Last month, Ahlstrom dedicated a new spunlace line at its Green Bay, WI facility, a site acquired from Green Bay Nonwovens two years ago. At the ceremony, Martin Davis, the general manager of Ahlstrom's global wipes business, called the $30 million investment a recognition of the "strength and growth potential of the dynamic wipes market."
And, few companies have betted more heavily on this growth than Ahlstrom who in the last year alone has purchased the wipes business of Orlandi, in Italy, and Fiberweb, in the U.S., Spain and Italy, in addition to the investment in Wisconsin.
During the past decade, the wipes market has seen unprecedented growth and the category has expanded beyond baby care into other areas such as household cleaning and personal care. Some market watchers have expressed doubts whether this growth can continue, saying that a slowdown in new product launches, combined with pricing pressures and high penetration in existing markets, have taken their toll on the market. However, others say that wipes market growth has only begun and there is plenty of room for new wiping products on store shelves.
Like Ahlstrom, wipes converter Rockline Industries is putting its money on continued wipes growth. In late October, the company announced it would add a new manufacturing and distribution facility in Booneville, AR in a reported $5 million investment that will create 200 jobs in the area. The Booneville facility will be the first site in the company's North American expansion program to add three new wet wipes manufacturing and distribution facilities.
As new investments, both on the roll goods and converting side, continue to come onstream, surely new product development will continue in the wipes market, which will hopefully lead to growth for the category and ultimately for nonwovens. Already, the proliferation of the wipes market has brought nonwovens into categories previously unheard of, like cosmetics, auto care and sunscreen, and hopefully more unchartered territories are ahead.