Thermoforming Report

March Thermoforming Report: What’s in Store for 2024?

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group.

March 2024.

It’s Friday again and time for our monthly report. As we have already hit March (does that feel as crazy to you as it does to me?!?), the numbers are rolled up for 2023, and it is time to prognosticate the whys and wherefores to better predict 2024’s outcome. We think the future is bright for thermoforming… especially heavy gauge manufacturers. Check out our thoughts below. Have a great Friday!

As usual, we have several great articles relevant to our industry and quite a few amazing All Stars to highlight! Check them out down below in the links on the right. We also have more extraordinary talent in the Featured Talent tab.

Thermoforming: Top, Trends, Future, & More!

It’s that time of year again! Time to collect all the data from the previous year, do the analyses, make assessments, and generate the findings. 

There are a few publications and companies that stay on top of the thermoforming world relative to trends, polymer pricing, mergers and acquisitions, and more. One that does it well is Plastics News, and their ‘2024 Top Thermoformers’ list is out.   

No, I’m not stumping for Plastics News, but it is a valuable resource to leverage and one that I utilize. (Hopefully, we are providing a level of industry insights in the thermoforming world for you as well!) That said, I wanted to offer up some thoughts on what we are seeing at Siena Group, interpret the list a bit, and discuss another recent article about 2023 thermoforming manufacturing. 

Top Thermoformers

First, a recent Top Performers article by Hollee Keller at Plastics News on the updated rankings distinguished the obvious differences between industrial and packaging thermoformers. These individual markets are dramatically different and are influenced by a much different set of parameters. The total sales numbers are not all-inclusive of the various companies listed, just the portions that align with their definition of ‘industrial’ and ‘packaging.’ 

That said, there is a dramatic difference in overall annual revenue between the packaging companies and the industrial companies – essentially the thin and heavy gauge manufacturers. In 2023, for example, the difference in total annual sales from the #1 company to the #10 company was $3.26B. The difference between #10 and #50 is about $500M – still a big number but nowhere near the first comparison. As we all know, the big numbers are on the packaging side. 

Second, as we’ve worked in the thermoforming space for a while now, the reported numbers are not reflective of the actual totals. No, the report isn’t wrong or inaccurate. It is just that companies have the right to report what they will, and it may not be all-inclusive. Even so, it is a great report and provides insights into the industry and companies that we work with and for. I’m guessing you are all well-versed in the rankings, but if not, you should take a look.


In a parallel article, Plastics News – and Hollee again – also found that the packaging formers were down year over year over year, to the tune of a 4% decrease from 2022 to 2023. The chart in the article isn’t pretty. 

In my conversations with a variety of thermoforming packaging companies, I would concur with the sentiment – some softening but nothing to warrant major yellow flags, much less any red flags. Because of the typical diversity of product mix, that article states, “Many processors handle a mix of products, so it’s notable that 48 percent of our companies had no reportable year-over-year change.” 

I’m hearing the same. Investments are still being made (capital equipment, people, etc.), but it isn’t a crazed, got-to-have-it-yesterday type of mindset. 

On the flip side, the heavy gauge companies ticked up 1.7%, according to the same article. With a much smaller base, 1.7%, though positive, is not a lot. 

My assessment? Get ready! Absolutely every heavy gauge former I work with is or has turned away business due to a lack of capacity in the last couple of years. So, if I’m hearing this correctly, there are a lot of opportunities out there for heavy gauge companies! Several of the larger companies have acquired new equipment and are getting it up the curve and ready to fill up. Nimble companies have already made some shifts to enable supporting a different mix of products. The percentage of hiring needs for people with heavy gauge experience certainly supports this trend. My guess is the industrial number for 2024 will be more like 3-4% as compared to 2023.

All of this is positive and points to a strong 2024… and beyond! 

What’s Ahead

Does anyone have a working crystal ball we can borrow?!? 

The reality is that forecasting the next year is always tough. Add in an election year, and it makes things even tougher! We highlighted a Plastics Today article titled, “State of the Plastics Industry: Navigating Through Uncertainty Toward a Resilient Future” in last month’s Thermoforming Report that said, “2024 offers evidence for cautious optimism.” The summary certainly provides a positive – but metered – outlook: 

While challenges persist, the [plastics] industry is poised for a gradual recovery, driven by stabilization in macroeconomic indicators and a potential resurgence in M&A activities. Businesses that adeptly navigate these turbulent waters, balancing operational efficiency with strategic market timing, are likely to emerge stronger in the evolving landscape.”

Plastics Today, 2/1/24 article

Likewise, we highlighted a Forbes article that spoke directly to the potential impacts of the election year on the market and specifically on manufacturing.   

