In 2016, the EU-28 glass production reached a volume of nearly 35 million tonnes, a global increase of 3% compared with 2015 confirming a much better trend since the crisis in 2008.  

This production level maintains the EU as the largest glass producer in the world with a market share of around one-third of the total world market. Germany remains the EU’s biggest producer with about one fifth of the volume, closely followed by France, Spain, Italy and the UK.

As in 2015, all glass sectors succeeded to increase their production, thanks to a revived economy mainly in the construction sector, car industry, engineering and food services. 

Production evolution until 2016

Since the international economic and financial crisis, glass demand is increasing. Customers from the car industry, the construction sector, packaging, domestic, leisure and other industries have increased their orders since 2009. This slow recovery can be felt since 2010 for most parts of these sectors. Growth should be confirmed in 2017-18.

External Trade Evolution

It has again to be underlined that due to the strongly rising production costs and the growing legislative burden, as well as the strong Euro, investments are still increasingly made outside the EU. Generally speaking, one can say that foreign trade from third countries does not play a dominant role in the EU glass market, although imports from Asian countries, and particularly China, are steadily increasing regarding tableware, special glass and reinforcement glass fibres. 

Behind these 2016 numbers aggregated at the level of the whole glass industry, it is important to realize that the situations are contrasted in the different sectors. Evolutions in production and employment, as well as in the origin of imports into the EU, are very different between glass sectors. 

Production by Sectors:   1) History      2) Details 2016

Generally speaking however, it can be said that after the strong recession in 2012, glass sectors are stabilising since 2013 thanks to slightly better market conditions and consumer confidence, particularly noticeable since 2015.

It is hard to make projections for 2017 but one can pre-empt a continued improvement of market conditions with, in parallel, an ever challenging manufacturing climate:

  • Investment outside the European borders has materialised and imports are gradually and insidiously increasing, taking bigger EU market shares in nearly all glass sectors.
  • At the same time, the questioning about long-term future in the revised ETS legislation (ETS sector – 43% by 2030) and structural change might entail extra costs.
  • The political worldwide context is also changing and impacting the EU and global economy.

The number of employees is stabilizing since 2013. Currently, the EU-28 glass industry employs about 185,000 people (incl. processors), which means an increase of 1.9% compared with 2014, showing a slightly better socio-economic situation.

Employment Evolution and Productivity