Burial Caskets

SIC 3995

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry includes companies primarily engaged in manufacturing burial caskets, vaults, and cases, including shipping cases, of wood, metal, fiberglass, or other material except concrete.

Industry Snapshot

High overhead and limited market potential have restricted the number of participants in this industry. The complete set of dies necessary to manufacture a metal casket shell is estimated to cost as much as $1 million, not including the cost of the stamping machines in which the dies are used. The U.S. Census Bureau reported 131 companies with a total of 4,363 employees in this industry in 2008.

There were only a few companies producing all of the necessary components for metal caskets in the early 2010s. According to the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSAA), more than 90 percent of metal caskets are produced by less than a dozen companies. Hardwood casket manufacturing is believed to be limited to another dozen companies. The top three companies produce more than 80 percent of all caskets.

Industry shipments in 2008 were valued at $870 million. According to CFSAA, caskets made of gasketed steel accounted for almost half of caskets sold. Hardwood caskets made up about 18 percent of sales; nongasketed steel, 16 percent; cloth-covered, 11 percent; stainless steel, four percent; copper or bronze, two percent; and composite materials, less than one percent.

Organization and Structure

Caskets are generally made of two types of material, wood and metal. Wooden caskets are available in both soft and hardwood. Because they do not generally have a sealing mechanism, wooden caskets are known as nonprotective caskets. Nonprotective caskets are not designed to prevent the entrance of air or moisture. Metal caskets are available in carbon steel, copper, bronze, and stainless steel. Carbon steel caskets are available in different gauges, ranging from 20 gauge (the thinnest) to 16 gauge (the thickest). Bronze and copper caskets are available in 32 and 48 ounces of material per square foot. The majority of metal caskets are protective caskets, meaning that they use some type of sealing mechanism, usually a natural rubber gasket, to prevent the entrance of air or moisture into the casket. Those that do not are categorized as nongasketed. There are also lower-end metal caskets that are nonprotective. Although alternative materials, such as fiberglass or plastics, are also used in casket manufacturing, no major U.S. casket manufacturer employs these materials in shell production.

Casket costs vary according to the type of material the casket is made of, the quality of the construction, and the type of interior used. The most expensive material used to make a casket, bronze, is considered by the industry to be the material most suitable for casket construction due to its strength and natural ability to resist rust. Copper is comparable to bronze but is a less expensive material. Stainless steel has a higher tensile strength than either bronze or copper and is also a naturally rust-resistant material; it is used as a primary material for shell construction by very few major manufacturers.

In the past, consumer selection of wooden caskets over metal caskets was governed by regional preferences, with rural areas being more likely to purchase wooden caskets--a material with which the consumer is more familiar. Urban areas have traditionally had higher sales of metal caskets. Marketing wood as a natural and renewable material has contributed to a steady increase in wooden casket sales.

Materials consumed by the casket manufacturing industry include steel and nonferrous metals, in various shapes and forms, and rough and dressed lumber for outer shell construction. The outer shells are typically finished with paints, stains, lacquers, and applied fabric coverings made of wool or felt. Casket hardware consists of cast and forged metals and formed plastics. Interior materials are usually cotton, satin, velvet, or other manmade fabrics.

Background and Development

The U.S. casket industry has its origins in the 1800s. Merchants operating furniture stores were called upon by the community to supply a casket at the time of a death. As time passed, casket manufacturing developed into an industry separate from furniture manufacturing, and the selling moved from the furniture store to the newly emerging funeral parlor.

By the early 1950s, more than 700 casket manufacturing companies existed in the United States, with more than half the units sold being cloth-covered caskets. Cloth-covered caskets are generally softwood, composite wood, or high strength cardboard covered in felt. Availability of sheet steel grew after the end of the Korean War, allowing casket manufacturers to increase production of steel units. As a result of this, by the mid- to late 1970s, almost two-thirds of all caskets were made of metal, with cloth-covered caskets being relegated to the role of inexpensive alternatives.

The casket manufacturing industry is faced with a unique obstacle to growth that other industries rarely, if ever, face. Annual casket sales are dependent on several variables, the most obvious being the number of deaths for that year. The low U.S. death rate and an increasing number of noncasketed cremations created a somewhat stagnant market in the 2000s. The value of shipments increased modestly in the late 1990s and was above $1 billion entering the early 2000s but had dropped to $817 million by 2008.

As the rate of cremations increased, the major casket manufacturers needed to position themselves for further changes in the industry. Looking to offset a market with little or no growth, casket manufacturers started entering market areas formerly left to other vendors. Cremation urns and specialized cremation caskets were both manufactured and aggressively marketed by companies that had traditionally limited themselves to casket manufacturing and sales. Markers and vaults were also being added to the types of products supplied.

Traditionally, funeral homes have been the only source of caskets for the retail consumer. But due to the 1994 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling prohibiting funeral homes from charging casket handling fees for caskets purchased from a source other than the funeral home, retail casket stores started appearing across the United States. These retailers sell their caskets from display rooms, catalogs, and the Internet. Claiming to offer caskets at 40 to 60 percent less than funeral homes, these casket "stores" became a source of competition for the funeral home industry. By 2009, consumers could even buy a casket from discount stores such as WalMart and Costco. While not directly having an adverse effect on the casket manufacturing industry, there is potential for loss of funeral home showroom space for manufacturers that sell to casket stores. Funeral homes were reluctant to carry stock available on the retail market.

