Location: HAMPTON, NH
Sales: $80 Million
Description: Key Personnel
A.J. Nassar, CEO; Mike DeGrace, president
All businesses are QS 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 17025 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; flame lamination, calendering, latex coating, saturation, die cutting, embossing
Eco-fi, Fosscloth, Fosshield, FossFibre, Ozite, TopGuard, Kunin Felt, Kreative Kanvas,
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotive (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, interior trim fabrics); Ozite decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings); retail (Kunin craft felt, auto-aftermarket, indoor/outdoor carpeting, construction); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, footwear, healthcare and car wash.)
All things considered, Foss Manufacturing says its performance in 2008 was satisfactory. Roll goods sales, at $80 million, were essentially flat, dipping by a small percentage compared to the steep declines witnessed recently in many of its key markets. David Rowell, Foss’ executive vice president of sales, attributed the company’s results to the current economy and pointed out that industry- wide car sales are off 27% while motor home, RV and marine markets have fallen 70%. “As a whole, the automotive market was off dramatically. The economy is not spurring us on, that’s for sure, but we do have four or five arenas that look positive. We are doing okay.”
One such bright spot is Foss’ Fosshield additive, which is making headway in an array of both woven and nonwoven applications in different market areas such as towels, mattress pads, mattress ticking, apparel, blankets, hospital cubicle curtains, upholstery for medical offices and wallcoverings.
Another ray of hope comes in the form of Fosshield facemasks, which have earned both Canadian and EU approval and are close to a nod from FDA as well. “Swine flu and other viruses are boosting demand for face masks and orders have dramatically increased. Our facemask business is way up.” Mr. Rowell attributed part of this growth to the strength and quality of Foss’ antimicrobial technology and said some of the increase stems from the fact that people are looking for antimicrobial protection. “The Fosshield facemask is much more than just a filtering device. It will not allow microbe growth on its surface and thus can be reused without fear of bacterial buildup,” he said.
With the green movement in full swing, Foss’ Eco-fi recycled fibers and fabrics are enjoying the public’s increasing emphasis on environmental responsibility as well the Obama administration’s efforts toward eco-consciousness in general. Made from 100% recycled plastic PET bottles, Eco-fi continues to gain momentum and represents 70% of Foss’ overall fiber sales. The recycled polyester fiber’s benefits include sustainability, eco-friendliness, decreased landfill impact and lack of harmful emissions.
“This has helped our cause in many of the markets we serve. We’re getting lots of hits on our website and people are demanding green products. We can’t increase our prices over it, but it helps us fight against the competition.”
Another area of growth for Foss is footwear, the company’s legacy, where business has tripled. With the majority of sales (90%) stemming from military contracts, Foss works with three or four U.S.-based companies to produce box toes, counters and midsoles for military boots. “This is not huge volume but footwear is a good, steady business for us in an area where we were barely active just a couple of years ago.”
Foss is also making strides in the outdoor seasonal carpeting arena where it is penetrating big box stores and seeing substantial benefits. The company is placing indoor/outdoor carpeting in a variety of colors and constructions as well as a high quality carpet pad in the major chains. Additionally, a new line of carpet tiles from Foss has been placed in more than one chain. “These products have dramatically increased our sales into the home centers,” Mr. Rowell reported.
In the automotive sector, Foss is holding its own and looking forward to recovery in 2010 and beyond. “Our auto sales have been up in 2009 even with the dismal automotive sector, where car builds are one half of what they were last year (and last year was down). Our market penetration has grown, and we have not witnessed the overall sales loss in automotives. Even though the manufacturing sector has been damaged by the economic and credit situation, auto builds will come back up next year, and we’ll be ready.”
With its new needlepunch line offering “dramatic improvements” in both quality and output, Foss is taking the possibility of future expansion very seriously. Designed and built by Erko- Trützschler, the turnkey machinery uses finer denier fiber and produces lighter weight fabrics. “The new needlepunch line is wonderful—it’s everything it was billed to be and more,” said Mr. Rowell. “Our next expansion will be in the direction of new patterning for our roll goods. We are looking into different structuring and aesthetic concepts.” He added that on the fibers end, future investments will target improved abrasion and fire retardancy. “New fiber technologies are an important focus for us from an R&D standpoint.”
The company is also keeping a close eye on the medical market, where its antimicrobial technology is expected to flourish. “This is really the future of our company,” said Mr. Rowell. “Our strategy is to continue to enter into medical and hospital markets where quality and efficacy will bring key benefits. Antimicrobials have a ton of potential—not just in non-disposable hospital applications such as blankets and curtains but also in footwear and automotive uses. Whatever the need, we’ll be there to fill it.”