Suominen


Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $76 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Kari Parviainen, president and chief executive officer; Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, marketing, sales and business development; Esa Palttala, vice president, production and materials management; Margareta Huldén, vice president, product and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer, finance.

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical (wound care)

The year 2001 was characterized by slightly lower sales brought on by a dip in capacity for Suominen Nonwovens (formerly J.W. Suominen Oy), Nakkila, Finland. The company’s sales came in at $76 million compared to $80 million in 2000.
 
The capacity decrease was brought on by the closure of the company’s older thermal bonding line, but Suominen is currently upgrading its existing thermal bonding and spunlacing lines. “We have been modernizing our spunlace lines and this will boost our capacity in this segment, which is our core business,” explained managing director Kari Parviainen.
 
The additional spunlaced capacity will mainly target the wipes market, which Mr. Parviainen described as the most important segment for Suominen. Other key markets for the company’s spunlaced business include medical and hygiene applications. Currently about 80% of the company’s output is spunlaced, an area that Suominen helped pioneer 15 years ago. The remaining 20% is in the thermal bonded area, where the main focus of the business is backsheets for hygiene items. Suominen also offers a coextrusion coating option through one of its thermal bonding lines to produce textile-like backsheets for hygiene applications.
 
The modernization and improvement project was the result of careful observance of the European nonwovens industry, where an oversupply situation and increased competition are key issues, according to Mr. Parviainen. “We have really upgraded and modernized our spunlaced capacity to maintain our leadership position in Europe. We chose not to invest in a new line but to instead improve what we currently have to be competitive,” he explained.
 
In 2001, the company’s spunlaced business was down slightly because some of its machines were shut down for a portion of the year to be modernized and this temporarily led to lower outputs. Now that the modernization project is complete, Suominen expects its spunlaced sales to take off on the heels of a growing wipes market, both in Europe and North America. “Supply has increased, as has competition,” Mr. Parviainen explained. “But, this modernization has led to increased quality, improved runnability and increased capacity, which should help us move forward.”
 
Future growth will also be heralded by innovation. Suominen’s research and development team has been concentrating on providing more functionality to spunlaced materials used for wipes. The result is a layered product that contains polypropylene and features excellent liquid release and absorbing properties, according to Mr. Parviainen.
 
By geography, the majority of Suominen’s sales are currently conducted in Europe but North America and the Far East are also important to the company, which currently operates one plant in Nakkila, Finland.
 
In terms of raw materials, Mr. Parviainen said that prices were generally stable during the first half of 2001, but prices for oil-based materials such as polypropylene and polyester fell during the second half. Suominen continues to manufacture its own polypropylene in-house and, with the addition of a new production line in 2001, is able to produce all of its polypropylene internally. “This allows us the advantage of tailoring the fiber properties to the needs of our end use products,” Mr. Parviainen explained.
 
Looking ahead, Suominen will continue to concentrate on increasing sales and improving its profitability. Much of this success is expected to come with the strength of the wipes market in Europe and North America.
 
“The main area we are focusing on is spunlaced because we are strong in that area,” Mr. Parviainen said. “We are putting more effort there, and that should improve the quantity and the quality. The future will be challenging, but we are ready for it.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $84 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, Esa Palttala, vice president, Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging and Webbing products; Margareta Huldén, vice president, products and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer of finance, Suominen Non­wovens: Teppo Lainio, production director, Kari Granfors, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

A 5% sales increase and a 15% earnings jump added up to a successful year for Nakkila, Finland-based Suominen Nonwovens. Roll goods sales were $84 million million compared to $76 million million last year. Operating profit was approximately $11.5 million.
 
These promising results, which were achieved despite fluctuating pricing levels and increased competition, were mainly due to increased efficiencies as well as a capacity upgrade program by which the company’s existing production lines, in both the spunlaced and thermal bonded segments, were upgraded. “Thanks to modifications, product quality rose, runnability of the lines improved and capacity increased,” explained Esa Palttala, vice president of Suominen Corporation, responsible for nonwovens.
 
The plan to upgrade the company’s four spunlaced lines and four thermal bonded lines was begun in 2001 and is expected to be complete sometime this year. This modernization project was chosen over a plan to install a full-fledged production line. Executives felt that, while some additional capacity was needed, a full line would bring Suominen into an overcapacity situation.
 
Currently about 80% of nonwovens output is spunlaced where main markets include wipes, healthcare and medical. Of particular interest to this portion of the business has been honing the technology to meet the needs of the market. “We are continuously developing new products to meet customers needs,” Mr. Palttala explained. “Research and development is extremely important to differentiate yourself in this market.”
 
While a great deal of spunlaced capacity is currently coming onstream in Europe, increased demand is meeting this capacity. Much of this demand continues to be caused by a proliferation of wiping products in Europe and around the world. “Baby wipes, the segment that began this boom, has leveled off, but now newer segments are growing like personal care, home care and industrial wiping throughout Europe, North America and Southeast Asia,” Mr. Palttala added.
 
The remaining 20% of Suominen’s output is thermal bonding, although this technology was reduced somewhat in 2001 when an older line was closed. Some of this capacity was replaced, however, through the aforementioned modernization program. This market has lately been characterized by competition from spunbonded materials, particularly in topsheets for hygiene items. Suominen has been examining niche areas such as feminine hygiene and adult incontinence for these products to recoup some of its losses.  
 
Suominen’s total nonwovens output is currently produced at its plant in Nakkila, Finland. While further expansion plans have not been made, executives have admitted that it would make sense to expand outside of Finland in the future. In terms of geographical penetration, the majority of sales are conducted within Europe but other important markets include the U.S. and Japan.
 
For now the company will continue to focus on aligning its new business organization, which was begun in March 2003. As a corporation, Suominen is now comprised of three major areas, nonwovens, flexible packaging and webbing products. Each is responsible for its own operation but supported by common product and process development, purchasing, logistics and financial performance. “Suominen’s operations are based on a lean organization,” Mr. Palttala explained. “By lean, we mean that Suominen seeks to minimize purely administrative functions. Management must take place close to the actions on a level of everyday operations.”
 
