Lisbon, Portugal – While the headline fall in European polyurethane foam production was 3.7%, producers in the Balkans and Belarus bucked the trend, according to Angela Austin of Labyrinth Research & Markets said.
She was speaking at the EuroPUR annual meeting, where she presented the association’s regular market survey.
She said that in 2018, the biggest winners were the Balkans, while Greece and Cyprus remained static. ‘With new equipment and latent demand, the Balkans have increased foam production,’ she said.
However, in Romania and Bulgaria, flexible foam production fell by nearly 5%. ‘In Bulgaria, smaller foamers opted to buy more foam rather than make it,’ she said. In Romania, production was flat.
In Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, there was a downturn of 3%. Russian flexible polyurethane foam makers had to battle an increase in pocket spring mattresses in 2018.
‘Customers are looking for low density foam for competitively priced products,’ Austin said. ‘Russians look for a good deal.’
In Kazakhstan, foam production increased by 15% in 2018, she said, despite the country importing Russian furniture and flexible polyurethane foam. She added that new capacity in the country has ramped up and the market is doing well.
‘In the Ukraine, lower levels of disposable income are hitting consumers,’ she said. ‘Memory foam pillows have become luxury items.’ Consumers are looking for functional foam items not high-quality products.
In Belarus, there was a 15% increase in flexible foam production in 2018, she said. This is because the heavily forested country has low labour costs, and has developed a furniture hub.