|Wild About Wipes|
| It’s been more than five years since disposable wipes began their proliferation into consumer categories such as household cleaning and consumer care, but nonwovens producers continue to consider it a strong growth area. The overwhelming majority of investment and growth strategies reported in this year’s top company report centered around disposable wipes. Whether earmarking existing capacity for wipes or building new lines to boost wipes production, plans depend on the continued vitality of wipes markets.
How the wipes market chooses to respond to all of this attention has yet to be seen. While wipes markets have enjoyed considerable growth in past years, some question how long this growth will continue. If growth subsides, there will be a lot of nonwovens capacity, particularly in the spunlaced market, looking for new applications.
Beyond wipes, this year’s top company report also shows investment and innovation across the nonwovens spectrum. Whether it’s an acquisition in Eastern Europe (Fibertex), a joint venture partnership in China (Avgol), a new composite line (Ahlstrom), a corporate restructuring program (Freudenberg) or a renewed focus on innovation (Tenotex), the world’s leading nonwovens producers are relying on varied measures to ensure future growth.
The Report By Numbers
This year, our top companies report profiles 43 companies. Newcomers include U.K.-based needlepunch producer Andrews Industries and Korean spunmelt producer Toray Saehan. We feel that the addition of these two companies adds greater scope to this report.
As has been the case in every Nonwovens Industry top companies report to date, Freudenberg was the largest producer of nonwovens, reporting $1.4 billion in sales in 2003. In fact, the top 10 has remained intact in recent years with DuPont Nonwovens, Ahlstrom FiberComposites, Kimberly-Clark, BBA Fiberweb, PGI, Johns Manville, Colbond, Buckeye and Japan Vilene rounding out the top positions.
Each company is ranked on the basis of their 2003 sales, which were translated from local currencies into U.S. dollars using the average exchange rate for 2003 as provided by www.oanda.com. It should be noted that due to the strength of the Euro throughout 2003, European companies’ rankings rose significantly compared to last year. Therefore, while ranking companies by sales was necessary for the nature of this report, it is really the activities of these companies, as reported in the profiles, that should be applauded. All sales figures were provided by the companies except for in some instances, such as Kimberly-Clark, Foss Manufacturing and Colbond, where they were estimated based on a variety of industry sources.