2012 Nonwovens Sales: $602 million
Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Karen Castle, vice president Sales North America; Saara Soderberg, vice president, Business Development, Marketing and Innovation; Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas and HSE; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Technology Development & Investments.
Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain
Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled
Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene
Sales climbed for Suominen in 2012 as it continued to integrate Ahlstrom’s former home and personal business, which was acquired in 2012. Not only has this acquisition brought Suominen’s sales up to $602 million, it has propelled it to the top of the nonwovens industry, making it the largest maker of spunlaced materials for the wipes market.
“This rapid growth was not without its own challenges,” says director of marketing and communications, Alistair Brown. “The creation of what was effectively a whole new company included a crucial task to merge a mix of international company cultures.”
In its new form, Suominen, which is based in Nakkila, Finland, operates three nonwovens plants in the U.S. in Wisconsin, Connecticut and South Carolina, and others in Brazil, Italy, Spain and Finland, a considerable change from the one-site producer it was prior to the acquisition.
“The integration comprised also the retention and development of customer relationships around the globe. Becoming truly global after being mainly focused on Europe was another important step in the process of creating New Suominen,” says Brown. “Significant markets, such as the U.S. and Asia, were reassured by a global marketing campaign to support Suominen Nonwovens statement of, ‘Now the biggest name in nonwovens for wipes.’”
As the biggest producer of nonwovens for wipes, Suominen this year launched the “We Love Wipes” campaign to strengthen its understanding of the need of consumers and consequently ensure it is better able to serve its customers and increase the share of the higher value added products in its portfolio. Bolstered by a campaign hub website at www.welovewipes.com as well as a variety of social media activities, We Love Wipes also aims to raise the overall awareness of wipes and the wide range of uses for them.
“Innovation at Suominen is not just about products but about changing the way business is done and challenging traditional long-held views. The market is very dynamic and it is clearly in our interest to become faster to market with the right products. This is one aspect we aim to further improve, with the support from the consumers, the genuine experts of wipes,” says Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president of Suominen Nonwovens at the time of the campaign launch.
On the new product front, in April Suominen launched Exodus and Hercules Nonwovens for personal care and industrial applications as part of its strategy to strengthen its share of the higher value-added products. Both products provide customers with a quality performance in industrial and household wipes and contain cellulose and synthetic fibers, a combination that ensures optimized strength and absorbency with dimensional strength.
“Despite its toughness, Hercules Nonwoven has a soft, cloth-like feel, which makes it perfect also for cleaning hands quickly and conveniently while working. Both are available in four basis weights.
“We are always improving nonwoven product characteristics in such areas as texture, feel and cleaning through enhancements to the technologies we use in our processes,” Brown says.
Another area strong on Suominen’s radar is flushability. In June, the company said it would invest €2.5 million to increase the production capacity of Hydraspun substrates, some of which are defined as flushable by industry guidelines developed by INDA and EDANA, the industry associations.
“Suominen is constantly looking at the markets in which it operates,” Brown says. “Where we see opportunity to add value with nonwoven products will determine where we take our future offering.”