Currently the nonwovens segment is the largest of the three areas, comprising more than half of sales. Suominen will continue to focus on its core areas of wipes, health care and medical applications, to continue growth, particularly in Europe.
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $87.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, Esa Palttala, vice president, Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging and Webbing products, Margareta Huldén, vice president, products and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer, finance.
Suominen Nonwovens: Teppo Lainio, production director, Kari Granfors, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

A 13% drop in 2003 nonwovens sales for Suominen Nonwovens can reportedly be blamed on price competition in the market for spunlaced nonwovens. While demand for these products, mainly from the European wet wipes market, continued to grow, new players lessened Suominen’s marketshare. Additionally, sales of thermal bonded nonwovens for the hygiene and healthcare markets declined.
 
This lower capacity utilization across Suominen’s production lines in Nakkila, Finland led to uneven production loads for a part of the year, which ultimately impacted profits. This situation, however, was resolved by the end of the year.
 
Still, for the first six months of 2004, nonwovens sales at Suominen continued their decline due to weak pricing. Net sales dropped 4% to E37.9 million. These lower costs could not offset increased sales volumes of hydroentangled wiping products caused U.S. gains and substantial increase in the sales volumes of hygiene and healthcare products.
 
In October 2003, Suominen acquired Dutch wet wipes converter Codi International, the third largest wipes manufacturer in Europe. This acquisition has allowed Suominen to move forward with its strategy of wet wipes manufacturing, an area in which it previously supplied nonwoven roll goods. The Codi acquisition is now an independent business area called Suominen Wet Wipes, which is worth about E60 million. According to Codi’s financial statements for 2002, nets sales were E85.2 million while operating profit was E6.7 million. It has an average staff of 346 employees. Sales are split between baby care products and personal hygiene and household cleaning wipes.
 
Currently about 80% of nonwovens output is spunlaced and  main markets include wipes, healthcare and medical.  
 
The remaining 20% of Suominen’s output is thermal bonding, although its capacity was reduced somewhat in 2001 when an older line was closed. Some of this capacity was recouped through the aforementioned modernization program. This market has lately been characterized by competition from spunbonded materials, particularly in topsheets for hygiene items. Suominen has been examining niche areas such as feminine hygiene and adult incontinence to regain marketshare.
 
For now, the company will continue to focus on aligning its new business organization, which began with the Codi Acquisition. As a corporation, Suominen is now comprised of four major areas: Suominen Wet Wipes, Suominen Nonwovens and Suominen Flexible Packaging Group. Webbing Products, formerly its own division, has been integrated into other business operations.  Each is responsible for its own operation but supported by common product and process development, purchasing, logistics and financial performance.
 
Currently the nonwovens segment is the largest of the three areas, comprising more than half of sales. Suominen will continue to focus on its core areas of wipes, health care and medical applications, to continue growth, particularly in Europe.
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $93.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging; Pekka Rautala, vice president, Wet Wipes Business Unit, Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, CFO
Suominen Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, commercial director, Teppo Lainio, production director, Margareta Huldén, product and process development director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Novelin

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

Net sales decreased 3.2% to €75 million last year despite increased volumes for Suominen Nonwovens, Nakkila, Finland. The decrease was blamed largely on cost competitiveness among wipes producers in the European market as well as an upturn in the private label market. This decrease follows a more substantial 13% drop in nonwovens sales reported in 2003, which was blamed on the entry of new players into the company’s core markets.
 
“Private label markets have been a major part of market growth, but at the same time they have driven prices down,” explained Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens.
 
Nearly 80% of Suominen’s nonwovens output centers on spunlaced technology for the wipes market, which has been plagued by increased capacity in Europe particularly in recent months. Despite this, the company was able to grow sales in this segment thanks largely to gains in the U.S. market, which has not yet seen the capacity surge reported in Europe. However, with several new production lines scheduled to come onstream in the short term in the U.S., executives are concerned that overcapacity could become an issue. Furthermore, Suominen, which produces 100% of its nonwovens in Finland, could have trouble competing with U.S.-made goods. Still, the company has nothing to announce concerning U.S. operations at this point,  according to Mr. Palttala.
 
“You have to be sure that you can really make profitable business before this kind of strategic decision,” he said. “We are very pleased with our business in North America and we can serve our customers from overseas for the time being.”
 
Instead of adding new lines, in fact, Suominen has been relying on a line modernization program to increase its nonwovens output. Just by improving and debottlenecking its four existing spunlaced lines, the company could increase its capacity by up to 20%, according to Mr. Palttala.
 
Earlier this year, Suominen combined its nonwovens business with its wet wipes unit, which it purchased from Codi International in October 2003. The integration is reportedly intended to allow the company to more effectively use the operational synergies formed by the two units, Wipes and Nonwovens, as well as Flexible Packaging. The wet wipes business will supply wet wipes to international brands and private label customers while the nonwovens business unit will manufacture nonwovens for wipes, hygiene and health care companies. Integration will be furthered by using Suominen’s own nonwoven material and product applications.
 
This is another step forward in Suominen’s strategy of forward integrating into wipes manufacturing. Last year, the business was hit by reductions in sales volumes and prices, causing sales to drop 15.7% to €81.3 million. According to Mr. Palttala, this loss will be recouped as the company continues to work toward forming more partnerships with retail chains to compensate for some of its branded customers’ loss in marketshare.
 
“We are trying to improve cost efficiency by concentrating on the number of products we offer,"" Mr. Palttala said. “Wipes are the majority of our business and they have been plagued by slower growth but now we are trying to regain marketshare and achieve future growth in baby, personal and household markets.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $85 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging; Pekka Rautala, vice president, Wet Wipes Business Unit, Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, CFO. Suominen Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, commercial director, Teppo Lainio, production director, Margareta Huldén, product and process development director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Novelin

For Suominen Nonwovens, net sales dropped 9% to $85 million in 2005 compared to $93.5 million in 2004 as sales volumes were affected by challenges to branded wet wipes manufacturers in Europe. “Both the trend in sales prices and continued strong rises in the prices of oil-based raw materials and energy eroded financial performance,” said Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager.
 
