2014 Nonwovens Sales: $731 million
Dante Parrini, chairman and CEO; John Jacunski, executive vice president and CFO; Christopher Astley, senior vice president & business unit president, Advanced Airlaid Materials; Martin Rapp, senior vice president & business unit president, Composite Fibers
Canada, Germany, France, UK, Philippines
Glatfelter continues to make progress in both increasing earnings and marketshare within its engineered fibers-based businesses. The company manufactures wetlaid nonwovens for food and beverage and wall covering applications through its Composite Fibers business unit (CFBU) and airlaid nonwovens for the feminine hygiene, adult incontinence and specialty wipes through its Advanced Airlaid Materials business unit (AMBU). Last year, total nonwovens sales were about $731 million.
Glatfelter’s Advanced Airlaid Materials business unit reported its best year since being acquired from Concert Industries in 2010 and has steadily improved its performance. Last year’s sales were $281.7 million, an increase of 5% over 2013 thanks to demand for airlaid in the adult hygiene and specialty wipes market, particularly in North America. Meanwhile its profits increased 18% during the same period.
According to the company, the majority of airlaid sales, 77%, are done within the feminine hygiene market to a handful of customers, but in 2014 adult incontinence sales charted the most growth, from $5 million to $17 million thanks to the successes of a major customer.
In 2015, Glatfelter plans to introduce a product specifically for the adult care market, and executives said that hygiene markets in general continue to be the best match for Glatfetler’s airlaid technology.
“Our Advanced Airlaid Materials business will continue to focus on new product development and innovation to support our existing core hygiene markets, as well as penetration of adjacent markets,” says Christopher Astley, senior vice president & business unit president, Advanced Airlaid Materials. “This will complement our continued efforts to support more efficient and effective production and delivery of our products to customers. Given its unique functional qualities as well as its use of highly sustainable and biodegradable cellulose fibers, we expect the application of airlaid to continue to grow in both developing and emerging regions of the world.”
Glatfelter operates five airlaid lines in Germany and Canada, which together make about 100,000 tons of materials of nonwovens per year. While the market has repeatedly been described as tight, so far Glatfelter has made no plans to add another line and is instead focusing on optimizing its current production levels to increase volumes.
“As one of Glatfelter’s platforms for growth, Advanced Airlaid Materials continues to evaluate both organic and inorganic growth opportunities in the marketplace,” Astley says.
One significant opportunity is in core materials. Last year, Glatfelter began promoting its eCore engineered core and Icore integrated core materials within the hygiene market. Both are pulp-based airlaid substrates that contain as high as 85% superabsorbent polymer (SAP) and create an end product that is significantly thinner and more discrete than existing diapers and other absorbent devices while reducing costs associated with SAP spillage.
The product offers a much more efficient use of powders. It reduces usage of SAP by as much as 20% due to reduced spillage, uniform distribution of powder and improved free-swell. “Innovation continues to be a key capability of our Advanced Airlaid Materials business and we continue to develop and refine material platforms that will be useful to our customers and their markets,” Astley says. “Both our eCore and iCore platforms are aimed to support the global hygiene markets as customers seek to differentiate themselves in the broader marketplace.”
With lines in North America and Europe, Glatfelter has recently taken some steps to broaden its reach in Asia where hygiene growth, estimated between 7-12% depending on the subregion, is outpacing more developed regions. Glatfelter has opened a full-fledged sales and representative office in China, where it currently has several employees assessing the market and developing relationships with customers in the region. So far no plan for a manufacturing investment in this region has been announced.
“As we consider opportunities for growth, Advanced Airlaid Materials continues to evaluate a number of emerging markets, including Asia,” Astley says. “As disposable income and consumer education increase, we expect broader growth in emerging markets will continue. Contemplating growth in emerging markets will be balanced with the opportunities we believe still exist in the more developed markets of the world.”
Turning toward Composite Fibers, this business unit makes wetlaid nonwovens for applications in the food and beverage market as well as the wall covering market. In 2014, sales decreased slightly in food and beverage but increased sharply in wall coverings, a market Glatfelter entered in 2013 through the acquisition of Dresden Papier, a leading producer of nonwoven wallpaper-based materials. Based in Heidenau, Germany, this business operates a state-of-the-art 60,000 metric ton operating facility solely dedicated to wall coverings. In 2014, wall covering sales contributed nearly $150 million to Glatfelter’s total revenues.
Acquisitions like the airlaid business and Dresden Papier are in sync with Glatfelter’s strategy of exposing itself to grow businesses and boost its share of its engineered and fiber-based businesses, which now represent about half of sales. The next leg in this strategy will reportedly be expansion into the dispersible wipes market. The company is reportedly investing $4 million in developing a substrate to target this market through its Composite Fibers business.