Even with a recovery underway, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 continues to affect plastics deals.
The pandemic "affects every deal we're working on," said Hart at PMCF. "We try to figure out what changes will be short term and which will be long term."
Packaging demand in general has benefited from the pandemic, he added, with people buying more groceries and eating at home more. Hart said the trends toward home offices and doing deals virtually aren't expected to go away.
Investing in companies that make packaging or medical disposables or other health care items provide access to "a defensible end market," according to Jim Berklas, who opened consulting firm Augmented Industry Services last year in West Farmington, Conn. Berklas worked for Las Vegas-based injection molder Westfall Technik Inc. from 2017 until earlier this year, helping the company complete 17 acquisitions.
Blaige & Co. of Chicago was able to complete a deal involving private equity firm HIG Capital of Miami and two California plastics companies by using Zoom for management presentations and due diligence, Chairman and CEO Thomas Blaige said.
"There was less face-to-face interaction than usual, but overall things weren't as delayed as we might have expected," he added.
Blaige said his firm saw plastics M&A affected on three different levels in the second half of 2020, with raw materials being down before bouncing back, packaging breaking even and nonessential businesses like automotive still not back to pre-pandemic levels.
The second-half deals seen by Stout are for "consumable-type products" in consumer, medical and flexible packaging, Evatz said.
"Some opportunities are up in the short term, while others, like building and construction, could be up long term as people choose to live in houses instead of cities," he explained.
"We're seeing good prices and active buyers," said Weil at Mesirow. "Once people figured out where the ground was and that [the pandemic] wasn't the end of the world, we found out that packaging was an essential resource.
"Eating at home can be safer. … I don't think trends towards staying at home and using e-commerce have changed yet," he added. "Amazon uses a lot of packing envelopes."
Demand for medical masks and for the nonwoven plastic fibers needed to make them "is here to stay," according to Peter Schmitt, managing director at Montesino Associates LLC in Wilmington, Del.
Working from home and not spending as much on travel and clothing has freed up more disposable income for consumers to spend, said Phil Karig, managing director with Mathelin Bay Associates in St. Louis.
The trend toward higher building and construction activity also should continue, according to Andrew Petryk, managing director with Brown Gibbons Lang in Cleveland. "People are still investing in their homes and upgrading as well as building new housing," he said. "In 2020, they may have thought COVID-19 was going to be shorter term, but now they're viewing work from home as the norm."
"They're investing in home offices and putting in pools and decking because a lot of people aren't traveling for vacation."