity and dynamism of our sector, which continues to play a strategic role within the Italian capital goods industry. We are confident about the second half of the year and expect to see growth in several markets.”


Press Release: UCIMA (Unione Costruttori Italiani Macchine Automatiche per il Confezionamento e l’Imballaggio)