Current Conditions

One of the biggest challenges to the burial casket manufacturing industry in the early 2010s was a drop in demand as more Americans chose cremation over traditional burial. According to the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America, after remaining stable at about four percent for decades, the rate of cremation in relation to deaths began to increase in the 1970s. By 2008, the cremation rate had risen to 36 percent, according to Advertising Age. Reasons for this increase included, among other factors, consumers' increased environmental awareness and cost. Whereas a cremation urn could be had for less than $100, caskets cost anywhere from $300 to $8,000, plus the cost of a concrete or wood burial vault, which was required by many cemeteries, and the cost of delivery of the casket, as few funeral homes kept enough usable inventory to serve clients.

Other detriments to growth in the industry included the large amount of capital needed to enter the business and the increasing number of large, publicly traded funeral home chains that demanded a discount from casket makers in order to offer their products, thus cutting back on the manufacturers' profit margin. In addition, U.S. manufacturers faced increased competition from foreign products. Imports of caskets, particularly from China, increased in the late 2000s. Because the products could be made so much cheaper overseas due to low labor costs, many funeral homes saw using imports as one way to save money. According to The Herald Bulletin, the average cost of manufacturing a coffin in the United States was $500 in labor costs, whereas the same product could be made for about $50 in China. As Chris Boots of Anderson, Indiana-based C.J. Boots Casket Co. commented, "Here we have so many regulations and things that we have to keep up with and overhead costs that they don't contend with in China. It's just very, very difficult to compete with." One advantage that U.S. manufacturers had, according to Boots, was the ability to customize caskets, a trend that was becoming more popular in the second decade of the twenty-first century and one that Chinese producers could not accomodate. Overall, while many U.S. casket makers found some success in expanding their portfolio to include urns and other alternative items, the number of caskets manufactured continued to fall throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s.

Industry Leaders

Batesville Casket Company, of Batesville, Indiana, was the largest manufacturer of caskets in the United States in the early 2010s and held about 50 percent of the U.S. market. The company reported revenues of $659.4 million in 2006. Batesville, which had 3,800 employees, was owned by parent company Hillenbrand Industries. The York Group Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was second in the industry. Owned by Matthews International, The York Group had 1,667 employees in 2010. The third-largest manufacturer was privately held Aurora Casket Company of Aurora, Indiana, which was founded in 1890 and employed 850 in 2010.

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News and information about Burial Caskets

Hillenbrand Inc
Indianapolis Business Journal; January 19, 2018; 700+ words
Hillenbrand Inc., One Batesville Blvd., Batesville, 47006, operates the Batesville segment, which sells burial caskets and other death-care products. Hillenbrand also operates a Process Equipment Group, which makes material-handling...
The Cost of Dying — or Paying for a Funeral, in Other Words — Has Outpaced the Cost of All Other Consumer Products Almost 2-to-1 since 1986, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [Derived Headline]
Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; October 31, 2017; 280 words
...while overall inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index increased by about 123 percent.The producer price of burial caskets has increased 230 percent while the overall producer price has increased 95 percent since 1986, according to the...
Uspto Issues Trademark: Pierce
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; August 24, 2017; 242 words
...application serial number 86221239 was filed on March 14, 2014 and was registered on Aug. 22.Goods and Services: BURIAL CASKETS. FIRST USE: 20140401. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20140401For any query with respect to this article or any other content...
Uspto Issues Trademark: Constantine
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; September 1, 2017; 244 words
...application serial number 86065701 was filed on Sept. 16, 2013 and was registered on Aug. 29.Goods and Services: BURIAL CASKETS. FIRST USE: 20151031. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20151031For any query with respect to this article or any other content...
The Rising Cost of Dying, 1986-2017
States News Service; October 31, 2017; 700+ words
...Data Cumulative percent change since December 1986 in consumer prices for funeral expenses and producer prices for burial caskets, not seasonally adjustedMonthAll items CPI-UFuneral expenses, CPI-UAll commodities PPIBurial caskets, PPI Dec...
Uspto Issues Trademark: Garrison
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; September 1, 2017; 243 words
...application serial number 86065765 was filed on Sept. 16, 2013 and was registered on Aug. 29.Goods and Services: BURIAL CASKETS. FIRST USE: 20141001. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20141001For any query with respect to this article or any other content...
Uspto Issues Trademark: Forte
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; August 24, 2017; 242 words
...application serial number 86199732 was filed on Feb. 20, 2014 and was registered on Aug. 22.Goods and Services: BURIAL CASKETS. FIRST USE: 20140401. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20140401For any query with respect to this article or any other content...
Producer Price Indexes-July 2015
PPI Detailed Report; July 1, 2015; 700+ words
...Primary products 339995-P Metal burial caskets and coffins, 339995-1 completely...trimmed, adult sizes only Wood burial caskets and 339995-3Y coffins, completely...trimmed, adult sizes only Other burial caskets and coffins, 339995-5 including...

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