Things began to change a few years ago when Fiberweb sold its hygiene business to Fitesa and then its industrial business to PGI, thus dissolving itself. This made room for Ahlstrom in the top five.
For the past couple of years, the names among the top five producers have remained the same—even if the order has not. PGI last year edged out Freudenberg for the top spot thanks to years of heavy acquisitions and investments. DuPont dropped a little after selling off its Sontara business to Jacob Holm in 2014. Kimberly-Clark and Ahlstrom have held steady.
However, as we look ahead, changes could definitely be in sure for the top 5. DuPont has announced a merger with Dow Chemical that will ultimately split the two companies into three separate companies. It’s too soon to say what this will mean for its nonwovens business as Dow is a supplier to nonwovens. PGI was recently bought by films maker Berry Plastics, which means shake-ups could be ahead for this company.
K-C is always hinting at sourcing more of its nonwoven eternally which could lead to slower than expected growth, while Ahlstrom’s sales have been flat or down recently.
Meanwhile, looking at the other companies in the top 10, Fitesa has been extremely aggressive with its expansion plans. Last month, the company announced yet another spunmelt line–this time in Germany—adding to already announced lines in Sweden, Mexico and Brazil. Considering the size of these spunmelt lines—and the large volumes that the hygiene market can provide—we can expect Fitesa’s sales to start climbing. Also in expansion mode in Glatfelter. The airlaid producer has announced a large North American investment set to come onstream in 2017 that could significantly drive up its sales.
The rate of investments, mergers and acquisitions in the Nonwovens Industry has been intense these past couple years. That, along with the industry’s strong growth potential, particularly in developing markets, should mean a lot of changes for the who’s who among nonwovens producers looking forward.