Almost £1bn was spent in the first quarter of this year on new processing and packaging machinery, according to the first UK Buyers Survey by the PPMA.

More than 200 major end users across key sectors including food, beverages and pharmaceuticals were asked about their buying intentions for the coming year as well as reasons behind their investment decisions.

The key findings were:

•There is substantial spare production capacity in many factories, with utilisation at around 70%. Almost half of respondents said they intended to increase capacity in 2003.

• The range of investment in equipment was between £100k and £10M, with the majority of purchases being within the £100k and £500k marks.

•The outlook of those surveyed about increased investment was mixed; 35% said they would increase expenditure year on year in 2003; 25% said they would spend the same, while 40% said they would spend less.

•Important investment criteria was identified as increasing capacity (60%); improving efficiency (65%) and replacing old equipment (60%).

•New equipment makes up 75% of investment. Rebuilt and retrofitting accounts for 20%, leaving 5% for used machinery.

• Sources of machinery stood equally between imported and UK manufactured equipment.

• Processing equipment and end-of-line machines featured as the most popular likely targets for investment during 2003.

The PPMA plans to undertake the survey every six months and has contracted industry consultants PacLinc to conduct and collate the results.