By technology, thermal bonded nonwovens lost ground to alternative materials in hygiene products resulting in a clear sales decline while volumes in spunlaced nonwovens were slightly better than the previous year. Despite saturation of spunlace in the European market, Mr. Santa-Paavola said wipes is still an important and viable business for Suominen, whose spunlace operation accounts for roughly 80% of its sales. “On the horizon of the spunlace business there is still new light in sight, mainly due to growth of its current product range and geographical expansion,” he said
 
While Europe remains Suominen’s primary market, the upswing in the usage of spunlaced nonwovens in the U.S. wipes market has meant good news for Suominen, particularly as the U.S. spunlace market is not as saturated at Europe’s.
 
“The U.S. is an important export market for us, Europe being Suominen’s main market area. Growing demand of spunlace in the U.S. has been positive news for the whole nonwovens industry. With the help of Suominen’s logistics solutions we have been able to act as a local supplier in the U.S.”
 
Suominen recently completed a debottlenecking project of its spunlace operation, increasing its capacity by 20% and allowing the company to efficiently process lighter nonwovens. Also to this company’s advantage is its ability to offer its customers individual products by having a large variety of PP, PET, PLA, viscose, cellulose pulp and cotton blends as well as a number of finishing techniques.
 
“Suominen’s wet wipes business is successfully rounded but there is still room for improvement. Integration is evolving according to previous plans,” Mr. Santa-Paavola added.  Three years ago, Suominen forward-integrated into wet wipes production with the acquisition of Codi International, a Dutch wipes converter. In 2005, this unit produced about 100 million packs of wipes and net sales decreased by one-fifth. Challenges here included structural changes in retail business as well as generally slower growth in the marketplace.
 
In summer 2005, Suominen complete the final stages in the construction of a new product facility for wipes and since then all production lines have been operating at full capacity. In 2006, having finished rationalization measures, Suominen’s wet wipes business has begun to restore profitability. The target is to retain the marketshare lost during 2004-2005 and achieve growth particularly in personal care wipes but also in baby and household cleaning wipes, according to Mr. Santa-Paavola.
 
Much of this recovery has been achieved through research and development. “Suominen is constantly investing in product and process development to be able to offer its customers more innovative products and solutions. Pilot lines for each production technology (PP fiber, thermal bonding, hydroentanglement, converting and multi-layer film) makes it possible to run all development stages in house.
 
“By making good use of our competitive R&D, and raw material and process variations, we are able to offer our customers individual products. Close and continuous cooperation with customers and suppliers ensures that new and innovative ideas are brought to the market quickly.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $84.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Kalle Tanhuanpää, president and CEO, Suominen; Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager Margareta Huldén, product and process development director, Henri Laitervo, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Sales remained flat at €67.3 million for Finnish nonwovens manufacturer Suominen Nonwovens in 2006. The maker of spunlaced and thermal bonded nonwovens reported sluggish sales during the first half of the year followed by increased demand during the third and fourth quarters. This trend has continued into 2007 with first quarter sales clocking in 6% higher than the first quarter of 2006, according to Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager. “We have made a lot of efforts to be successful and grow our sales and we have been successful,” he said.
 
While Suominen’s spunlace business has been growing steadily on wipes demand, the other portion of its business, thermal bonded has been marked by slow growth and slackened demand in recent years but this situation is changing, said Mr. Santa-Paavola. “It seems that there is a demand for thermal bond in the higher end of the feminine hygiene market, and it has been easy for us to create a product that meets the denier requirements and other demands of this market.”
 
Suominen is constantly making improvements on the quality and production levels of its equipment to make sure that it gives customers the ability to differentiate products.
 
Meanwhile, Suominen’s spunlace business continues to grow thanks to increased wipes demand. In this technology area, Suominen operates four lines, all in Nakkila, giving it the flexibility to manufacture a variety of different products using a number of finishing techniques and raw material types. This year, Suominen will add the ability to hydroentangle cotton through the addition of a more sophisticated water filtration and recycling system. This move responds to increased interest among marketers and consumers of wipes in cotton.
 
Flexibility with raw materials has also helped ease the burden of volatile raw material costs for Suominen. While industry watchdogs predict that viscose pricing levels have plateaued, at least for the time being, few expect costs will drop, meaning that companies throughout the spunlace supply chain have had to accept new pricing structures. “Pricing has become more accepted,” Mr. Santa-Paavola said. “Customers are now valuing things like strong research and development and service and not considering price as the first thing.”
 
Raw material innovation, in fact, has led to the creation of a new wipe substrate—called Biolace —made from natural or renewable fibers such has viscose, cotton, pulp and PLA, which is produced from corn starch during a fermentation process. Biolace represents a first step toward a new single-use and disposability mentality, according to the company. By combining raw materials from renewable re­sources with Suominen’s unique energy-saving production processes and providing nonwovens able to biodegrade 100% in available municipal compost facilities, Suominen is offering a new alternative to the wipes market.
 
Biolace is just one part of Suominen’s corporate-wide environmental consciousness. In its Flexible Packaging division, a stylish matte film that includes lime as filler and enables users to write on the surface with a normal ballpoint pen is available, while in the Wipes division, a wet wipe lotion using more environmentally friendly ingredients is offered.
 
Speaking of Wet Wipes, this portion of its business—acquired from Codi International in 2003—continues to perform well despite severe price competition in the European wet wipes market. Suominen Nonwovens’ contribution to this business continues to grow as well and collaboration between the two divisions has enhanced the company’s ability to meet its customers’ demands.
 
“Our company structure is different from that of our competitors,” Mr. Santa-Paavola said. “We are a one-stop shop to our customers with our Flexible Packaging division and our wipes converting business. This gives us a benefit in the speed we can complete all of the steps because everything is coming from one place.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $104 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO; Paul-Erik Tolvo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wipes and Nonwovens; Sakari Santa-Paavola, general manager of Suominen Nonwovens; Peter Kolster, general manager, Suominen Codi Wipes; Olaf van Stempoort, director of sales, Suominen Wipes; Henri Laitervo, director, marketing and offering management, Suominen Wipes; Mikko Pellinen, vice president and general manager of Suominen Flexible Packaging

Plants
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001; 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Nonwovens sales were up significantly for Finland’s Suominen Corporation thanks to strong demand in North America as well as continued demand in Europe for its spunlaced nonwovens. Meanwhile, the company’s thermal bonded businesses—a supplier of coverstock material for hygiene items—remained flat.
 
