Report: U.S. Nonwovens Fabric Demand

By Corinne Gangloff, Freedonia Group | March 11, 2013

The U.S. will remain a large market for various consumer products due to favorable demographics, and manufacturing of these products will likely remain near the point of demand.

Demand for nonwovens is forecast to rise 5.7% per year to $7.1 billion in 2016, benefiting from an acceleration in area demand and an increase in the average price that stems in part from a shift in the product mix toward higher value nonwovens.  The market mix will further fuel pricing gains as heavier, more expensive nonwovens are more prevalent in the nondisposables markets, many of which are expected to achieve more rapid gains through 2016 compared to the disposables markets.  Renewed economic growth, along with rising manufacturing output and rebounding construction activity, will provide opportunities for nonwovens.  Further gains will be limited by the maturity of a number of disposable goods markets for nonwovens, including baby diapers.

Through 2016, the fastest growth for nonwovens will be in the nondisposables markets where demand will accelerate from a reduced 2011 base. Nonwovens demand in most nondisposables markets was sharply impacted by the 2007-2009 recession, marked by declines in construction activity and motor vehicle production, and reductions in manufacturing levels of many durable goods.  Construction—the largest nondisposables market for nonwovens—will post double-digit gains, fueled by a recovery in building construction, providing opportunities for nonwovens in house wraps, roofing products, and geotextiles. 

Improved construction spending will also promote nonwovens growth in carpets and rugs, the market which is projected to post the fastest gains, nearly doubling by 2016. 

The sharp increase in value demand is due mostly to an acceleration in volume growth. This represents a turnaround from the performance of the 2006-2011 period, during which time carpet and rug shipments in the U.S. declined sharply.  Advances will be supported by increased production of carpets and rugs in the U.S., driven by a strong rebound in new housing completions, as well as favorable gains in nonresidential building construction.  Nonwovens demand will also benefit from an increase in market penetration in motor vehicle carpets.  While area demand will benefit from greater use in vehicle carpets, volume will be limited as motor vehicle producers increasingly require lower weight components in order to raise fuel efficiency of the finished vehicle.

Disposables markets will continue to account for the largest share of sales, representing 68% of nonwovens demand in 2016.  Sales will benefit from nonwovens’ high market penetration in disposable consumer products, which accounted for one-third of the total disposables market in 2011.  US demand for nonwovens in the consumer market is forecast to expand 3.6% per year to $1.5 billion in 2016.  Advances will benefit from gains in area demand, driven by favorable growth in the production of personal hygiene products and wipes in the U.S.  The U.S. will remain a large market for various consumer products due to favorable demographics, and manufacturing of these products will likely remain near the point of demand.  Among disposables markets, the fastest growth is expected for filters, with nonwovens gaining market share at the expense of paper and woven fabrics. 

In 2011, spunmelt nonwovens (spunbonded and meltblown) accounted for the largest share of U.S. nonwovens demand, comprising 57% in square yardage terms and 55% by value.  Gains will be driven by good growth opportunities in the large spunbonded materials segment.  Demand for spunbonded materials is highly impacted by growth in personal hygiene products and disposable medical items, two of the largest outlets for this material.  In these applications, spunbonded nonwovens are valued for their high strength-to-weight ratio.  The smaller meltblown nonwovens segment will be promoted by their increased use in filtration, as well as steady gains arising from their use in electrical, electronic, and automotive products.

In 2011, carded nonwovens accounted for the second largest share of US nonwovens demand, comprising 27% in square yardage terms and 29% by value.  These nonwovens find use in a variety of products, including wipes, medical products, and filtration media, as well as various durable goods. 

In 2011, the remainder of nonwovens demand was dedicated to airlaid and wetlaid types.  Demand for airlaid nonwovens is highly impacted by trends in the personal hygiene and wipes markets.  In addition to favorable growth in these end products, airlaid nonwovens are benefiting from expanded use in these products due to technological advances.  Wetlaid nonwovens will experience favorable gains, benefiting from their use in glass fiber and spunlaced wetlaid nonwovens in nondisposables applications. 

With the increasing interest in custom produced nonwovens, as well as ongoing efforts to optimize the cost and performance characteristics of nonwoven roll goods, trends in the use of various raw materials are particularly important.  Because they account for the majority of a nonwoven fabric’s composition, the various fibers used to form the fabric account for the largest share of materials consumed by volume.  Additional materials such as binder resins and additives are also essential components of many nonwovens.  In certain applications, however, the selection of the fibers can negate the demand for binder resins altogether through thermal or mechanical bonding processes.

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