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Lighters and Their Unacknowledged Brilliance

The household lighter is a colossal achievement of human ingenuity. Discovering fire sent us ahead by lightyears in the fight for survival. With time we learned to harness it so well, that we now take it for granted. The ability to conjure a flame with a simple snap of the fingers.

Lighters come in all shapes and sizes with different market segments and consumer groups. All lighters have three common elements: Fuel for burning, ignition to light, and control over both. The lighter import export data clearly shows that smoking is the biggest driver of the market. Which would come as a surprise to no one. Read on to find out why France is both a leading exporter and importer of the commodity.

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A history of enlightenment

The earliest lighters were like small fire kits with tinder, wick, or naphthaline as fuel and sulfur or flint as ignition. The containers were made with metal, resinous wood, or ceramic and could be used to put out the fire. Here are some major milestones worth noting: Shifting from flint to ferrocerium (by Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1903); Shifting from Naphthaline to liquified butane gas (by Zippo in the 1950s); And the introduction of piezoelectric ignitors that made this commodity cheaper than ever.

Export analysis

China is an all-rounder in the lighter market. The lighter export data shows that the country produces about 70% of all lighters in 2010. Cheap disposable lighters, medium-range electronic lighters, and even the parts for high-end lighters are made here. The other countries have major manufacturers of the commodity within their borders. France is home to both the luxury brand S.T. Dupont and the everyday Bic. The US hosts the iconic Zippo and also produces a wide range of novelty, high-quality, and multipurpose lighters. Similarly, Clipper does much of their production in Spain.

Top exporting countries (2020)

  1. China ($787 million)
  2. France ($257 million)
  3. United States ($119 million)
  4. Spain ($104 million)
  5. Germany ($66 million)

Import analysis

According to the lighter import data, lighter components being imported by manufacturers are also included in this category. The US, Germany, and France import components for novelty and designer lighters catering to their highly segmented lighter markets. These countries were also one of the first ones to adopt a culture of smoking tobacco. As such, a larger percentage of the population needs cheap disposable lighters as well. Alternatively, Indonesia and Japan have a high demand for consumer goods and depend on imports for this commodity.

Top importing countries (2020)

  1. United States ($272 million)
  2. Germany ($105 million)
  3. France ($64.4 million)
  4. Indonesia ($58.9 million)
  5. Japan ($58 million)

What to expect

The market for lighters is expected to grow gradually at an underwhelming 1.02% rate per year. As the population keeps increasing and tobacco dependency culture spreads with it, the market for lighters is evergreen and stable. While plastics become increasingly frowned upon, the incessant demand for portable and controllable fire will prevail. The market might seem saturated but luxury products have scope in high-income markets. Novelty products like pistol-shaped lighters have scope in commercial markets and inexpensive products have scope in developing markets.