Polyols have similar properties as that of sugar, which has opened up a wide range of applications in pharmaceutical and food production. Growing demand in these industries is expected to drive the polyols market through the forecast period. Production costs are expected to remain dominated by raw material and capital costs. Increasing demand for low-calorie foods is expected to expand the application base for the polyols market. With rising need for preventive healthcare, consumers have been taking effective measures that include sugar-free foods and consumption of low-calories sweeteners owing to increase in obesity as well as related disorders such as heart diseases. Growing demand for bio-based solutions in order to improve carbon footprint and reduce reliability on scarce raw materials is expected to drive market growth over the six years. However, volatility of raw material price could pose a challenge to polyols market participants over the forecast period. The global polyols market was valued at over USD 14 billion in 2012.
Key product segments include polyesters and polyethers. Polyethers are based on polyoxypropylene polyols and are used in manufacturing polyurethane foams. Polyether polyols demand is mainly driven by demand from the polyurethane industry. Polyurethane flexible foams are used in various applications including car interiors, seats, carpet interlay, furniture and bedding. Growing bio-based polyether polyols consumption is one of the key opportunities in the polyols market. However, health hazards associated with polyether polyols such as emission of air pollutants during production are expected to hamper the segment growth. High quality thermal insulation demand is expected to drive the polyester segment. End-use industries served by the aliphatic polyester polyols market include sealants, adhesives, paints and coatings, elastomers and flexible polyester slabstock foam.
On the basis of application, the polyols market has been segmented into flexible foams, rigid foams, coatings, adhesive & sealants and elastomers. Key end-use industries consuming green & bio-based products include carpet, bedding/furniture, packaging, transportation and construction. Rigid polyurethane foam demand is expected from insulation applications; growing flexible foam demand in furniture is expected to drive the polyols market. This can mainly be attributed to high degree of durability and of products, making them ideal for seating and cushioning. The adhesives and sealants market is expected to witness growth on account of high demand from marine and construction industries.
Mature markets including Japan, Western Europe and North America are expected to advance at a slower pace. Asia Pacific is expected to witness high growth in terms of consumption as well as production as a result of significant demand for polyurethane foams from end-use industries. The regional market is a key destination for production on account of skilled labor and raw material availability at lower prices as compared to the global average.
Polyols market entrants require high capital investment and effective strategies for production facilities to sustain amid intense competition. The key market players include Recticel S.A., Nippon Polyurethane Industry Co. Ltd., Mitsui Chemicals Inc, Dow Chemical Company BASF SE, Chemtura Corporation and Bayer MaterialScience. Major industry participants also follow product development and innovation as part of their key business strategies. For example, Dow developed a new line of polyols, which is aimed at reducing emissions and creating uniform foams; this product is mainly targeted at automotive and furniture applications.
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