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The Airlaid Market: What Looms on the Horizon?



After overcoming crippling overcapacity and pricing woes, the airlaid market looks promising



Published October 19, 2009
Related Searches: absorbent Hygiene private label incontinence

The Airlaid Market: What Looms on the Horizon?

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After overcoming crippling overcapacity and pricing woes, the airlaid market looks promising

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by Sandra Levy

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rnTen years ago, the airlaid market underwent unprecedented expansion with 10s, if not 100s, of thousands of tons of material coming onstream in just a 12-month period. Producers have spent the decade since this surge streamlining their operations and looking for new markets for airlaid.
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rnBecause little new capacity has come onstream for airlaid since the early 2000s, the supply-and-demand ratio can finally be described as “healthy,” but producers continue to breath down each others’ necks in the hunt for new markets and everyone, it seems, is moving forward with cautious optimism.
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rnOne such company is Engineered Absorbent Materials (EAM). Despite its success in the absorbent core market—namely in feminine hygiene, adult incontinence, food packaging, medical and pet care, the company continues to operate just one line in Jesup, GA.
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rn“We work closely with our customers during development and commercialization, a process that can take up to three years. The end result is a uniquely constructed finished product that cannot be replaced by an off-the-shelf airlaid product, which is a benefit for both parties,”said Lori Venn, EAM’s vice president of sales and marketing.
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rnEAM’s NovaThin patented hydrogen bonded process helps the company differentiate its product significantly from traditional airlaid. EAM ships its product globally to all regions that use airlaid cores in hygiene materials, and the company continues to expand its reach into emerging countries.
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rn“Our innovation is driven by collaboration with customers. Independently, EAM does a lot of process development work that can be incorporated into its NovaThin family of products and transferred to clients in the form of performance and/or cost improvements,” Ms. Venn added.
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rnEAM has been capitalizing on demand for thinner, more environmentally friendly feminine hygiene and incontinence products. “We are seeing a lot more movement to ‘thinner’ which is excellent for us. You can immediately reduce the packaging and shipping costs.It’s more comfortable for women and for people using incontinence products. Where light inco liners had been a mainstay for our product for years, we are experiencing significant growth in moderate to heavy absorbent pads. Before it was an adult incontinence liner, now it’s a pad. It’s the same development as when feminine hygiene went from thick to thin. It’s wonderful growth for us and for airlaid in general,”asserted Ms. Venn.
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rnWhile some industry experts report that there is a noticeable decline in demand for more expensive, thin feminine hygiene products because of the downturn in the economy, Ms. Venn said EAM hasn’t been negatively affected by this occurrence.
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rn“When the economy is depressed you may see a reduction in demand in emerging markets. Whereas in mature markets, for exampleNorth America and Europe, the shift may be from branded to private label, but in effect the demand stays constant,” said Ms.Venn.
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