2014 Nonwovens Sales: $442 million
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
Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Windsor Locks, CT; Paulínia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain
Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC
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.”