Good Times for the Exam Glove Industry? The Mad Scramble for Exam Gloves Continues Despite High Prices
Dublin, CA, January 18, 2010. The world market for disposable exam gloves received an unexpected boost due to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, reaching close to $2 billion towards the end of the year. In addition to infectious outbreaks over the recent years including SARS and avian flu which followed the HIV epidemic, the growing world population and increase in occupational and personal hygiene standards are creating increasing demand for exam gloves.
The world market for disposable exam gloves received an unexpected boost due to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, reaching close to $2 billion towards the end of the year. In addition to infectious outbreaks over the recent years including SARS and avian flu which followed the HIV epidemic, the growing world population and increase in occupational and personal hygiene standards are creating increasing demand for exam gloves.
According to a recently released report on the Worldwide Disposable Medical Gloves Markets by Marketstrat Inc., the medical gloves market is going through a number of transitions. Market and technology trends in both exam gloves and surgical gloves are discussed in this report. Some of the significant trends are as follows:
- Powdered-latex gloves, both exam and surgical, are becoming a relic of the past. Many European governments and health agencies have banned already them. The US FDA is likely to ban them in the future.
- The most popular medical gloves currently are low-protein, powder-free latex gloves, followed by vinyl and nitrile.
- Hospitals concerned with avoiding latex products are targeting the easiest and most obvious medical latex product, replacing them with vinyl or nitrile, an even better material which is now more affordable.
- The surgical glove market has been invaded by a variety of synthetic gloves. In addition to nitrile, new generation polymers such as polychloroprene and polyisoprene with superior comfort and tactile sensitivity present a viable alternative to latex surgical gloves.
- Large manufacturers are responding to changing market demands by shifting manufacturing operations to synthetics.
Prices of all types of gloves rose over recent years as raw material prices and fuel prices skyrocketed. Despite the economic slowdown in many countries, increasing demand has been driving this industry. High demand helped offset price increases due to production costs, with the most significant change happening in the nitrile glove segment. Users started buying nitrile when production shortages and plagued the two popular materials, latex and vinyl. As sales of nitrile started to climb, end-users began to notice that vinyl offered poor barrier protection, and the best hypoallergenic, affordable alternative to latex was nitrile. Nitrile also offers better barrier protection against both chemicals and microbes. Nitrile is now the preferred material in many medical settings. Unit sales of nitrile exam gloves are expected to grow at a cumulative average growth rate over 6 percent over the 2008 to 2016 period, about three times more than powder-free latex versions. In the surgical glove segment however, nitrile has to compete with far superior synthetic materials made of copolymers.
Latex manufacturers are fighting hard to retain market share, offering new materials such as coated low-protein latex. For the next few years, the global demand for gloves will help latex gloves weather the storm. In the longer term, however, manufacturers will need to focus on technology aimed at reducing allergenicity even further, without compromising the natural comfort and fit of latex.
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