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After the Wipes Boom



a decade of wipes growth, new investment and consolidation, have left manufacturers figuring out their strategy for the future.



Published August 18, 2009
Related Searches: Wipes Spuntech baby wipes Ahlstrom

After the Wipes Boom

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a decade of wipes growth, new investment and consolidation, have left manufacturers figuring out their strategy for the future.

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By Karen McIntyre
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rnFor a while, you just couldn’t go wrong in the spunlace market. Everyday, it seemed, a new line or plant purchase was being announced as the entire nonwovens industry seemed geared toward growing its presence in wipes.
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rnAnd, who could blame them? A quick look at the products lining grocery store shelves proves these investments were justified. From 2000 to 20007, the global wipes market tripled thanks to new applications in personal care and household care applications. At the same time, spunlaced nonwovens were growing their share in this market as more wipes converters chose it over competing airlaid. Nonwovens manufacturers were eager to grab a piece of this pie. Companies ranging from multinationals like Ahlstrom and Fiberweb (then BBA) to smaller regional players like Orlandi in Italy, Tenotex in Spain, Green Bay Nonwovens in Wisconsin, Spuntech in Israel and Switzerland’s Jacob Holm were aggressively investing in their spunlaced arsenals, acts that led not only to a surge in global capacity but also a period of industry consolidation as Fiberweb bought a few smaller European players and then sold its entire spunlaced business to Ahlstrom, which also bought Orlandi and Green Bay Nonwovens. At the same time, investment was particularly heavy in North America, where Procter & Gamble decided to switch much of its baby wipes business from airlaid to spunlace.
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rnThe 2006-2007 period saw capital investment including the addition of a second line at the former Green Bay Nonwovens plant (by Ahlstrom) as well as North American investment by Jacob Holm and Spuntech, both in North Carolina—not to mention a new Sandler investment in Germany and an Ahlstrom line in Brazil.
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rnNow, after a period of such activity, it seems the dust is settling on the global spunlace market. Ahlstrom has an­nounced a few plant closures, wishing to streamline its massive spunlaced business, blaming weakened demand on these measures. “The weakening market de­mand in the second part of last year and in the first quarter of 2009, combined with a notable overcapacity in the European market made it necessary to take measures to adjust operations by reducing production capacity and costs,” said company spokesman Marco Martinez.