2018 Nonwovens Sales: $1.4 billion
Hans Sohlström, president and CEO; Sakari Ahdekivi, deputy CEO and executive vice president; Omar Hoek, executive vice president, specialties; Fulvio Capussotti, executive vice president, filtration and performance
Belgium: Malmedy; Brazil: Louveira; China: Binzhou, Longkou; Finland: Karhula, Mikkeli, Tampere; France: Bousbecque, Brignoud, Orleans, Pont-Audemer, Saint-Severin; Germany: Osnabrück, Bärenstein; India: Mundra; Italy: Turin, Fabriano, Russia: Tver; South Korea: Hyon Poong; Sweden: Ställdalen, Falun; U.K.: Chirnside, Radcliffe; U.S.: Bethune, SC; Madisonville, KY; Mt. Holly Springs, PA; Taylorville, IL; Windsor Locks, CT
Wetlaid (Trinitex), microglass, nanotechnology (Disruptor), composites, creping/micrexing, spunmelt/spunbond, parchmentizing, coating, calendaring
Transportation filtration, diagnostic filtration, water filtration, wall coverings, building, automotive, food packaging, beverage, medical, flooring and masking tape
Ahlstrom-Munksjö was created in 2017 through the merger of nonwovens specialist Ahlstrom and specialty paper manufacturer Munksjö to create one of the largest fiber-based companies in the world. With a strong focus on sustainability, 92% of the company’s business is based on natural fibers and its nonwovens business largely targets filtration, food and beverage, wall coverings, medical and building markets.
In 2018, the company’s Filtration and Performance business unit reported sales of €672 million compared to €665 million the prior year with growth attributed mainly to higher selling prices.
According to the company, demand for its filtration products was solid globally across all product segments in 2018 with continuing growth in the truck and passenger vehicle fleets. Growth was particularly strong in the industrial end use segment in response to stricter regional regulations and higher air quality standards, several new products and product improvements, which were launched during the year.
In June 2018, the company announced it would invest about €28 million to expand manufacturing capacity and product capabilities to help grow its filtration business. The project, which includes adding capacity in Turin, Italy, and rebuilding and modifying existing sites in Malmedy, Belgium, and Ställdalen, Sweden, will be complete during the first half of 2020.
The investment will add capacity in Turin, Italy, and support growing demand for high end filtration materials. Turin is already Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s largest plant globally and this investment will further consolidate the company’s position as one of the leading global platforms for high-performance filtration material development and production. Meanwhile, the improvements in Malmedy, Belgium, and Ställdalen, Sweden, will allow the sites to develop unique filtration solutions for industrial applications.
In recent years, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has made a number of investments in filtration. In July 2017, the company announced it would add capacity in Turin, Italy, to meet demand for engine and industrial filtration media, which will significantly increase the company’s ability to answer the current and future needs of its filtration customers.
This investment follows a similar investment in Madisonville, KY, valued at €23 million, which was announced in October 2016. It was scheduled to be complete during the first half of 2018 and helped the company strengthen its focus in North and South America.
Meanwhile, in response to demand for filtration media in South America, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has taken the first step toward a potential capacity expansion plan in Louveira, Brazil, by acquiring a piece of land adjacent to its existing plant. The Louveira plant, which is in the San Paolo region of Brazil, employs about 110 people and makes filtration media for transportation and industrial applications. Next up will be steps to further reinforce it global leadership in filtration with a particular focus on growth in China.
Also included in Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Filtration and Performance Segment is building and wind, where the company has unique technology suitable for the flooring industry. Thanks to its strong customer relationships, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has established a solid market position in the glass fiber tissue-based flooring market globally and is evaluating growth opportunities.
In 2018, the first product from the new product platform High Flow reinforcement fabric was launched, a carbon fiber fabric for high performance applications in wind energy and marine end uses. Market demand for reinforcement fabrics stayed good, although markets for the standard quality fabrics segment, particularly for wind mill applications, remained very competitive.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s other nonwovens related business unit, Specialties contains the company’s food packaging, beverage casing and medical businesses. In 2018, sales in this segment reached €580 million. According to reports, growth in demand for genuine vegetable parchment papers continued and profitability of the product segment remained good. In 2018, ramp-up of the new parchmentizer line in September was successful at the Saint Severin plant in France. The new line meets the growing demand for sustainable alternatives for cooking and baking papers, pan liners, trays and molds. Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s parchment papers are made out of cellulose fibers with no chemical additives and most of its variants are biodegradable and certified home compostable.
In the single-serve coffee market, Ahlstrom-Munksjö is a niche supplier with a leading position in the sustainable and compostable segment in Europe and making good progress on the U.S. market. It has also seen success in the tea bags and coffee pod markets with a sustainable product offering, and its fibrous meat casing market showed steady growth. The trend towards plastic-free, compostable and sustainable products accelerated in 2018.
In 2018, Ahlstrom-Munksjö enforced its position in this segment by modernizing its production platform in the beverage and casing business through the purchase of a second-hand Voith paper making line. The state-of-the-art line will be dismantled and transferred to Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Chirnside, U.K., site where the company already has extensive knowledge in the manufacturing of tea and coffee filter paper and fibrousmeat casing materials. The machine should be fully operational by the end of this year.
The new production line will strengthen product capabilities and, combined with Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s extensive offering of biodegradable and compostable solutions, enables growth in the attractive tea and coffee markets. The investment addresses also the constrained capacity situation in all three segments; coffee, tea and casing, and enables the company to respond to growing end-use demand.
In the tea bag materials market, where sustainable and plastic free alternatives are driving demand, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has a leading position with its Fiber+ offering, which is a plastic-free and compostable solution made without oil based heat seal fibers.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s medical business, particularly the market for high performance barrier protection, continued to show strong growth while the market for commoditized sterilization wrap materials remained competitive. However, thanks to market expansion and renewed trust from an existing customer base, 2018 was a successful year for the sterilization wrap segment in Europe, showing growth above market levels.
Within medical, the company offers a range of products based on spunmelt technology for basic performance, or with added properties like anti-static for medium performance and alcohol repellent for high performance and comfort as well as breathable viral barrier (BVB) fabrics, which are tri-laminates consisting of a spunmelt outer and inner layer with a breathable monolithic film layer.
Last fall the company launched its next generation BVB surgical fabric, ViroSel, which is constructed for the most critical areas of a surgical gown designed to keep medical professionals protected and comfortable. “We leveraged our decades of experience to create a fabric that can be reliably used to make the most protective and comfortable surgical gowns on the market,” Melanie Burakouski, global market development manager, says.