The metal industry in Spain has a long history. It contains almost a century and a half full of quiet and effective activity. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the same has little to do with its beginnings. But it is not the object of this analysis to enter into his story, who is curious to know something about it, I refer you to the work on it inserted in this Web.

This industry is a firm support for Spain to be one of the main producers of canned, canned and canned products of all kinds. But in the current times, except for some particular sector of it, it does not enjoy favorable winds. A huge variety of different types of packaging – glass, plastic, brik, paper … – dispute this type of packaging for its advanced position, which is together with the glass, the dean of the sector.

It should be clarified that although this business includes products made using both tin and aluminum as raw material, in the case of Spain – which is not the same as other countries – the former has a much greater weight than the latter (the reasons are several and discussed in another article of this Web), so the data handled here are preferably referred to the tinplate sector.

Being a very mature product, it is characterized by a very competitive market, very tight commercial margins and with an offer in general greater than demand. Another singularity is the atomization of its industrial plants. The same company may have several factories distributed throughout the Spanish geography. The main cause of this is the great influence of the cost of transporting the finished product in its final price – high volume and low weight merchandise -, which makes it very difficult to compete for supplies at great distances with other companies better positioned geographically. The relative simplicity of its facilities also cooperates with this industrial decentralization.

Today there are no major technological barriers to access this business as equipment manufacturers facilitate the non-existence of them. The main impediments are financial – investments – especially in the beverage sector.

The professional knowledge is developed and transmitted within the same company, however some work with foreign licenses or as multinationals have at their disposal the technology of the parent company. There are practically no external technical cabinets to support this industry.

The metal sector is actually an auxiliary industry of canning and packaging, but also has other auxiliary industries to it, such as manufacturers of machinery and equipment, raw materials – tinplate, aluminum, inks and varnishes, composites … – packing, etc.



According to the AME (Asociación Metalgráfica Española) – Association in which a good part of the companies of the sector participate – the approximate figures of activity of this plot for the year 2005 are:

  •  Number of companies: 43
  •  Employees: 4935
  •  Business figure: 1,298,000 .000 euros
  •  Tinplate consumption and TFS: 647,485 Tons

These data do not include auxiliary companies (machinery, other raw materials, accessories …)

These figures must be taken as approximate values ​​because – as already mentioned – not all companies are part of the AME and therefore a series of small companies are not included in these values. For example, as we will detail below, the actual number of companies exceeds a hundred, in addition to thirty auxiliary companies.

Also the number of employees is very relative since the conserveras campaigns especially those of vegetables suppose a temporary increase of the activity. This is solved by the sector employing casual labor that is not usually accurately reflected in the statistical data. It is normal that the number of casual people is of the order of 30% or more of the fixed staff.

Of the aforementioned turnover, 79% was generated by the domestic market, the rest by exports. The main recipient countries by order of importance in value of exports are: France, Portugal, Morocco, USA and United Kingdom. It is clear that the geographical proximity is crucial for the first three.

The distribution of the market in% at present, based on your turnover, is as follows:

  •  Packaging for food 46.5%
  •  For drinks 32.5%
  •  Industrial 6.5%
  •  Metal caps and closures 7%
  •  Aerosols 4%
  •  Other 3.5%

The consumption of tinplate and TFS by sector is quite close to the previous percentage distribution, except for the case of beverages where half of the production is made in aluminum. The consumption of aluminum in this year was of the order of 50,000 tons.

The first five companies in the sector represent 70% of the turnover, which gives an idea of ​​the small size of the rest.



The metal industry is located in Spain mainly in four geographical areas:

1st.- Catalonia :

In this area, the companies dedicated to industrial packaging are mainly concentrated, although there is also presence of other sectors. There are container manufacturers to contain:


–          Paints, varnishes and solvents.

–          Chemical products (Drums)

–          Pharmaceutical and cosmetic products

–          Industrial oils and lubricants

–          Aerosol sprays

–          Feeding

–          Capsules and crown cap

–          Drinks

–          Lithography and decorative packaging


According to data of the AME in the statistics by invoicing (year 2004) within the first 50 Spanish companies of the sector there are thirteen Catalan and two more national with a plant in Catalonia. Together they represent 21% of the invoiced by the national market.

There are actually quite a few more companies that do not appear in these data, either because they are not associated with the AME or because their volume of business is small. The total of them is approximately 33 (year 2006), although from one year to another there may be disappearances, takeovers or mergers between them. It is worth clarifying that we refer to manufacturing centers more than to companies, both in this case and in all the treaties in this analysis. It is common for a large company to have several plants in different places and therefore its presence is repeated in each one of them.

