The automatic packaging machinery industry recorded robust 21 % growth in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. In the period from January to June, exports were 19.3 % higher than in the first half of 2020 and domestic sales up 31.2%. With these figures, the entire industry has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with a difference of just –1.8 % compared to the first half of 2019 (a record year that saw year-end sales in excess of EUR 8 bn). This performance was the combined result of 9.2 % growth in the first quarter and an even higher 29.4% growth in the second quarter compared to the same period the previous year. The growth is similar in the domestic market (+34 %) and in the export market (+28.4 % compared to the previous year). The Ucima-Mecs Research Centre also published data on orders, which were up by 10.9 % in the second quarter and 10.7 % over the entire first half of the year.
Last year, the Italian automatic packaging machinery manufacturers essentially maintained the previous year's turnover levels. Following the record figures of 2019, the sector saw a modest year-on-year decline of 2.9 % to EUR 7.81 bn, in line with the result of 2018 (EUR 7.9 bn). Last year also saw an increase in both the number of companies in business (635 in total, +3.1 %) and in the number of employees, which grew by 7 % to 35,630.
In line with 2019, export sales accounted for 78 % of the total (EUR 6,08 bn) but fell by 4,1 %. The European Union remained the main target market for Italian packaging machinery and accounted for 41 % of total turnover (EUR 2,087 m) including sales in Italy, followed in second place by Asia with a value of EUR 985.8 m and a 19.4 % share, then North America in third place with EUR 733.1 m (14.4%). The domestic market continued the positive trend seen in recent years with sales up 1.9 % year-on-year in 2020 to EUR 1.72 bn.