2011 Nonwovens Sales: $159 million
Key Personnel: Joe Menendez, Vita Group CEO; Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO
Plants: Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.
Processes: Drylaid, chemical bonded, thermal bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation
Sales increased slightly to $159 million at Vita Nonwovens amid volatile raw material prices and stable volumes and market shares, as the company continued to focus on product diversification throughout all of its core markets.
In hygiene, this focus led to the launch of a new generation of acquisition and distribution layer material, branded Slimcore, in April 2011. In building and construction, Vita developed insulation materials under the Infinso and Enguard brand names in Europe and the U.S, respectively; and new wheelhouse liners and underbodies have been developed for the automotive sector. “All of this new product development has contributed to margin improvement,” explains spokeswoman Alison Vesey. “The nonwovens division anticipates further innovation-driven growth in these segments during 2012 despite the challenging macroeconomic environment.”
In 2011, earnings were slightly weaker for Vita Nonwovens due to rising raw material prices. To help support itself, Vita Nonwovens—in addition to product diversification—was able to raise prices to some extent.
With manufacturing sites in Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, France, Belgium and Sweden, Vita Nonwovens continues to operate on a global platform, a fact that has helped its business weather macroeconomic pressures. For instance, while furniture and bedding saw weakening demand in traditional markets like the U.S. and Western Europe, sales to Eastern Europe were strong. Likewise, hygiene sales continued to increase in new territories like the Middle East and North Africa.
The developed world has also seen its share of triumphs, including North America, where Vita’s strong management team has allowed it to remain successful even in the downturn, Vesey reports. “Constant focus on markets and customers has led new business development initiatives into automotive and insulation markets. This, coupled with lean management programs, waste reduction efforts and improved supply chain efficiency initiatives has enabled the business to drive forward, despite the economic conditions.”
In recent months, Vita has taken measures to boost this business further with investments at its site in Fort Wayne, IN, to support growth in the automotive industry. These include an extension of the company’s capacity and converting capabilities.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the group continues to focus on new lean management programs, waste reduction efforts and improved supply chain efficiency to drive margin improvements and mitigate raw material and energy price increases. In addition, Vita has made a number of investments at these sites to help grow its business with more differentiated value added products, which has proven to be a sound strategy, according to Vesey.