Market report: French paint market will weather the storm, say experts

02 July 2024

Liz Newmark reports for PPCJ from Brussels on the French paint sector

French paint and coating companies are performing well, with the industry recording a €5 billion turnover in 2023, said Gilles Richard, Managing Director of Paris-based Fipec (France’s federation of paints, inks, colours, glues and adhesives and wood preservation industries/Fédération des Industries des Peintures, Encres, Couleurs, Colles et Adhésifs, Préservation du Bois), which represents around 150 businesses.

There was stable growth in the industry, since its turnover was also €5 billion in 2022, when Fipec represented 147 firms [1].

These strong industry sales were achieved, said Richard, despite rising energy costs, general inflation of up to 5% in 2023 and a slump in the French construction market, he told Polymers Paint Colour Journal (PPCJ).

Rueil-Malmaison-based PPG Holdco SAS is France’s largest paint company, according to business intelligence company Euromonitor International’s December 2023 report, Paints and Varnishes in France, generating 7.6% of the domestic industry’s total production value in 2022 [2].

Despite performing less well in 2023 than in 2022, with a negative trade balance of 7,000 tonnes compared to a positive trade balance of 10,000 tonnes in 2022, French paints and coatings imports and exports are healthy, said Fipec, when announcing its 2023 results in March [3].

Last year (2023), France increased paint imports from Germany by 10.1%, and imported 19.9% more adhesives and 16.4% more paint from the United Kingdom than in 2022.

The French paint and coatings sector’s biggest export partner is Belgium, with which it recorded 31% growth in inks exports by value and 20.3% growth in adhesives sales in 2023 compared to the previous year. France’s trade with Belgium is followed by British sales, to which French companies exported 22% more inks and 14.1% more adhesives, and Germany, recording 23% growth in inks and 8.9% in paints exports by value last year compared to 2022. Exports of paints, renders and varnishes from France to Belgium increased in value by 1% and by 17.8% to the UK.


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Sector analysis

The biggest growth in French paint sales “is in the business-to-business sector and technical products, notably paints for the automotive sector with the recent growth in new car registrations [of 14.7% in 2023 compared to 2022],” said Fipec’s Richard. He added that there were no paints or coatings company closures recorded in France in 2023 or 2024, with some firms expanding their production sites.

Aerospace sales are also doing well, he said, with greater demand for anti-corrosion and highly technical paints, with net sales increasing 4.8% and tonnages 0.7% from 2022 to 2023, said Richard.

Shipyards are another growth area for French paint and coating sales, with activity boosted by military orders. In the maintenance and repair sector, there was also “a sharp rise in activity, driven by the post-COVID recovery in all tourist activities, such as pleasure boats, cruising and yachting,” added Richard.

He told PPCJ that despite the fall in new construction (including a 22% drop in property transactions in 2023 compared to 2022), sales of building paints only decreased 2.5% and tonnage by 6.5%, to 296,710 tonnes.

Sealants and adhesives sales were also impacted by fewer new building projects and 12.4% less activity in the property market over the same period. However, he said, “this market, heavily supplied by Germany, is resisting [the downturn], thanks to dynamism in the high-value products market.” Sealants and adhesives sold in France increased by 2.1.% and tonnage fell by 11.8% in 2023 compared to 2022, according to Fipec data.

Conversely, Fipec’s data shows the DIY paint market in 2023 decreased from 2022 after demand peaked during the COVID lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, while the artists’ colours market is doing better, recording an 0.9% increase last year over 2022 figures, and a stabilisation after the pandemic’s boom.


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The professional inks market decreased by 6.8% in value and 9.2% in volume in 2023 compared to 2022 due to 4.6% less newsprint and environmental regulations in France requiring retailers to reduce advertising (the ban on advertising flyers or ‘Oui Pub’ rule, where, from September 2022 until April 2025, only householders displaying ‘Oui Pub’ on their letterboxes receive publicity material) [4].

Rules and regulations

Such legislation follows European Union (EU)-driven pressure on the paints and coating industry to become more sustainable, and, Richard says, its “focus on the danger of exposure” to chemicals, notably via the EU’s REACH chemicals regulation [5].

Several additional restrictions within REACH are being proposed under the October 2020 Chemical Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) [6], part of the European Green Deal umbrella policy of the outgoing European Commission (whose term of office ends in October 2024), to improve safety and sustainability. But the European Council of the Paint, Printing Ink and Artists’ Colours (CEPE) warns that, if adopted, these proposals would severely reduce “the number of substances available for use in paints and printing inks, with negative consequences for our industry” [7].

And while these changes are on hold for the European Parliament elections on June 6-9 and the aftermath, and the appointment of a new Commission, “Even if the revision has been postponed, we [Fipec] are still working on it,” Richard said. “We are lobbying for a larger acceptance of and more time to assess alternatives [to substances not permitted under REACH].”

Meanwhile, in France, Fipec is anxiously waiting to see if the current exemption for cookware products in the bill to combat risks linked to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) [8] will be kept in the final text.

The national association is also developing an IT tool to help its members, especially SMEs to identify all available EU and French government subsidies, he told PPCJ.

“We are particularly focused on the the recent dithering on the basis and conditions of eligibility of ‘MaPrimeRénov’ (my renovation allowance), [a French government scheme intended] to support consumers with ‘energy efficient’ renovation projects.” [9].

Regardless of the any EU REACH reforms, Paris-based Sipev (France’s paints, coatings and varnishes syndicate/ Syndicat des Peintures, Enduits et Vernis) President Guillaume Fremaux thinks the French regulatory regime should be “reasonable, positive and boost innovation and research and development.” This is the only way to promote development of sustainable chemical formulations, he told Fipec’s annual results press conference in March (2024).

French paint and coating companies prioritising sustainability include the French branch of Netherlands-based AkzoNobel and Paris and Lyon-based Argile. Global giant AkzoNobel, whose brands in France include Dulux Valentine, Julien, Levis, Sikkens and Hammerite, wants by 2030 to halve carbon emissions, reach 50% of its revenue from sustainable solutions and achieve 100% circular use of materials [10].

Argile is developing a special ‘Nature’ range of high-performance technical paints, made from “95% bio sourced vegetable oils” [11].

Smaller firms continue to prioritise innovative environmentally-friendly products. Britanny-based Cool Roof France’s oyster shell-sourced white roof paint uses some 130,000 tonnes of waste oysters produced every year in France. Calcium from the oyster shells replaces paint’s traditional calcium and the paint helps reduce temperatures inside buildings sustainably [12].

“We have been able to reduce the quantity of pigments and integrate a renewable source of calcium carbonate, oyster shell, while maintaining a high-reflective performance,” said a company note.

Such innovation will stand the French coatings sector in good stead in a market where imaginative solutions can generate income. A good example is the southern French town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, near Cannes, [13], which is dyeing its parched grass green as rainfall declines due to climate change. In July 2023 on Twitter (now X), Mayor Sébastien Leroy said that Mandelieu-la-Napoule was “the first city to use [the dye] in the Mediterranean, thanks to a start-up from #Mandelieu [Bioassays],” explaining: “We ‘paint’ the lawn dried out by drought using 100% organic technology based on algae.”

For further information, contact Keith Nuthall at International News Services:  


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