Focus on pigments: Will organic pigments shine the brightest?

16 March 2023

Pigments have been used since ancient times to create colourful paints, inks and dyes. Initially, natural pigments were mostly utilised however, continuous research and development led to the development of artificial pigments. Johann Jacob Dieback, a German designer, accidentally created Prussian blue in his lab in 1704, inventing the first chemically prepared colour.

Pigments are substances or chemicals that are combined with other substances to add colour. Every piece of fabric, the foundation of every brushstroke and every component of a vividly coloured automobile contains pigments.They are also referred to as colourants. Pigments are used in a wide range of sectors, including cosmetics, medications, food & beverages, paints and inks.

Demand for pigments remains especially high across nations such as India and China, due to rising consumption across various industries and increasing export of pigments. According to the United States International Trade Commission, from 2015 to 2019, India was the second largest exporter of pigments and preparations, a commodity group that includes violet 23 and out-of-scope products.

Technological advancements have also had a significant impact on the pigments industry. Automation and robotics have enabled manufacturers to produce high-quality pigments quickly. Custom colours and effects can be created by using 3-D printing and digital printing technologies. These advances have made it easy for manufacturers to meet customer needs.

Today, pigment manufacturers are still innovating to meet the needs of an ever-changing market. Various companies are responding by introducing efficient production processes and using natural sources.

Increasing usage in paints, coatings, printing inks and plastics, etc. will boost the pigments industry over the next decade. According to Fact.MR, the global pigments market will reach US$45bn by 2031. Over the next 10 years, global pigment sales are likely to surge at 5.4% CAGR.

Consumers are more aware of the potential health risks associated with synthetic pigments and are increasingly choosing natural alternatives for their health and environmental benefits.

Organic pigments to steal the spotlight

Emerging trends indicate that organic pigment sales could outpace inorganic ones due to rising awareness about the benefits of natural pigments over synthetic ones. Consumers are more aware of the potential health risks associated with synthetic pigments and are increasingly choosing natural alternatives for their health and environmental benefits. As a result, manufacturers are looking for ways to create sustainable and eco-friendly products.

Organic pigments are naturally derived from plant or animal sources. Inorganic pigments, on the other hand, are synthesised chemically. In the food industry, organic pigments are more expensive to produce than inorganic ones but they are safer and offer vivid, superior colours and better compatibility with other food ingredients. In addition, organic pigments generally have few health risks associated with them, compared to inorganic pigments. As people become increasingly conscious about the safety of their food products, organic pigments will likely become even more popular in upcoming years. Implementation of stringent regulations on the use of inorganic pigments will further elevate organic pigment demand.

It is estimated that the global organic pigments market will surpass US$6.5bn by 2033. Over the next 10 years, global sales of organic pigments will rise at 4.0% compound annual growth rate. This will create lucrative revenue-generation opportunities for organic pigment manufacturers.

Booming textile industry across India and China to create ample opportunities for pigment manufacturers

Since the mid 1990s, pigment production has grown quickly in mainland China and India. Currently, mainland China is the world’s leading producer of organic colour pigments and the majority of red and yellow azo-based pigments and their intermediates are imported from China.

India is, however, likely to give tough competition to China when it comes to pigment production and consumption. The country is home to many industries that consume pigments and India has become a prominent player in the global textile industry. With the growing demand for quality products, India has the advantage of providing low-cost materials and labour costs. The country has a well-established infrastructure and access to raw materials such as cotton, wool, silk and jute. It is also one of the key producers of cotton and synthetic fibres.

India’s well-developed textiles sector is supported by its strong industrial base and ample technical know-how. India has emerged as a leader in the global pigment industry due to rising demand from the textile sector. Its pigment market is also driven by large production capacity, affordable prices and the availability of natural pigments.

According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, India’s exports of clothing and textiles reached US$44.4bn in 2022. In 2022, ready-to-wear garment exports, including cotton items, reached US$6.19bn. This in turn is elevating organic pigment demand.

Growing popularity of pigment Green 7

Pigment Green 7 is an important inorganic pigment used in the paint and coating industry. It is composed of copper phthalocyanine and offers excellent heat stability, lightfastness and resistance to weathering and alkalis.

