2016 Nonwovens Sales: $380 million
Green Bay, WI (two facilities); Gaston County, NC; Steinfurt, Germany
Baby wipes, industrial and food service wipes, feminine hygiene, absorbent cores, tabletop, medical, moist toilet tissue, meat packaging
Sales improved significantly for Georgia-Pacific following the acquisition of fellow airlaid maker Buckeye Technologies in August 2013. Not only did the purchase add about $225 million in nonwovens sales as well as a significant pulp business to G-P, it also made it the world’s largest maker of airlaid with sites in North Carolina in the U.S. and Germany. As a result of the merger, Georgia-Pacific acquired all of the outstanding stock of Buckeye Technologies, including ownership of its manufacturing facilities—both nonwovens and pulp—global sales offices and headquarters. Employees of Buckeye Technologies (approximately 1200) are now employees of Georgia-Pacific as Buckeye becomes a wholly owned subsidiary.
Buckeye was established in the 1900s as the cottonseed cursing division of Procter & Gamble. It was bought out by management in 1993 and had an initial public offering in 1995.
In the early 2000s, Buckeye added a 50,000-ton-year “super” airlaid machine in North Carolina and struggled with supply and demand issues for several years following this investment. These struggles ultimately led to the company closing manufacturing sites in Delta, British Columbia, Canada and Cork, Ireland, and executives have described the nonwovens business as healthy in recent years.
Meanwhile, G-P’s existing airlaid assets are located exclusively in Green Bay following the divestment of its Italian airlaid business in January 2012. The company has been owned by Koch Industries since late 2005 and continues to operate a sizable business in North America.
While it is certainly best known for its paper and tissue businesses in both the retail and away-from-home sectors, the Atlanta, GA-based company also is one of the world’s most successful users of airlaid technology. Its output targets both its own end product business as well as external businesses in the baby wipes, industrial and food service wipes, feminine hygiene, absorbent core, tabletop, medical, moist toilet tissue and meat packaging segments.
Meanwhile, G-P’s nonwovens business, which centers on airlaid technology, has continued to perform well by improving its production and reducing costs despite challenging raw material prices. The company benefitted from existing contracts put in place before raw material prices escalated, which kept their impact in check.
Additionally, G-P has been successful in unearthing new market segments for its airlaid technology that had been using other materials. These markets were typically using technology that was more expensive than airlaid but the company was able to show how pulp can perform just as well at a lower cost, according to executives. Successful efforts included reduction in emissions, improved wastewater treatment systems and improved energy efficiency.