Total EMEA production of polyurethane flexible foam was just over 2Mt (or two million tons) in 2022, a decrease of ~7% compared to the previous year. After a small rebound in 2021, flexible foam production contracted significantly in 2022 amid falling consumer demand for comfort foams, previous overstocking, and despite an uptick in automotive production. H1 2022 was fairly positive, but H2 showed a distinct collapse in demand. A return to positive growth is anticipated by IAL for 2024.
Flexible foam market
The flexible foam market in EMEA is relatively mature. Western Europe is the largest producer by some margin, followed by eastern and then central Europe, with the latter two regions’ furniture industries being very important (notably Poland and Türkiye). Africa and the Middle East also produce significant quantities of flexible slabstock since the production process is relatively simple.
2022 was influenced by the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war. High inflation rates and rising interest rates caused a decrease in consumer spending power and confidence. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic had already brought forward many discretionary replacements of consumer items, such as mattresses and sofas, as people invested in their homes when they were unable to travel or socialise. Technical foams did perform a little better as there was a glimmer of optimism in the auto industry.
While Europe struggled, 2022 did see increases in production in markets such as Iran, east Africa and the Middle East.