The North American disposable gloves market has made continual, although tepid progress, over the last few decades because of recurring demand from the medical segments, according to a new report. While the medical disposable gloves segment is saturated, certain underserved end-users, such as alternate care, dentistry, and long-term care, offer opportunities for growth.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, "Analysis of the North American Disposable Gloves Market," finds that the market earned revenues of $2.81 billion in 2011 and estimates this to reach $3.22 billion in 2016, boosted by increasing safety regulations and end-user awareness regarding hygiene, risk of contamination and infection.
According to the report, the non-medical segment is not as highly penetrated as the medical segment, due to the lack of regulations and awareness. Disposable gloves are finding increasing application in segments such as advanced technology, service and food industries, which are not traditional users of this product. The low entry barriers attract more participants to the already overcrowded market and create pricing pressures. This increase in price pressure restrains the average selling price and, in turn, overall revenues of the disposable gloves market.
Further, the volatile raw material prices of both natural and synthetic rubber have placed additional pressure on suppliers to revise product prices many times a year. This creates dissatisfaction among the highly price-sensitive end-users.
"In this scenario, suppliers can improve uptake by educating potential users about the associated high costs of treating hospital-acquired infections," says Frost & Sullivan research analyst Anita Pamu. "Non-medical end-users are also realizing the importance of wearing gloves, but the pace of uptake depends on them being aware of their choices and picking a task-appropriate glove."
Another consequence of the price fluctuations is that the cost of latex has increased significantly over the past 12 months. This has dissipated the cost advantage latex had over synthetics. For example, the synthetic material nitrile is rapidly gaining ground in the market, and by cause many branded manufacturers are developing product lines using this commodity.
"There has been a continued conversion to synthetic or gloves that contain lower protein due to concerns of latex allergies," says Pamu. "Moreover, technological advances in synthetic materials have enabled the development of disposable gloves that feel as comfortable as latex and are competitively priced."
End-users' demand for comfort, fit and dexterity has turned manufacturers' attention to materials or designs that can satisfy these requirements.
Apart from atypical materials, the report says that market participants must also focus on product differentiation to stand out in this mature market. They must explore new opportunities within the already existing range of products and solutions, offer excellent customer service, and form strategic partnerships with raw material suppliers, contract manufacturers and distributors.