While it may not be feasible to become the largest producer of goods in the world [comparing directly to China], it is feasible to lead in the areas that matter the most—that is, the sophistication of our manufacturing operations and the innovation those operations produce.  As we move forward, we should define success as leading in manufacturing innovation.” 

Forbes article
Wrapping Up

So, what are we seeing at Siena Group?  In short, a very robust start to the year! 

The needs are varied, but the thing that is a strong indicator of the potential for an overall solid year is the need for Sales – be it front-line Business Development Managers up through Directors and Vice Presidents. There are even a couple of clients discussing adding a C-suite leader to their team to help drive overall sales strategy for their organizations… which points to an even longer positive trend! 

With an expected strong heavy gauge business outlook and a likely continued investment in thin gauge (a couple of companies leaning heavily into medical device packaging), we believe it will be a strong 2024.   

As your Thermoforming Talent Partner, we represent clients AND candidates! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! We provide hiring strategies, priority candidate searches, job searches, client & candidate introductions, interview tips, résumé facelifts, resignation strategies, and much much more. LET’S STRENGTHEN YOUR SEARCH!

“With an expected strong heavy gauge business outlook and a likely continued investment in thin gauge thermoforming, we believe it will be a strong, robust 2024.” Keith Brown, Owner/President, Siena Group

  • Amcor Expands Thermoforming Capabilities for Healthcare Market. via Plastics Today.
  • German De-Industrialization is a Wake-Up Call for U.S. Manufacturers. via Forbes.
  • What Does the EU MDR Extension Mean for Packaging? via Plastics Today.
  • Prices Climb for PVC, PS. via Plastics News.
  • Resin Price Report: PE Price Increase Now Uncertain. via Plastics Today.
  • Material Insights: What’s Driving Resin Pricing Increases? via Plastics News.
  • Survey Reveals Supply Chain will be Front and Center for the C-Suite in 2024. via CEO Magazine.
  • Why Now is the Time to Reinvent Processed Foods. via Forbes.
  • Full-Year 2023 Jobs Report Shows Slow Year-Over-Year Manufacturing Growth. via IndustryWeek.
  • Berry Global Unwraps Circular Stretch Film Center. via Plastics Today.
  • Debunking the ‘Fraud of Plastic Recycling’. via Plastics Today.
  • BLS Employment Report – February 2024. via MRINetwork.
  • Work-Life Balance
    Yes, work is important, but it’s only ONE aspect of who we are. So, how do you maintain a healthy work-life balance as a manufacturing leader? This timely article provides 7 Tips & Tools – plus some great stories – on how to make work-life balance work. via Siena Group.
  • Organizational Health is (Still) the Key to Long-Term Performance
    With 20+ years of proprietary research, McKinsey’s latest findings on organizational health demonstrate that it remains the best predictor of value creation and a sustainable source of competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace. via McKinsey.
  • How to Stay Grounded Through Organizational Chaos
    Changes at work can stir up anxiety, anger, and frustration. Being affected by these dynamics isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s normal not to feel normal for a while. This article outlines six strategies to try to help yourself stay grounded amidst uncertainty. via Harvard Business Review.
  • Media Training Mastery: An Underrated Skill for Business Leaders in the Digital Age
    Without proper preparation, business leaders may find themselves vulnerable to miscommunication, misinterpretation, or even backlash from the public. Whether responding to feedback or announcing a new product, media training puts leaders in the driver’s seat in controlling their narrative and impact. via CEO Magazine.

Plant Manager/Production Manager: This tremendous Operations Leader, bringing nearly 20 years of experience in thin gauge thermoforming, has a great perspective on leading teams – working with both larger, multi-site corporations and with small, family-owned & operated businesses.

Sales Leader: This talented Sales Leader brings 20 years of experience with an entire career in food service, grocery, and retail across paperboard and plastics (thermoforming) packaging. She is a hunter and a farmer – doing the work to land a new client and then investing in them for long-term growth.

Senior Operations Leader: This strong 3-for-1 Operations Leader brings SME plastics manufacturing technical strengths, systems, supply chain expertise, and multi-site leadership accountability. He’s willing to relocate: targeting the eastern seaboard and looking to be on or near the Atlantic.

Director of Sales: This strong Sales Leader comes with nearly 20 years in thermoforming food packaging, bringing a very strong book of business with him! He’s skilled in leading, mentoring, and coaching a team, with strengths in driving top-line sales in key accounts.

Even More Thermoforming Talent! We work with so many talented people in many different functions – all in thermoforming. Whether it’s an Operations Leader, Plant Manager, Supply Chain Leader, HR Leader, specialized Engineer, Quality Leader, Sales Leader, or pretty much any thermoforming role, we are here to help. If you have a need, please do not hesitate to just reach out! 

Click for more All-Stars.

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue.
Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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