The lacquer market continues to be in a transformative phase, as solvent-based lacquers give way to water-based variants. The shift has been induced by a range of factors, however, stringent regulations and carbon consciousness among end-users are the prominent factors. Although solvent-based lacquers still account for a significant revenue share of the lacquer market, demand for water-based lacquers is also growing at a steady pace.
Lacquers continue to be the preferred finishes for woodworking owing to a bevy of advantages. Among the various types of lacquers available to end-users, demand for nitrocellulose continues to be the highest, on account of its competitive pricing and quick drying features. Nitrocellulose lacquers are ideally suited for production shops of all sizes, as they offer a uniform layer of film over the material. The fact that nitrocellulose lacquers are evaporative in nature provides for easy blending. Although nitrocellulose will continue to the highest selling lacquer type globally, its limitations are influencing end-users to opt for feasible alternatives. Notable is the problem of ‘crazing’ associated with the use of nitrocellulose.
The lacquer industry – in addition to the broader paints, varnishes, and coatings industry – is heavily regulated. The stringency in emission guidelines has meant that manufacturers have to invest in meeting compliance and regulatory norms. In a bid to comply with a complex web of regulations, many industry players are focusing on adopting a holistic and comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMA). Regulations such as Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) require manufacturers to make a slew of changes, across the entire supply chain.
Water-based lacquers have gained significant popularity in the recent past, on account of the broader push towards sustainability. Although solvent-based lacquers offer a glossy shine that survives the wear and tear for years, the raw materials and chemicals used in manufacturing these products have proven to be hazardous to human health and the environment. End-users have not been oblivious to these challenges, and a steady shift towards water-based solvents has been witnessed in many lucrative markets. However, water-based solvents come with their own set of challenges. Although they serve the ‘environmentally-friendly’ criteria, their actual performance leaves a lot to be desired. Longer wait times between coats and high price continue to impede widespread adoption of water-based lacquers. However, manufacturers are focusing on addressing the limitations associated with water-based solvents to consolidate their position.
Demand for lacquers is pretty much evenly spread over a range of industries, including automotive, architectural, furniture, and cosmetics to name a few. Traditionally, furniture industry has accounted for the bulk of demand, however, applications in cosmetics industries have complemented demand. Surging demand from cosmetics industry is a lucrative opportunity that manufacturers are focusing on leveraging. Demand has also been complemented by the steadiness in the automotive industry. Automotive sales have been healthy in the US, China, and India, with a rapidly emerging middle class demographic ramping up demand. The fortunes of the lacquer market are directly linked to the broader developments in the automotive industry, and it is highly likely that steadiness in the automotive sector will create sustained growth opportunities for manufacturers.