2016 Nonwovens Sales: $440 million
Ralf Berens, CCO
Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, U.S., China
Air through bonded, chemical bonded, needlepunch, hydroentanglemened, airlaid
Hygiene, automotive, building, living, filtration, healthcare, cleaning
TWE Group continues to drive sales upward thanks to innovation in the hygiene market, expansion in automotives and developments in the roofing and construction market. In 2016, the company’s sales reached a record $440 million, up from $435 million in 2015.
TWE’s role in the North American automotives market has seen considerable growth since June 2015 when TWE established a local manufacturing base through the acquisition of Vita Nonwovens, a company once owned by British Vita and a former sister company Libeltex, a European-based company acquired in 2012. The purchase included manufacturing sites in Texas, North Carolina and Indiana and has allowed TWE to capitalize on shared competencies within the two companies. TWE has already added at least one line in North America and is constantly upgrading its operations there.
According to CCO Ralf Berens, the U.S. operation is split fairly evenly between bedding and automotive applications. For automotives, technology and innovation are the two key elements for growth in the segment. “Especially in seating applications, new requirements are emerging,” he says. “The average person spends 100 minutes per day in the car so the experience should be optimized. The seat needs to be more comfortable, the climate needs to be more controlled. There is a lot of development work to be done and nonwovens are meeting the need.”
At TWE, the automotives business is second only to hygiene, representing about 20% of turnover. Berens expects this growth to continue throughout 2017 thanks to proprietary nonwovens technology, which allows TWE to replace existing materials in places like seating and structural parts.
Another benefit is TWE’s ability to offer natural fiber-based nonwoven products for the automotives market thanks to the 2014 acquisition of Isowood a German nonwovens company. Products made in this part of the company can replace plastic-based products offering not only environmental benefits but also increased stability and lower weights.
Within its largest business, hygiene, TWE has been benefiting from developments in absorbent core technology. The latest of these, Amphibia is a three-layer material ideally with no pulp but high performing superabsorbent polymer creating a core fused to an acquisition distribution layer. Amphibia combines an ADL with the absorbing all-in-one core, allowing for an ultrathin diaper that offers better performance in terms of absorbing time, rewet and distribution of the liquid thanks to optimum SAP usage. The material does not require additional adhesive, additional cutting or the addition of a further layer, since Amphibia is already made up of all the necessary components.
“This is on the right trend here, which shows things are getting thinner, offering higher performance and giving customers advantages,” Berens says.
According to Berens, the use of Amphibia has been strong in the European hygiene market and is currently rolling out to the rest of the world.
TWE’s hygiene business is largely based on a proprietary air-through bonded technology, which TWE acquired along with Libeltex, a Belgium-based nonwovnes producer with plants in France, Belgium and Sweden, According to Berens, the Belgium operation will be expanded with a new air-through bonded line next year.
Outside of the core, the use of air through bonded nonwovens is finding home in other parts of the diapers as manufacturers continue to respond for a need of ultrasoft products. TWE’s new Softcover product line is meeting this demand. In cooperation with selected fiber producers, Softcover reportedly sets completely new standards in the field of softness thanks to specialized fiber formulations.
“We are seeing good opportunities for through air and supersoft products—it is a trends coming from Japan so we see good opportunities for us for our hygiene business because we offer supersoft materials, which means little friction, softness and performance,” Berens says.