NORTHFIELD, Ill. - Sales of air filters reached $5.1 billion in 2003, up 6 percent from 2002, according to the McIlvaine Company, a market research firm, in itsAir Filtration and Purification World Marketsreport. The report also predicts that worldwide sales will reach $6.1 billion by 2007.

The big growth in filter sales came in the HVAC market, noted McIlvaine. The spurt in new residential housing in the U.S. combined with greater outlays per unit for filters was a factor. The replacement filter market was benefited by more frequent replacement, which was attributed to public awareness of the health benefits. 3M has substantially increased its market share and is now the leading supplier (based on revenues and not units) of residential filters in the U.S., McIlvaine stated. The residential filter market is still small in other countries of the world.

Cabin air filtration is another big growth area, McIlvaine reported. Eleven percent of automobiles manufactured in the U.S. this year incorporated high-efficiency filters to purify the air inside the car. This is even a bigger market in Europe and a growing market in Asia.

According to McIlvaine, China is becoming increasingly important to the filter industry both as a supplier and purchaser. A number of Chinese companies are selling micro glass fiber in competition with Johns Manville and Lauscha. The activated carbon that is impregnated on filters to remove odors and noxious gases is supplied by Calgon Carbon or Norit or one of the many Chinese companies offering this product. A number of U.S. companies such as Camfil Farr, AAF, Donaldson, and BHA have set up filter manufacturing operations in China. They are being followed by roll goods suppliers like Andrew (Southern Felt) and Lantor.

China is also becoming a major purchaser of filters. According to the McIlvaine forecasts, China will close much of the distance between it and the front-running U.S. over the next decade.

The filter industry is more international than most. Camfil Farr is the leading filter manufacturer, reported McIlvaine. It has three plants in Asia plus plants in the U.S. and Europe. American Air Filter is now a subsidiary of an Asian conglomerate and has production plants strategically located around the world. Donaldson was the first American company to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary in Japan and now has manufacturing facilities in India and China as well. Nevertheless, the market is not dominated by these large companies. A market share analysis for 50 companies by product, application, and region shows few markets where one supplier has a 40 percent market share. There are none where one supplier has a greater than 50 percent share.

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Publication date: 08/02/2004