Of these Catalan companies, eleven are multinationals and the rest only in Catalonia.

A large part of the auxiliary companies is also concentrated in this area:


–          Machinery …………………………………… .3

–          Die cutting, …………………………………… 3

–          Accessories (necklaces, plugs, valves, etc.) …….. 2

And of many raw materials:

–          Inks and varnishes ……………………………… ..7

–          Composite ………………………… … ……… … 1

–          Aluminum ……………………………………… ..1

The following data is detailed in the following table:



 Quantity among the 50 largest according to AME


Foods 6
Aerosol sprays
2 2
Aerosol sprays
1 3
Drinks 1 1
Drums 2 2
Capsules and
Corona plug
2 6
Decorative container 1 2
Industrial 3 7
Lithography 1 2
Aluminum tubes 2 3
TOTAL 14 33


In general it can be said that it is a varied market of moderate importance within the Spanish general.


2nd.- Galicia

It is the region where the fish canning industries are based and therefore also the manufacturers of containers for this use. In fact almost all companies in the sector are engaged in this activity, with predominance of multinationals or nationals that are established in the region as well as in other areas. Of the nine firms that make up the market, four are multinationals and one national. According to the AME, six are among the top 50 in Spain.

Your share of the market represents 19% of the total turnover. The following table details the distribution of the sector by type of companies:


       SECTOR Quantity among the 50 largest according to AME Quantity
Packaging for
fish in tinplate
2 4
Packaging for
fish in tinplate (Factories with headquarters outside of Galicia)
2 2
Packaging for
fish in aluminum
1 2
Tubes and containers
of aluminum
1 1


Note that in this region is where the use of aluminum as a raw material presents good penetration. The fish next to the drinks are the two segments of this market where the aluminum enjoys an important place, although inferior to the tin.

In short, it is a region with a clear specialization – fish – with no other applications.


3.- La Rioja

In fact, it comprises the middle Ebro Valley, an area of ​​great agricultural potential and extends to the south of Navarre, La Rioja and the west of the province of Zaragoza. Here the predominant sector is clearly the vegetable preserve although there is a company specializing in other activities such as: beverages, industrial, capsules, oils … Proof of this is that the manufacture of tin containers for food canning is dedicated 14 firms of the total of 18 (companies dedicated to lithography, capsules or decorative or aluminum containers are not counted).

Three multinational companies are based in this area, some with more than one specialized manufacturing plant. Also a national company leader in the market of containers for preserves is powerful represented. The rest are regional companies with a clearly familiar profile.

As a whole, the sector controls approximately 26% of the turnover of the national market, which gives an idea of ​​its importance. A breakdown of these industries by sectors is reflected in the following table:


    SECTOR No. among the 50 largest according to AME


Canning containers
you would feed Regional manufacturers
4 11
Canning containers
you would feed Manufacturers
1 1
Canning containers
you would feed Manufacturers
of international scope
2 2
Drinks 1 1
Lithography 2 4
Capsules 3
Industrial 1 1
Oil 1 1
Aerosol sprays 1 1
Lightweight aluminum packaging 1 1
Decorative packaging 1
TOTAL 14 27


The auxiliary industry is also well represented. It deserves to be highlighted the printing and varnishing with a presence of four companies, already reflected in the previous table, manipulation of tinplate with a well consolidated company in the market, closure and closing equipment with two workshops, as well as others that also work with equipment canneries. In addition to two active buy-sell firms of used machinery for the sector.

The future will possibly bring a concentration of the market in a smaller number of firms either by closing one or absorbing others. This movement has been announced for a long time by the “futurologists” of the sector but it has not just happened, which says a lot in favor of the dynamism of this area, which always knows how to overcome the difficulties and find ways to continue its journey.


4.- Murcia- Levante

The industry in this region is quite similar to that described for the La Rioja area. Also here its main market is the food preservation and its specialization in it is even stronger than the previous case because most of its plants are dedicated to this branch of business. It is the headquarters of the national leader in the manufacture of containers for preserves although its activity extends to other geographical areas in which we have divided the market. Multinationals with two plants are also represented.

As a whole, this area can represent 20% of the national market. When giving the data of the market we only take into account the containers manufactured in the area, distributing in each geographical area the invoicing of the companies that have several manufacturing plants, therefore the same does not accumulate where it has its registered office.

