Great Neck, NY
2014 NonwovensSales: $330 million
Hazleton, PA; McElhattan, PA; Wuxi, China
In 20014, First Quality continued to feel the effects of its first foreign investment, a nonwovens production site in Wuxi, China. The U.S.-based maker of spunmelt nonwovens announced in 2010 it would establish a Chinese nonwovens operation in Wuxi to better serve customers in the Asian hygiene markets; the new line came onstream in early 2013.
The new line, described as a multibeam Reifenhauser machine incorporating the latest technology available, will allow First Quality to provide premium nonwoven material to hygiene and medical markets in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
In announcing the new site, First Quality reported it would eventually house two lines but so far details on a second line have not been announced. According to executives at the tight-lipped nonwovens producer, which also makes diapers, feminine hygiene items and other consumer goods for the private label market, the company’s investment in China is a clear demonstration of its commitment to the global nonwovens industry and its dedication to satisfying the needs of the domestic Chinese market by providing innovative and high quality products.
According to sources close to the company, the new Chinese line is serving merchant customers in the hygiene and healthcare markets of China. First Quality has not formed any strategy to expand its private label business in Asia.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Great Neck, NY-based company is said to make about 100,000 tons of spunmelt nonwovens at two plants in Pennsylvania. Much of this output supplies First Quality’s massive private label business, which includes the former Covidien/Tyco diaper business purchased by the company in 2008, as well as its own interests in the private label feminine hygiene and adult incontinence markets.
In other news, First Quality began making spunlaced nonwovens last year on a 3.6-meter-wide hydroentanglement line, which will reportedly feed its private label baby wipes business. The company is said to be adding a second line to this operation already.
First Quality had previously concentrated its nonwovens business only on spunmelt technology. The company’s eighth spunmelt line was added in late 2008.
In 2014, First Quality’s private label wipes business hit a road bump when it initiated a nationwide voluntary recall at the retail level of all lots of baby wipes made under the brand names Cuties, Diapers.com, Femtex, Fred’s, Kidgets, Member’s Mark, Simply Right, Sunny Smiles, Tender Touch and Well Beginnings, because some packages may have contained bacteria.
After receiving a small number of complaints of odor and discoloration, Nutek —a First Quality company— conducted microbial testing that showed the presence of a bacteria, called Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia), in some of these products. Soonafter, in early October, the company initiated a voluntary withdrawal of lots that had tested positive for the bacteria, as well as other baby wipes in the surrounding timeframe. The wipes were placed back on store shelves without concern in early 2015.