A pickup in global manufacturing will spur an across-the-board annual 5% gain in pallet sales through 2017, according to “World Pallets,” a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. That represents 5.1 billion units, which exceeds the relatively sluggish pace of the 2007-2012 period.

Those gains will be more prominent in large, mature regional markets such as North America and Western Europe, according to analyst Zoe Biller.

“Demand will advance 6.8 percent per annum in value terms to $51.6 billion in 2017, stimulated by increases in unit sales, as well as by a shift in the product mix toward higher-priced plastic pallets,” he said. “The number of pallets in use will expand at a 4.6 percent annual rate through 2017 to 9.9 billion.  Stock growth will be fueled by a larger global economy requiring more pallets to accommodate greater shipping requirements, as well as increased utilization of pallets in developing markets.”

In industrializing countries, pallet utilization is typically low relative to the size of their manufacturing, warehousing, and construction sectors.  Going forward, greater numbers of potential pallet users will strive to become more competitive on a global scale by improving operating efficiencies and reducing product damage in shipments through the use of pallets. 

The Asia/Pacific region, led by China, will post the strongest unit sales increases of any regional market, averaging 8.1 percent per year through 2017.  This region will also overtake North America to become the largest regional market by 2017, when it will account for one-third of the global total.  Sales advances across the region will be spurred by climbing manufacturing activity and increased adoption of pallets by new users.  China will experience the largest gains of any national market in the world and will account for over one-fifth of total global unit demand in 2017.

The vast majority of pallets are constructed using wood or plastic.  Demand for plastic pallets will grow the fastest of any product type in most national markets through 2017.  Plastic pallets can be easily cleaned, lending themselves to use with food, beverages, and other products where contamination must be minimized.  They also last for many years and are resistant to damage during normal use.  Additionally, their recyclability and ability to be made from recycled materials will be attractive to users seeking to raise the perceived environmental friendliness of their operations.  However, because of their low cost, wood pallets will continue to dominate product sales in most areas, representing more than nine-tenths of 2017 global unit demand.