Pigment Green 7 is widely used in automotive coatings, protective coatings, industrial paints and other related applications. Due to its superior properties, it has both decorative and protective qualities when used in industrial coatings.It is dark bluish-green in colour and exhibits better hiding power, tinting strength and chemical stability.

Pigment green 7 exhibits optimal film forming, coating and adhesive characteristics in one or two layers. This makes it ideal for use in industries such as powder coatings, plastics and paints. Growing adoption across these sectors will boost the global pigments industry.

Fluorescence pigments gaining momentum

Fluorescent pigments are substances that may be stimulated by light to produce colours that are more vivid and luminous than those produced by ordinary pigments, offering vivid colours with a unique shimmer effect. They provide cosmetic manufacturers with a wide range of colours for their products. For instance, in August 2021, Sun Chemical’s subsidiary, DIC Corporation, added two fresh colour travel impact pigments, Reflecks Cherry and Reflecks Sapphire, to its Reflecks Multi Dimensions product line.

Fluorescent pigments have been used in cosmetics such as eye shadows, lipsticks and nail polishes to create bright and intense colours. Additionally, these pigments are also used to enhance other ingredients in cosmetics, such as illuminating particles that enhance the overall look of the product.

According to the Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows use of natural pigments derived from annatto seeds, beta carotene and other sources in cosmetics. This is due to their antioxidant qualities.

Fluorescent pigments can also be used to provide UV protection, making them ideal for outdoor activities such as sunbathing or swimming. Since they have extremely vivid, neon-like colours throughout the day, fluorescent pigments are often known as day glow pigments.

Azo pigments create unique visual effects

Azo pigments are solid, colourless granules that have been tinted with an azo chemical (usually clays or earth). Organic molecules with intense colour make up the azo compounds. Azo pigments are a class of organic compounds widely used in the decorative industry due to their vibrant colours.

According to the National Library of Medicine, azo pigments comprise the most common synthetic colourants. They are widely utilised in textile, printing and paper industries. These pigments are produced by the condensation of a diazonium salt with an aromatic compound. They can be used for paints, coatings, plastics and inks. Azo pigments are available in a variety of shades and can be used to create unique visual effects. They are also known to be more stable and resistant to fading than other types of pigments.

Natural pigments beat synthetic pigments in terms of sustainability

The sustainability of pigments used in plastic products is a growing concern for various industries. With the advent of new technologies, pigment companies are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact. They are also focused on ensuring the safety of their products. Currently, various pigment producers are experimenting with natural dyes. They are using alternative sources of raw materials to create sustainable pigments and are also adopting methods to recover and recycle pigment particles. This will allow them to limit waste and environmental impact. To create plastic goods that are appealing and appropriate for their intended uses, colours are added to plastics using pigments. The service life of plastic items can be increased by using pigments as light-shielding agents to prevent or postpone photodegradation by absorbing some ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Natural pigments are more sustainable than synthetic pigments because they don’t contain any harmful chemicals or elements but, it can be difficult to source enough of them to meet demand. Synthetic pigments are made from petroleum-based products. As a result, they have a negative environmental impact. Therefore, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of each type of pigment before deciding which is best for different applications.

Will natural pigments build a profitable future for the pigment industry?

The pigment industry is evolving and adapting to the changing needs of consumers and industries. Demand for natural pigments is increasing. Besides this, new regulations on synthetic pigments are being implemented. These factors in turn are prompting companies to develop novel pigments. For instance, in April 2022, Shepherd Color introduced their brand-new Cobalt Aluminate Blue 20G599. As compared to existing blue pigments, this new red-shade indigo has the brightest red (a*) value and bluest (-b*) mass tone values for the highest chromaticity imaginable.

The future of the pigment industry looks bright with the potential for growth in production and sales. Companies can stay ahead of the competition by introducing new organic pigments and will also benefit from strategies such as mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. For instance, in January 2022, Clariant’s Global Colorants Company was successfully acquired by Heubach Group & SK Capital Partners. This will enable the combined company to become a leading pigment business.

Investments in research and development can lead to new formulations and processes that create value. Focus on sustainability will also become important, due to the shift towards environmentally friendly products.

This report was compiled by leading research company Fact.MR Click here for full details of their pigments market report. 

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