Clint Raine of Belvedere and Partner and Damir Andrašek of Europur consider how Türkiye has supplanted Poland as Europe’s largest slabstock PU foam producer – in terms of numbers of foam plants – and is likely to overtake it in production volume
London and Brussels – Today, Türkiye has the largest flexible slabstock polyurethane foam industry in Europe in terms of number of foam plants, with 31 plants operated by 26 different companies – to the best of our knowledge. The production unit’s capacity for slabstock foam ranges from 100t to 20kt per year. Five companies – Form Foam, Safaȿ, Iȿbir Foam, Serra Foam and Yataş – collectively account for over 60% of production.
The main end-use markets for flexible slabstock are upholstered furniture, mattresses, footwear, clothing and the automotive industry. There is a buoyant demand for trim foam for stuffing pillows, cushions, furniture and toys as well as for high-density rebounded foams and use as a lightweight packaging material.
Becoming number one in Europe
In the last five years, one country has outperformed the rest of the territory (Europur collects data from EU-27, UK, Norway, Switzerland and wider Europe, including Russia) year in and year out. This was especially prevalent during the recent Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn. 2022 was a year marked by the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and price spikes in the energy and raw materials markets. Coupled with high inflation, it was no surprise to see a contraction by around 8.5% of the European flexible polyurethane foam industry. After all, 2021 was a record year for our industry in terms of production volumes.
Türkiye, on the other hand, was the only country to show good growth in the sector, recording an increase in slabstock production of 8.34% in 2022 over 2021. The production does not seem to slow down, as only last year three new continuous slabstock plants started production. Therefore, it is expected that, in the course of 2023, Türkiye will overtake Poland and become the country with the largest flexible foam production volume.
Growth in the face of adversity
This growth over the past years has shown the strong business resilience of the Turkish PU foam producers. Companies were challenged by multitude of factors, ranging from low domestic demand, high inflation and strong devaluation of the national currency to dealing with the effects of the anti-dumping actions by the United States, all that while relying on raw material imports at constantly varying price levels.
The growth in slabstock and moulded foam was also aided by the improved availability of raw materials, especially of toluene diisocyanate, where imports increased in 2022 by around 12%.