As the world’slargest user of nonwovens globally, the success or failure of this market is a pretty good barometer by which to measure the health of the nonwovens industry as a whole.
According to market research firm, Global Industry Analysts, the global market for disposable baby diapers is expected to grow from its current level of $25 billion to an estimated $33 billion in 2017. Much of this growth will be driven by advances in developing countries where penetration levels are often below 15% compared to more than 90% in places like the U.S. and Western Europe. As these economies evolve and more mothers have access to disposable diapers, sales are expected to climb quickly and diaper manufacturers are getting ready.
Procter & Gamble is building a large diaper manufacturing plant near Cairo, Egypt to support growth in North Africa and the Middle East; SCA has made a number of recent diaper acquisitions in places like Brazil and Turkey and has listed Chinese growth as a top priority and Kimberly-Clark continues to expand the scope of its Huggies diaper brand globally. In addition to investment, diaper manufacturers are also educating consumers in these areas on the benefits of using a brand, hoping to build brand loyalty before the consumer can afford diapers or even has access to them. These manufacturers are making sure their manufacturing, sales and marketing teams are in place when opportunities open up for diapers in these emerging markets.
Of course, the nonwovens industry is following suit. Already, two large investments have been made in Egypt, presumably to fuel Procter’s investment in the country. And, additional investments are being made around the world, chasing growth in the diaper market and its relatives in the adult incontinence market. Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Peru. These are just a few of the countries where nonwovens producers are investing for the future, betting millions of dollars that opportunities for nonwovens growth are just around the corner, and really rewriting the map when it comes to global nonwovens capacity.
If 2011 was a year defined by rapid investment in nonwovens lines across the globe, 2012 will be the year when we find out if all of this investment was justified. Most industry experts agree that it is, that these new lines will provide sophisticated, lightweight nonwovens to diaper manufacturers around the world, allowing them to diaper the world’s babies. Let’s hope so.
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