Rising Oil Prices Put Pressure on Disposable Glove Supply Chain

Gloveworks Industrial Black Nitrile Gloves with Raised Diamond Texture are a great choice for working with food.

Other than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, headlines this year have been dominated by soaring oil and gas prices. In some parts of the U.S., gas has surpassed $6 a gallon.

Expensive fuel, of course, has a ripple effect throughout global economies. The disposable glove industry is no exception.

Raw materials make up approximately 60% of the cost of disposable gloves. Both nitrile butadiene rubber and polyvinyl chloride gloves use petroleum as a primary ingredient, which adds price pressure at the manufacturing level. The majority of disposable gloves are made in Southeast Asia, so ocean shipping costs to the United States—as well as ground transportation costs once they arrive—are a major factor in the price of gloves.

Shipping prices for all goods have soared since the pandemic, as rising demand collided with shutdowns at factories and ports, leading to a shortage of space on ocean vessels as countries competed to get products from foreign shores to their own.

Shipping remains a major challenge

The price to transport a container from China to the West Coast of the United States costs 12 times as much as it did two years ago, while the time it takes a container to make that journey has nearly doubled. That has pushed up costs for companies that source products or parts from overseas, seeping into what consumers pay. Shipping rates are expected to go even higher in May, as the busiest ocean transit season begins.

The port congestion that has plagued shipping throughout the pandemic has eased a bit on the U.S. West Coast, as traffic has shifted to East and Gulf Coast ports. What that has done, however, is escalate vessel backlogs along the East Coast and cause deteriorating service for importers.

There is also inflation, currently the worst it has been in four decades. The Labor Department reported earlier this month that the consumer price index rose 7.9% in February from the previous year, marking the fastest increase since January 1982, when inflation hit 8.4%.

Grab gloves at the right price today

Our best advice right now: Don’t wait for glove prices to drop. The market is not returning to pre-pandemic pricing, now or in the near future. Demand is strong. The pricing you see today, especially for nitrile, has leveled off and is likely as good as it will get in 2022. Anticipating your customers’ needs and buying accordingly will allow you to maintain an inventory level that provides essential flexibility.

Also, emphasize the gloves that deliver the best margins. Gloveworks nitrile with Raised Diamond Texture are best-selling all-stars. Whether 8-mil orange and green or 6-mil black and royal blue, these gloves present a “try them once and you’ll never want to buy anything else” opportunity. Customers who have for years been dedicated users of our 5-mil black nitrile gloves have almost universally switched for good once they tried RDT.

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