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Six trends that will shape the polyester industry to 2030

The polyester chain will undergo profound changes in a post-coronavirus world

1 minute read

The global pandemic brought some parts of the polyester chain to their knees in 2020. But there is opportunity in the post-pandemic world for those who can adapt to the forces now shaping the industry. And significant change is coming – while a return to growth may be on the horizon, the composition of the market could look quite different a decade from now.

This article is based on our recent insight ‘Polyesters after Covid-19: towards 2030, and beyond’. Visit the store to access the insight in full or read on for a brief summary of the six big trends to watch out for.

Trend #1: Expanding scale

Polyester’s big players are getting bigger, and more dominant in their fields. Major producers today have capacities of more than 2.5 Mt. Ten years ago, only four totalled above 2 Mt. By 2030, the likelihood is that 3 Mt or more will be the norm for a major producer with global reach.


Top 10 polyester producers to 2030

Trend #2: Integration of upstream and downstream

Key polyester producers will not only increase in size, they’ll also increase in scale and complexity. For one thing, they’re expanding into other grades of products – creating more full-suite polyester producer of fibres, film and PET – and moving all the way into spinning, weaving and packaging, and even fabric, apparel and retail.

More importantly, polyester producers are back and forward integrating to become refiners, aromatics and olefin producers, and could eventually move into oil and gas exploration. In effect, polyester producers could become crude-to-chemical supermajors in their own right.

What are the implications for competitors? How will it affect raw material suppliers? And how will the corporate landscape change? Read the full insight to find out more.

Trend #3: Futures as pricing benchmark

Pricing mechanisms are likely to be very different in the long term. Regular negotiations between buyers and sellers to settle a contract price are becoming a thing of the past. Spot business will play a bigger role to hedge against uncertainties. And we expect that while physical spot trading will remain important, it will increasingly be a complement to futures markets.

Futures pricing will increasingly sway and determine physical, spot price trends in the polyester chain. Cross-commodity hedging and/or trading will also become more important as producers’ product slates diversify.

Trend #4: Digitalisation

Like many industries, the polyester chain is doing business in new ways, putting away old practices which are becoming anachronistic. For example, conducting business need no longer be one-to-one, but can be multi-party via digital trading platforms.

B2B trading platforms are already a reality in China. And as the digital world evolves, using blockchain technology for cryptocurrency transactions for polyesters is not impossible. Eventually, this could enable individuals to participate, conducting online auctions for the smallest of cargoes.

Trend #5: Self-sufficiency

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a re-think of old business models. The massive supply chain disruption we saw in 2020 will only reinforce the trend towards national self-reliance that started last decade. China may no longer be seen as the world’s factory, which could have serious implications for international trade.

How will this affect the polyester chain? We anticipate greater diversification of production, spurring polyester growth outside of China. 

Trend #6: Sustainability takes centre stage

Sustainability has been a growing issue for some time. Polyester producers have faced criticism of the environmental impact of their products – think of the PET bottle, for instance. But there is a huge opportunity to innovate and lead the sustainability charge: polyesters are arguably the most recyclable among petrochemical products, after all. And it’s not just about recycling. Less environmentally-damaging production methods are also being explored.

Change is underway. Polyester producers are transforming themselves from simple, hydrocarbon consumers and producers to sustainable players in the new world of chemicals. Limiting carbon emissions will be a core theme in their business models, and the pandemic pause has given them time to imagine how they should transition to this long-term goal.

How are polyester companies responding to the sustainability challenge? Visit the store to access this insight in full.

Read the latest news and views from our chemicals team

The Chemical Reaction is a regular blog from Wood Mackenzie’s global chemicals team. Our analysts give their take on the news, events and trends in their region and around the world. Fill in the form at the top of the page for a complimentary copy of the latest edition.