With sales of  €77 million and a sole operation in Nakkila, Finland, Suominen is content with its status as a smaller supplier of thermal bonding as well as a maker of specialty, binder-free nonwovens that can be tailor-made to meet the needs of any wiping or cleaning application.
 
“In thermal bonded, we have a smaller share and we know we are not a major player but we are fine with that status,” said Henri Laitervo. “In spunlace, demand is still strong and there is enough business to go around.”
 
Having avoided making “plain vanilla” spunlace nonwovens, Suominen has been able to escape much of the pricing pressures facing this market and has instead offered a value-addded substrate for wipes manufacturers looking for a customizable material. In addition to its Fibrella spunlace brand, last year the company introduced Biolace, which is made from natural or renewable fibers such as viscose, cotton, pulp and PLA, which is produced from corn starch during a fermentation process. Biolace represents a first step toward a new single-use and disposability mentality, according to the company. By combining raw materials from renewable resources with Suominen’s unique energy-saving production process and providing nonwovens able to biodegrade 100% in available municipal compost facilities, Suominen is offering a new offering to the wipes market.
 
This combined with the introduction of its Amerfeel film and an environmentally friendly wipe lotion has enabled Suominen to offer its customer a fully eco-conscious product. In fact, this ability to be a one-stop shop—achieved through synergies between its nonwovens, wipes and flexible packaging divisions—is one of Suominen’s strongest selling points. Currently, Suominen Wet Wipes consumes about €9-10 million, of 15%, of Suominen nonwovens’ total sales.
 
Speaking of wet wipes, this portion of Suominen’s business, based in The Netherlands, continues to perform well, comprising about 32% of the company’s total sales. As wipes growth is expected to continue at levels ahead of the GDP, executives expect its wipes buiness to.
Location: NAKKILA, FINLAND


Sales: $107 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO of Suominen Corporation; Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping; Mads Kiilerich, director operations of Suominen Nonwovens; Margareta Huldén, director products

Nonwovens Plants
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001; 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Reporting a slight sales decline was Finland’s Suominen Nonwovens, a maker of spunlaced and thermal bonded nonwovens. While deliveries of thermal bonded hygiene materials as well as demand for wound care products increased, sales of spunlaced nonwovens felt pressure from North American suppliers.

Despite this, the company describes the spunlace market as encouraging. “The demand for our premium products was satisfactory,” said vice president and general manager Paul-Erik Toivo. “We could benefit from our long-time focus is on innovation and quality, partly offsetting the impact for the general slowdown in the marks during the last quarter of 2008.”

Suominen Nonwovens has responded to these slowdowns by streamlining its product portfolio, launching new valued added production and producing only against customer orders. Helping more so, Mr. Toivo explained is the long-term growth trajectory present in the wipes market. “Our customers are actively exploring new solutions and concepts in many segments, accordingly we see our business developing favorably also in the future.”

The bulk of Suominen’s spunlace output targets the wipes market and the company has chosen to play on the high end of this market with innovative products. One of these is Biolace, Suominen’s 100% biodegradable spunlace material launched two years ago, which continues to do well as things like sustainability and environmental friendliness are becoming increasingly important for everyone. “As a responsible producer, our aim is to provide customers and end users with products that meet their demands while using all raw materials and other sources as efficiently as possible. We also work hard to reduce the amount of energy and water used in our production processes and we recycle our waste. Our customers share our vision for a more eco-friendly future.”

Other innovations include price competitive spunlace with reasonably lower basis weights as well as launches of new materials in Suominen’s Fibrella spunlace range based on proprietary customer projects. “Quality will be further emphasized in our business proposition,” said Mr. Toivo. “Our state-of-the-art pilot lines are highly appreciated by our customers and a core element in our joint innovation efforts.”

The other portion of Suominen’s business, thermal bonded nonwovens, falls under the Novelin brand name. These nonwovens serve markets as a surface material in a variety of hygiene products. While marketshare in general been declining in Europe for the past several years, sales have been stable in 2008 and Suominen is exploring new applications for its thermal bonded products.”

“The production process at Suominen Nonwovens is constantly developed and our cost-base is continuously streamlined. Recently-made investments to our production lines have improved our cost competitiveness further,” said Mr. Toivo. “All this, in conjunction with our strive for innovation and increased customer proximity, makes us well positioned for profitable growth.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $72 million

Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO of Suominen Corporation; Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping; Juha Jokinen, director sales of Suominen Nonwovens; Mads Kiilerich, director operations of Suominen Nonwovens; Margareta Huldén, director products of Suominen Nonwovens Plants

