Why Is the Disposable Glove Market So Unpredictable and Risky?

AMMEX sign on front of office building

Why do prices of disposable gloves vary so much between products, and between those who sell them?

Why does inventory come and go? (Those hybrid vinyl/nitrile gloves that you may have loved during the pandemic are much harder to find now.)

Why does quality vary? (Some gloves hold up over several jobs, while others seemingly rip as soon as you pull them on.)

Why is it so difficult to buy the right glove for the job? (How often do you find what seems the perfect glove—and then find it’s out of stock, or discontinued, or it will take 6 months to get it?)

Questions in search of answers

These are some of the questions that customers often ask us. They are all good, reasonable questions. You, as our distributor partners, get them too. It’s helpful to level-set the dynamics of the market in search of answers.

Historically the disposable glove market has been pretty stable. Approximately 95% of the global glove supply comes from Malaysia and China. The supply chain is long, both logistically and geographically. The process has a lot of moving parts.

Manufacturing disposable gloves—by dipping hand-shaped formers into a liquid solution of nitrile butadiene rubber, natural rubber latex, or polyvinyl chloride—is as much of an art as an imprecise science, as much alchemy as chemistry.

2020 changed the industry forever

For three decades leading up to the pandemic, the industry was stable, dependable, and at times even a bit boring. But then all hell broke loose in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019 and the coronavirus spread worldwide. Suddenly all the variables, from raw materials to labor to manufacturing to transportation, had to adjust—and in a big hurry.

It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t easy. Manufacturers had to adapt to all the mood swings and movements of a market in the throes of crisis. But gradually it has made its way back, and availability (and pricing) are in much better shape again.

A lot of that is due to mitigation by glove suppliers like AMMEX. We deliver sourcing redundancy, boots-on-the-ground ingenuity and initiative, and top-rate quality inspections to ensure compliance.

Customers also ask us: Why is this such a struggle? Why can’t we make more gloves in the U.S.? Do we really have to source everything through Southeast Asia?

Not likely coming to your town soon

The answer is both simple and complex. For one thing, starting a glove factory is expensive and requires substantial build time. Then there is the question of permitting: Honestly, no one wants a glove factory in their backyard, so getting the required regulatory approval is extremely difficult.

SE Asia has a decades-long head start on anybody trying to start making gloves from scratch. There are labor considerations—Americans would be unlikely to work for the wages needed to keep glove prices affordable. Ocean shipping would be removed from the equation, theoretically making transportation both cheaper and easier, but the current freight transport crises in the U.S. will continue to complicate matters.

These are among the most common questions. If they’re not asked directly, they’re implied. Let AMMEX help you answer them and position you for success. Not a glove distributor? Get started today.

Want to distribute AMMEX gloves?

We make it simple.

What glove-related topics are you interested in?