The Heat Is On!

By Karen Bitz McIntyre, Editor | December 2, 2009

We are feeling it at the gas pumps and we will feel it when we heat our homes this winter, but where will be the next area we feel the squeeze of increasing petroleum prices?

Recent news issued by companies throughout the nonwovens supply chain indicates that it will be in consumer goods. With nearly every major producer and user of petroleum-based materials, i.e. polypropylene and polyester, being forced to raise their prices, it won’t be long before makers of consumer products using these materials, i.e. diapers and other disposable goods, will have to follow suit.

Extreme competition in the baby diaper market—like in many other consumer areas—has prevented manufacturers from significantly raising prices for several years. In fact, the average price of a disposable diaper has actually decreased over the years despite increased sophistication. This will soon have to change, however, as suppliers to this market are feeling the pinch of increasing raw material prices.

In the end, it will be the consumer who will have to absorb these added costs. In fact, Joe Citizen is paying more for gasoline, home heating costs and a laundry list of other products, thanks to petroleum supply problems felt around the world. What this will mean for the economy is anyone’s guess but many experts predict that tough times are ahead not only in the U.S. but around the world.

If this is the case, it won’t be the first time the nonwovens industry has had to weather economic trials. Luckily, many of the key markets for nonwoven are somewhat recession-proof. Babies will still need to be diapered and air will still have to be filtered, no matter what the world economic indexes are doing. Still, nonwovens manufacturers and users will have to come up with some creative ways to keep costs as low as possible.

Karen Bitz McIntyre