Plants
Nakkila, Finland

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Karelin, Novelin


Sales clocked in at €57 million for Suominen Nonwovens, a Finnish producer of thermal bonded and spunlaced nonwovens. The drop in volume was partly due to lower volumes in eastern markets and above average deliveries to the North American market in 2008 compared to 2009. Additionally, the lower cost of raw materials impacted the topline correspondingly as nonwovens manufacturers were not able to use the lower cost of raw materials to their benefit in a manner that contributed to the company’s overall long-term profitability.
Despite this drop, executives described 2009 was a very good year financially as its efficiency improved and working capital was reduced. As Suominen’s active sale work and rapid product innovations allowed it to develop new business during 2009. Nonwovens also improved its production efficiency through various small investments and proactive development work.
Other key efforts included inline and machine upgrades, increased sales efforts and improved employee competencies, said Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping. “We are supplying the market with emphasis on added value products and these have clearly performed better compared with low quality and lower price products.”
With a good percentage of its business represented by spunlaced nonwovens, success or failure in disposable wipes is largely tied to Suominen’s results. According to Mr. Toivo, customers in this segment have been able to manage their businesses well even as private labels continue to challenge brands, resulting in slowly eroding retail values per pack and the subsequent need for cost engineering and target oriented innovation.
“One could almost say there is a kind of polarization in the market, whereby premium products are doing well, as are low cost ones but products positioned somewhere in the middle are facing difficult times,” Mr. Toivo said.
Looking ahead, Mr. Toivo predicted that pricing pressures in spunlace will only continue in Europe as new capacity additions continue to come onstream, adding to an already existing overcapacity situation in the market.  However, demand will continue to increase, solving this issue, as the benefits of spunlace will allow it to target new markets.
One of the ways Suominen is achieving this is through a modernization plan, which not only added capacity to its operation, but also improved its quality and efficiency by cutting energy and water costs, which are sustainable benefits in line with Suominen’s environmental concept.
Speaking of environmental concepts, a few years ago, the company added a Biolace range of sustainable products, which are all the time attracting more interest and demand. Other value added products include embossing, alternative raw material blends as well as a continuous development of new substrates. “This close cooperation with our customers is catering to their needs via specialty products and is one of the key elements in developing Suominen’s nonwovens business further.”
These efforts have also allowed Suominen to expand beyond wipes, most notably in the wound care segment. “We have attracted new customers and are currently working on new products for this market,” Mr. Toivo explained. “The challenge the market faces is the increasing competition from “ready to sell” products supplied from among others China.”
In addition to spunlace, Suominen continues to operate a modest thermal bonded business where it is seeing a rebound with demand for value added products. One recent development, Karelin, includes new varieties for thermal bonded products that satisfy the needs for active skin care performance on top of fulfilling the basic needs of the material.
According to the company, Kareline, which is available in basis weights ranging from 18-35 gsm, is ideal for baby care, fem hy and incontinence products where it can bring softness and textile-like feel to the end products, minimizing the feel of plastic. Additionally, Karelin can be tailored to customer needs. This can be done, for example, by adding soothing and caring agents as well as antibacterial and odor-free features. Karelin can have either a hydrophilic or hydrophobic nature.

Nakkila, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $131 million

Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Juha Jokinen, vice president, Business Development, Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Innovation, Technology & Investments

Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain; Paulinia, Brazil (scheduled to become part of Suominen in the third quarter of 2012)

Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled

Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene

In 2011, Suominen Nonwovens transformed itself from a small, one-site nonwovens manufacturer into the world’s largest maker of spunlaced nonwovens with sites spanning the globe. This transformation was achieved through the purchase of Ahlstrom’s former Home and Personal Care, or wipes, business in a €170 million deal.

With manufacturing assets in Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina, Brazil, Finland, Spain and Italy, Ahlstrom’s wipes business reported sales of about €291 million per year, more than four times Suominen’s 2010 nonwovens sales which were reported at €59.1 million.

While the deal (excluding the Brazilian operation) did not close until late October, Suominen Nonwovens sales already received a nice bump in 2011, increasing from €59.1 million to €102 million ($130 million) last year. Pro forma sales for the period are estimated at €375 million ($485 million).

“The acquisition will virtually quadruple the size of the business adding significant volumes in North and South America and Asia, as well as in Europe and the Middle East,” says Alistair Brown, director of marketing and communications. “We cannot make an estimate of 2012 sales but we anticipate retaining and growing the business of both the merged companies.”

The wipes market remains highly competitive, globally, but at the same time, shows volume growth of between single and double figures in various geographies around the world, Brown adds. “By remaining flexible in our operations and providing products to our customers, wherever they are in the world, from geographically spread locations we expect to keep Suominen Nonwovens at the forefront of the global nonwovens wiping market and to extend its presence in other segments.”

As it works to integrate two businesses, Suominen has already had to take some measures to improve performance. In June, the company announced it would close two lines at the original Suominen site in Nakkila, Finland, where it would also streamline administrative and support staff, impacting about 76 employees. According to executives, these measures will impact one thermal bond and one spunlace machine and lead to a write down of about €3 million, which will result in improvement of the site’s overall profitability.

“As part of our announced Summit Program, instigated to return our business to profitability, we made a decision to streamline our Nakkila operations in order to improve this situation and, at the same time, to make our total operational platform more ideally suited to meeting our global customers’ volume demands,” Brown explains.

Meanwhile, all of the acquired plants are operating as planned. The Mozzate, Italy, plant experienced the temporary closure of one production machine as a result of a fire, but it is back to business as usual. Due to bureaucratic difficulties, the acquisition of the Brazilian site has been delayed, but executives expect to complete the phase of the purchase by the end of the third quarter.

The combination of Suominen and Ahlstrom brings together a number of brands, including Hydraspun flushable substrates and Biolace eco-friendly nonwovens. The integration of these brands has been seamless, reflecting Suominen Nonwovens’ strong presence and activity in the sustainable nonwovens market segment. The company will continue to support, grow and develop these brands throughout the world. As for technologies, the acquisition of the Home and Personal Business area from Ahlstrom has been completely complementary to Suominen Nonwovens, according to Brown, and, in no way, duplicates available technologies. “Additionally, the technical and operational expertise from both sides has melded very well to use experience in different technologies to jointly develop all our operational and new product development activities,” he adds.

This joint expertise will help Suominen Nonwovens—as the needs of its customers change—strive to create sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to customers’ needs and to seek increasingly effective products. In fact, Suominen’s total global growth strategy revolves around its corporate guiding principles of trust, expertise and partnership.

“In combination with flexible, global operations and the broadest range of technologies and processes available from any company in the wiping arena, we are confident that we have all the right resources in place to make our growth strategy achievable,” Brown concludes. “Suominen Nonwovens is the leading global manufacturer of nonwovens for wipes and we will continue to strive to remain so. Our expertise in nonwoven technologies will also allow us to look at other market segments where that expertise and our assets enable us to produce differentiated and value-adding new products.”
Nakkila, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $602 million
 
Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Karen Castle, vice president Sales North America; Saara Soderberg, vice president, Business Development, Marketing and Innovation; Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas and HSE; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Technology Development & Investments.
 
Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain
 
Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled
 
Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene
 
Sales climbed for Suominen in 2012 as it continued to integrate Ahlstrom’s former home and personal business, which was acquired in 2012. Not only has this acquisition brought Suominen’s sales up to $602 million, it has propelled it to the top of the nonwovens industry, making it the largest maker of spunlaced materials for the wipes market.
 