The following table shows the distribution by plants and specializations:

SECTOR No. among the 50 largest according to AME Market
Canning containers
you would feed Regional manufacturers
2 7
Canning containers
you would feed Manufacturers
2 2
Canning containers
you would feed Manufacturers
of international scope
1 2
Lithography 1 2
Capsules 1
Easy opening lids 1 1
General packaging 1 2
Decorative packaging 1 2
TOTAL 9 19


The presence of manufacturers of equipment and machinery is important, representing a total of 6 companies, some of them with international importance


5º.- Rest

The rest of the market, approximately 14%, is distributed in three preferred regions:

Cornice Cantábrica: With seven plants dedicated to fish, industrial and aluminum packaging. In this area there is a strong tradition in the market of seamers and drying ovens

Central Zone: Fundamentally Madrid and its surroundings. Eight companies dedicated to the packaging of aluminum, beverages, industrial, crown cap and oils configure the activity.

Extremadura-Western Andalusia: Seville is its main point. Six plants that work with beverage containers, preserves, capsules and oils represent the sector

Among them there are several multinationals.

In summary, the geographical distribution of the market within Spain is reflected in the following graph:


If we look at the distribution of the Spanish market by sectors, according to the following graph, it can be seen that only two plots – food and beverages – are left with 80% of the total, while the remaining four are molded to 20% residual. Only the foods take half of the market (47%) and drinks almost a third of it.

This leads to an apparent conclusion that the business is in the large sales volumes of these two sectors, but this is not how we will see now.

The following graph shows the number of plants – industrial facilities – dedicated in Spain to each of the different sectors. As already indicated, this number does not coincide with the number of companies, since there are cases in which the same company has several plants in different parts of the peninsular geography. We preferred to express the data of industrial activity by plants instead of by firms to give a more accurate idea of ​​the configuration of the market.


No. of packaging manufacturing plants  


Of the 102 factories, almost half -43- are for food, that is to say that 47% of the market, which means this sector is very distributed. On the other hand, in the case of beverages, only 4 factories produce 33%. It is evident that productivity in the second case is much higher. Even taking into account that in actually feeding plants of a certain technical and productive level may not exceed a dozen, the market / factory ratio is still worse than beverages.

These figures only serve to highlight a well-known reality: The food market, the oldest of all, is very atomized. The knowledge and the means for this activity are available to many. On the other hand, in beverages, the youngest market, there are serious barriers to enter it. If to this is added the stagnation in the demand for food and, on the contrary, an increase in continuous consumption for beverages, it will be seen that the situation of both sectors is very different.

In the following graph you appreciate the values ​​of the ratio turnover / number of plants by sectors. The case of food packaging is similar to all others, except the already mentioned beverage.



The future that opens up to this industry is not easy. Several circumstances make strong clouds threaten the economic climate that is to come. Among others, we can highlight:

–          Atomization of the sector. Redundan in difficulties to develop investments and major projects and in the competition.

–          Strong dependence on canning industries. As these improve your business, both national and export, there will be new possibilities for metal. But this task is not easy, Spain is surrounded by several countries that are true world powers in both food preservation and commercial distribution networks with which the increase in exports in this area is complex.

–          Difficulty of exporting empty containers. The long distances are their great enemy and cancel their possible competitiveness in foreign markets. Few plants are able to place merchandise outside our borders. The factories of the north and the manufacturers of capsules – where the transport factor is less important – are the best positioned.

–          Strong competition for new types of packaging.

–          Image. The can has a somewhat traditional market image and food companies strive to present their new products in more “modern” packaging systems.

All these considerations are valid especially for canning containers in general. There are particular cases that should be qualified, as follows:

– In the fish sector, there is also a shortage of fish, although international competition may not be as strong.

– Drinks is a special case because the demand is still strong and is far from suffering difficulties.

–          Cápsulas has experienced a period of very strong expansion with the arrival of new manufacturers in recent years. This has caused a competition that begins to take its toll.

–          Aerosols experienced a period of concentration of packaging by large companies in a few plants at European level, with which the national market has stagnated.

–          Industriales has problems similar to the food market.

On the contrary there are favorable factors, such as:

–          Incorporation of women into the workplace, with the increase that comes with the consumption of prepared meals.

–          Increase in the variety of packaged foods.

–          Growth of self-maintenance tasks done by oneself (painting, diy …)

–          Development of the consumption of canned refreshing drinks

For all the above, in the coming years we will continue to see important movements in the sector.

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