2016 Nonwovens Sales: $350 million
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Martin Mikkelsen, CEO; Finn Schoning, group vice president, Finance; Andy Uhl, COO Jacob Holm, Paul Marold, COO, Sontara
Asheville, NC; Soultz, France; Old Hickory, TN; Asturias, Spain
Sontara, hydroentanglement/spunlace, composites
Sontara Softesse, JetSpun, Softlite, SoftFlush, a.o.
Personal care, home care, hygiene, medical, specialty, technical, industrial
After spending the last few years in expansion mode—adding a large, new line in Candler, NC, and acquiring the Sontara business from DuPont—Jacob Holm is now focusing on unifying its businesses, developing a single presence and communication message to its customers. Central to this strategy is a new tagline, “Magic Meets Fabric,” which replaces “Art of Nonwovens,” and represents the essence and soul of what the company is about, according to CEO Martin Mikkelsen. “There is something mystical about Jacob Holm and we wanted to try to synthesize this,” he adds. “We have some really strong brands and we will continue to invest in them.”
One area where this investment continues to pay off is in the flushable wipes segment, where the company’s new U.S. line continues to reach new frontiers, allowing Jacob Holm to launch SoftFlush Fast, which is creating a new standard in flushability with products that break up like toilet paper but are strong like consumer wipes.
While flushability is considered a strong growth area for Jacob Holm, the company has a major presence in most wipes categories across the consumer and industrial markets, particularly in critical applications where the value or performance of the product exceeds price considerations.
In 2016, Jacob Holm expanded its key market segments from five to six with the addition of High Performance, which included durable or technical applications for its spunlace materials. Holm’s existing market areas include consumer, wipes, beauty, critical cleaning, healthcare and hygiene.
While the addition of a new segment shows how Jacob Holm is looking to new markets like automotives, filtration and construction for its spunlace output, wipes continues to be its most important market, representing about 80% of sales.
“We have no intention to give up our position in wipes,” Mikkelsen explains. “In fact, we will continue to maintain it with continuous innovation.”
Baby wipes continues to represent the largest market with the largest base, and it is also growing the most quickly. However, beauty care, where Holm offers a complete range of facial wipes, body care products and masks—is growing in importance.
With manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, Spain and Tennessee, as well as the North Carolina site, Jacob Holm is well positioned to serve markets globally and high growth geographies and emerging markets are high on the company’s radar, even as new spunlace capacity comes onstream around the globe.
“The addition of spunlace capacity around the globe is a testament of the superiority that spunlace offers in terms of its ability to combine fiber blends, gsm’s, finishes and more while still being able to compete with other technologies when it comes to price,” Mikkelsen says, adding that there are some new-to-the-world innovation areas where spunlace has never been used on the horizon.
“Both the team and the company is ready for the next growth stage,” he adds. “We are ready to explore our options and see what is a good fit,” he says.
Whether this growth comes through acquisition or capital investment remains to be seen. “There is a time and place for both investment and acquisition when it comes to global expansion, “ Mikkelsen says. “The opportunity to disrupt markets with new technologies are typically best achieved with organic growth; however, geographical segment expansion is where we see the best opportunities. A combination of these two is usually the best way.”
As it moves forward, Jacob Holm will continue to move in the same prudent manner it did when investing in North America and developing new technologies, making sure its decisions are the right ones for the both the company and the market it serves.
“It took a long time to get to the Softflush technology but I think the consumer will agree that it was worth the wait,” Mikkelsen says.