“This rapid growth was not without its own challenges,” says director of marketing and communications, Alistair Brown. “The creation of what was effectively a whole new company included a crucial task to merge a mix of international company cultures.”
 
In its new form, Suominen, which is based in Nakkila, Finland, operates three nonwovens plants in the U.S. in Wisconsin, Connecticut and South Carolina, and others in Brazil, Italy, Spain and Finland, a considerable change from the one-site producer it was prior to the acquisition.
 
“The integration comprised also the retention and development of customer relationships around the globe. Becoming truly global after being mainly focused on Europe was another important step in the process of creating New Suominen,” says Brown. “Significant markets, such as the U.S. and Asia, were reassured by a global marketing campaign to support Suominen Nonwovens statement of, ‘Now the biggest name in nonwovens for wipes.’”
 
As the biggest producer of nonwovens for wipes, Suominen this year launched the “We Love Wipes” campaign to strengthen its understanding of the need of consumers and consequently ensure it is better able to serve its customers and increase the share of the higher value added products in its portfolio. Bolstered by a campaign hub website at www.welovewipes.com as well as a variety of social media activities, We Love Wipes also aims to raise the overall awareness of wipes and the wide range of uses for them.
 
“Innovation at Suominen is not just about products but about changing the way business is done and challenging traditional long-held views. The market is very dynamic and it is clearly in our interest to become faster to market with the right products. This is one aspect we aim to further improve, with the support from the consumers, the genuine experts of wipes,” says Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president of Suominen Nonwovens at the time of the campaign launch.
 
On the new product front, in April Suominen launched Exodus and Hercules Nonwovens for personal care and industrial applications as part of its strategy to strengthen its share of the higher value-added products. Both products provide customers with a quality performance in industrial and household wipes and contain cellulose and synthetic fibers, a combination that ensures optimized strength and absorbency with dimensional strength.
 
“Despite its toughness, Hercules Nonwoven has a soft, cloth-like feel, which makes it perfect also for cleaning hands quickly and conveniently while working. Both are available in four basis weights.
 
“We are always improving nonwoven product characteristics in such areas as texture, feel and cleaning through enhancements to the technologies we use in our processes,” Brown says.
 
Another area strong on Suominen’s radar is flushability. In June, the company said it would invest €2.5 million to increase the production capacity of Hydraspun substrates, some of which are defined as flushable by industry guidelines developed by INDA and EDANA, the industry associations.
 
“Suominen is constantly looking at the markets in which it operates,” Brown says. “Where we see opportunity to add value with nonwoven products will determine where we take our future offering.”
Helsinki, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2013 Nonwovens Sales: $515 million

Key Personnel
Nina Kopola, president and CEO; Tapio Engstrom, senior vice president,CFO; Timo Hiekkaranta, senior vice president, convenience; Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, care; Hannu Sivula, senior vice president, HR; Mimoun Saim, senior vice president, operations EMEA, Larry Kinn, senior vice president, operations Americas; Margareta Huldén, vice president, R&D; Saara Soderberg, vice president, marketing and product management; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, technology and investments; Dan Dunbar, vice president, sourcing, Timo Rautakorpi, vice president, CIO; Anu Heinonen, vice president, corporate communications and investor relations.

Plants
Bethune, SC, U.S.; Green Bay, WI, U.S.; Windsor Locks, CT, U.S.; Paulínia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain

Processes
Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC

Major Markets
Wiping, medical, hygiene

The July 2014 divestment of its flexible packaging business unit made Suominen a company completely devoted to nonwovens. As a leading producer of nonwovens for wipes, Suominen is now fully concentrated on executing its nonwovens strategy, according to CEO Nina Kopola, and a significant part of this strategy is growing its business in areas with increased value-added; both beyond wipes and in the specific segments in wiping.

These efforts were well illustrated by Suominen’s announcement in September 2013 that it would reshape its corporate structure, dividing its nonwovens unit into two business areas, Convenience and Care. The larger of the two units, Convenience, generating some 90% of the company’s net sales, focuses on serving customers mainly in wipes but also in travel and catering segments while the Care business area targets customers in medical and hygiene segments.

“Reshaping the company structure and operating model is an essential and, at the same time, logical step in the strategic path we have chosen,” Kopola said at the time of the restructuring announcement. “Among other important objectives, we seek to speed up our capability to create new business and launch new products with higher value added to the market. We will, on top of our leadership presence in wipes, actively utilize that current position with new and exciting products to strengthen our share in the medical and hygiene segments as well. In May, Lynda Kelly joined Suominen as senior vice president for Care business area, adding strong expertise and experience in medical and hygiene business in Suominen’s management.”

Suominen also continues to reinforce its globally leading position in the wipes business. Also in wiping, the company seeks to increase the share of products with higher added value, for instance through investing in the growth of flushables. In spring 2014, Suominen completed its investment in the capacity increase of flushable nonwovens in its Windsor Locks, CT site in the U.S. Further, the company expanded the flushables manufacturing collaboration with Ahlstrom at their Stalldalen, Sweden plant.

In March 2014, Suominen announced that its Hydraspun Dispersible Substrates  flushable technology, which was first developed in the late 1990s, had passed the third generation flushability assessment protocol jointly developed by INDA and EDANA. This protocol was introduced in 2013 and allows products to claim flushability in wastewater systems. At INDEX14, Suominen also launched a new registered logo to depict to consumers the flushability of Hydraspun substrates. Suominen continues to take various measures in order to retain its leadership position in this segment.

On the new product front, in May 2014 Suominen launched Biolace Skin to the home spa market. This range of nonwovens can be used in home spa applications such as facial sheet masks, cosmetic pads, patches and exfoliation sheets. The new product Biolace Skin was developed in cooperation with Austrian company Lenzing AG using their Tencel Skin fibers with unique nano fibril structure. The combination of Suominen’s nonwovens technology and Lenzing’s Tencel Skin fibers has resulted in a product that has a smooth and silky touch, flexibility and high strength to maintain facial shape and excellent lotion management.

