Global printing industry reaches USD 760.6 billion in 2021

The USD 760.6-billion global print industry returns to growth in 2021 and is forecast to reach USD 834.3 billion in 2026, latest Smithers research finds

14 Dec 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

Commercial, graphics, publications, packaging and label printing all face fundamental challenges in adjusting to the market space in the wake of Covid-19. The positive news – as outlined in the new Smithers report, The Future of Global Printing to 2026 – is that after a highly disruptive 2020, markets have recovered across 2021; although this is not uniform across all segments.

Total value of global printing will reach USD 760.6 billion in 2021, with the equivalent of 41.9 trillion A4 prints produced worldwide. This is up from USD 750.0 billion in 2020, but volumes have declined further, down 5.87 trillion A4 prints from 2019.

The effect has been most pronounced in publications, and some graphics and commercial applications. Lockdown (stay-at-home) orders led to a sharp drop in magazine and newspaper sales, only partially compensated for by a short-term increase in orders for educational and leisure books; and much of regular commercial print and graphics work was cancelled.

Packaging and label print have been far more resilient and provide a clear strategic focus for the industry moving forwards across the next five years. As a degree of stability returns to end-use markets, investment in new print and finishing equipment will be USD 15.9 billion this year.

Smithers anticipates that new demand in packaging and labels and in Asian growth economies will fuel a moderate increase through to 2026 – at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.9% by value, at constant prices.

In 2026 total value is forecast to hit USD 834.3 billion. Volume growth will be slower at a 0.7% CAGR, rising to 43.4 trillion A4 print equivalents in 2026, but the majority of volume lost across 2019-2020 will not be recovered.

Reacting to rapid evolutions in consumer demand, while modernising print rooms and business processes will be central to future success for companies at all stages of the print supply chain.

Leading trends across 2021-2026

  • In a post-Covid world less global, more local print supply chains will be more popular. Print buyers will place less reliance on single providers and just-in-time delivery models – instead there will be more demand for agile print services that can react quickly to shifts in market conditions.
  • Disrupted supply chains have generally benefited digital – inkjet and electrophotography print – accelerating its adoption in multiple end-use segments. Digital will increase its share of the market (by value) from 17.2% in 2021, to 21.6% in 2026; making it a major focus for R&D across the industry.
  • Demand for printed e-commerce packaging will continue, with brands keen to offer improvements in experience and engagement. Higher quality digital printing will be used to capitalise on improved messaging on packs, promoting other products and adding a potential revenue source for print service providers. This aligns with the broader industry trend for lower volume printing that is more relevant to the consumer, as physical media is increasingly targeted to specific segments or even individuals.
  • As the world increasingly connects electronically, print equipment will embrace more Industry 4.0 and web-to-print concepts. This will improve uptime and order turnaround, allowing better benchmarking, and for machines to publish available capacity online in real time to attract additional jobs.