Another example of the company’s activities outside of its traditional wipes is the introduction of Novolino nonwovens for tabletop products in February 2014. This range of substrates brings a new dimension to the tabletop market. With its soft and silky touch, Novolino nonwovens offer users a disposable alternative to traditional linen or other textile napkins.

“The demand for nonwovens for wiping, medical and hygiene applications is high in volume and enjoys a healthy growth globally, driven by megatrends such as middle class growth, aging of the population and urbanization,” says Kopola. “There are however differences in both regional demand and supply and thus in the balance of the two. The spunlace supply in Europe continues to exceed the regional demand. As a result, margins in oversupplied markets like Europe tend to be tight for the entire supply chain.”

Suominen became a leading maker of nonwovens for wiping applications in the world in 2011 when it acquired the assets of Ahlstrom’s home and personal business area in North America and Europe; and reinforced this position when the acquisition of Ahlstrom’s Brazilian operations was finalized in 2014. The deal provided Suominen with a foothold in a new, dynamic market region.

“We remain very committed to the wipes market,” Kopola says. “The reasons for this are clear—it is a healthy, growing industry. There are continuous possibilities for expansion and we have a long history serving this market.”
Suominen Corporation
Helsinki, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2014 Nonwovens Sales: $442 million

Key Personnel

Nina Kopola, president & CEO and acting senior vice president, Convenience; Tapio Engstrom, senior vice president, CFO; Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care; Hannu Sivula, senior vice president, HR; Mimoun Saim, senior vice president, Operations EMEA; Larry Kinn, senior vice president, Operations Americas; Margareta Huldén, vice president, R&D; Saara Soderberg, vice president, marketing and product management; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Tech. & Investments; Dan Dunbar, vice president, Sourcing, Timo Rautakorpi, vice president, CIO; Anu Heinonen, vice president, Corp. Communications & Investor Relations

Plants
Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Windsor Locks, CT; Paulínia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain

Processes
Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC

Major Markets
Wiping, medical, hygiene

Sales continued to climb upward at Suominen as the company initiates its ambitious growth strategy across all of its businesses. The largest supplier of nonwoven substrates to the global wipes market, Suominen is currently underway with one large-scale investment in North America and smaller endeavors in Spain, Finland and Brazil to help support growth in all markets–in wipes, medical and hygiene applications.

In 2014, the company’s sales hit a record €402 million. Suominen’s executives have stated that through successful execution of its strategy, Suominen would become a company with net sales of roughly €500 million by the end of 2017. To realize this scenario, the company seeks to increase both its sales volumes and the share of products with higher value-added in its portfolio.

“It is good to keep in mind that we indeed grew slightly faster than the market in 2014, even though our main focus was elsewhere—in corporate transformation, building of shared company culture and improving profitability,” says president & CEO Nina Kopola. “The outcome of our diligent work to execute strategy and transform the company was also reflected in Suominen’s operating profit, which increased to €26.9 million.”

One of the key milestones for Suominen in 2014 was the finalization of the acquisition of a Paulínia facility in Brazil from Ahlstrom, a deal that was announced along with the rest of the acquisition of Ahlstrom’s Home & Personal business in 2011 but took longer to execute than the businesses in North America and Europe. Already, Suominen is underway with a plan to expand this plant’s product offering to strengthen its position in the South American wipes market and to enable supply also to medical and hygiene markets.

“The country’s economy may struggle today but we do see Brazil and the entire South American market as an attractive market offering promising opportunities for growth,” Kopola says. “The acquisition provided us a foothold in this huge market region and it further enhances our capability to serve our global customers.”

In new product news in this region, Suominen introduced Fibrella Perf, a new range of apertured substrates for the South American medical markets.

Suominen is investing considerably in North America, which remains Suominen’s largest market—accounting for some 60% of sales—with plants in Connecticut, Wisconsin and South Carolina. In May, the company announced it would add a new wetlaid line in Bethune, SC, initially targeting household, industrial and flushable wipes market. The installation of the new line, which represents the biggest single investment in Suominen’s growth investment program, will be complete in late 2016.

Increasing Suominen’s share in key markets and growing the share of products with higher value-added materials in its portfolio are at the heart of company’s strategy for coming years. Moreover, Suominen is also seeking growth through adding capacity.
One area of considerable focus is flushable nonwovens. In addition to the new line under construction, the company added capacity in this segment in Windsor Locks, CT in 2014. Moreover, Suominen has expanded its manufacturing co-operation with Ahlstrom’s Ställdalen plant in Sweden and continues to allot considerable research and development efforts to this market.

Efforts made in product development bore fruit in January 2015 when Suominen launched the next generation product to its flushable category. Hydraspun Dispersible Plus is a substrate that breaks up more than three times faster than the standard Hydraspun Dispersible and clearly passes the INDA/EDANA 3rd edition flushability assessment test protocol. Suominen has filed a patent for the range of products.  

“There is a strong consumer demand for flushable products that supports the favorable market development,” says Saara Soderberg, vice president, Marketing & Product Management. “I believe the best way for the industry to secure the business in the future is to comply with the flushability assessment test protocol and to support consumers by educating them on what is flush-friendly and what not to flush. We are confident that our range of flushable nonwovens, which we keep developing, continuously meets not only consumers’ needs but also the expectations of the municipal water systems,” she adds.

Following the divestment of its Codi Wipes and Flexible Packaging businesses in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Suominen is now entirely focused on nonwovens. In the very beginning of 2014, the company split itself into two business areas—Convenience, which represents today 92% of sales and includes the substrates for wiping applications; and Care, which comprises approximately 8% of sales and includes nonwovens for medical and hygiene markets.

“We have determinedly shaped Suominen into a 100% nonwovens company through acquisitions and divestments during the last four years,” Kopola says. “Clear focus provides us more resources to concentrate on what we are good at—developing and supplying nonwovens for customers in wiping, medical and hygiene sectors. The rationale behind the organizational renewal in the beginning of 2014 was to provide space for the growth of Care business area.”

Spunlace technology, which is central to Suominen’s operations, has promising opportunities to grow its share in selected segments within medical and hygiene, Kopola  adds. “The soft, cloth-like feel of spunlaced nonwovens makes it a perfect material for all end uses close to the skin.”

One new area for Suominen is the global hygiene market, which the company is targeting with a wide range of products including  Fibrella Lite, a range of lightweight spunlace products that meet the exacting requirements for a light yet stretchable materials for absorbent hygiene products.

Meanwhile, for the home spa market, Suominen is selling materials  under the Biolace Skin brand and was developed in cooperation with cellulose fiber maker Lenzing. The range consists of nonwoven substrates, featuring unique attributes for applications like facial sheet masks, cosmetic pads and patches. These products can help bring the professional spa sensation to consumers in the comfort and convenience of their own home.

The development of these new product brands fall in sync with Suominen’s growth strategy. “The product brands mentioned above, together with all new products we have recently introduced to the market, bring added value to the customer and have, therefore, an essential role in our strategy, as we aim to increase the share of products with higher added values in our portfolio,” Kopola says. “In general, new products—that we have more in the pipeline—also take us step by step closer to our vision of becoming a market driven product leader.”
Helsinki, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2015 Nonwovens Sales: $492 million


Key Personnel
Nina Kopola, president & CEO; Tapio Engstrom, senior vice president, CFO; Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care; Ernesto Levy, senior vice president, Convenience; Hannu Sivula, senior vice president, HR; Mimoun Saim, senior vice president, Operations EMEA; Larry Kinn, senior vice president, Operations Americas; Margareta Huldén, vice president, R&D; Saara Soderberg, vice president, marketing and product management; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Tech. & Investments; Dan Dunbar, vice president, Sourcing, Timo Rautakorpi, vice president, CIO; Anu Heinonen, vice president, corporate communications & investor relations.

Plants
Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Windsor Locks, CT; Paulínia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain

Processes
Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC

Major Markets
Wiping, medical, hygiene


In the midst of a three-year global growth strategy, Suominen continues to aim at growth as it awaits the completion of a major U.S. investment as well as smaller upgrades in Europe and South America. The manufacturer of primarily spunlaced nonwovens, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, began its three-year global growth strategy in the beginning of 2015. The company originally announced it would invest €30-50 million in this program but in August 2016 the company reevaluated the scope of the total program, estimating that its total value may exceed €60 million due to an unexpectedly rapid increase in labor costs in South Carolina, among other things. Key tenets of the program, which is designed to help Suominen deliver superior value in select market areas and hopefully drive its sales upward to roughly €500 million before its completion, include the construction of a new line dedicated largely to nonwovens for household and workplace use as well as flushable substrates in Bethune, SC as well as upgrades to its sites in Alicante, Spain and Paulinia, Brazil.

In 2015, Suominen’s sales continued to climb, increasing 10% to  €444 million, thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar. With sites in the U.S., Europe and South America, Suominen continues to focus on new product development and investment—in both its sites and its people—to achieve growth.

“We definitely focus on research and development through investment in talent and processes bringing new products to our customers,” explains Saara Söderberg, vice president, marketing and product management.

Currently, Suominen operates through two business areas: Convenience and Care. Convenience is by far the larger of the two business areas representing about 92% of sales in 2015 and comprising Suominen’s global wipes businesses. Care, meanwhile, includes Suominen’s activities in the hygiene and medical markets. While it represented just 8% of the company’s global sales in 2015, a strong focus on new product development should help Suominen grow this business in coming years.

“In wipes we are an established player but in hygiene and medical applications, we are a relative newcomer,” Söderberg says. “But we are seeing spunlace providing a nice substitute for spunbond nonwovens in some areas of the diaper—not in the backing or in the core but in the surface areas that touch the skin.”

Within this segment, Fibrella Move nonwovens was launched in October 2015 for the global hygiene market. The material uses state-of-the-art forming, bonding and finishing technologies, offering a major step forward in fluid acquisition and management for feminine hygiene and other absorbent hygiene applications.

“Fibrella Move is another new statement product from Suominen which raises the bar of expectations for materials in the construction of absorbent hygiene products,” says Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care. “This launch is a further step in our company’s vision to offer new, high performance nonwovens in our care business, meeting the important standards of our converters and consumers.

Meanwhile, in the medical arena, Suominen has introduced three new Fibrella products. Fibrella Zorb and Fibrella Zorb+ bring added value benefits to the critical care environment and Fibrella Perf is a range of nonwovens for wound care and gentle cleansing with an aperture structure that makes them soft and skin friendly.

Back in its core business, wipes, Suominen has focused on balancing its portfolio within this market. Its largest market for wipes, baby wipes, represented 38% of wipes sales last year, and the company would like to see growth come from other wipe products like personal care, household or industrial.

As part of its efforts to fuel growth in these markets, in April, Suominen launched suominen@work, a product line designed to serve manufacturers of workplace wipes—used in places like restaurants, healthcare facilities and factories. “The key to a good workplace wipe is to provide the user with a time-saving solution that delivers required functionality and provides tangible cost savings in use,” says Eileen Calder, product manager for the workplace market segment.Another category strong on Suominen’s radar is flushable wipes. The company has been offering a product to this category, under the brand name Hydraspun since the 1990s and has worked to continuously improve the technology ever since. In early 2015, the company introduced Hydraspun Dispersible Plus, which breaks up more than three times more quickly than the standard Hydraspun Dispersible substrate, according to the company.

Suominen’s optimism over this technology and the market it serves has best been illustrated by the construction of a new wetlaid in Bethune, SC, which is on track to be installed by the end of this year.  According to Suominen, the new wetlaid line, which represents the lion’s share of the company’s growth investment program, will take wetlaid technology to a totally new level in the industry, providing customers with a unique advantages by adding exquisite capabilities for designing nonwovens substrates. This will allow Suominen to increase its share of products with high added value, which is a key component of its growth strategy.

The new line would provide a broad basis weight range and extend from nonwovens made of 100% cellulosic fibers to reinforced composite products and 100% synthetic fiber products—their features being anything from dispersible to durable.

In other investment news, Suominen has upgraded plants in Paulínia, Brazil and Alicante, Spain. In Brazil, an existing line has been upgraded to expand its role in the South American wipes market and diversify its product output for the hygiene and medical markets, while in Spain the investment is targeted at medical and industrial wipes applications.