At present, the annual growth of consumption of nonwovens in Germany is varied in the range of 2-3%, which is, however, significantly less compared to developing countries.
The German market for nonwovens currently remains one of the world’s most competitive, as the share of high performance products currently accounts for 30-35% of the local market, which is the highest figure in the European Union and one of the highest in the world.
Currently the share of high performance products continues to grow, which is driven by the ever-growing demand for them from some of the country’s high-tech industries.
This current trend is confirmed by some of the leading German producers and local analysts.
“A variety of different nonwoven technologies (needlepunched, saturated, thermally bonded, spunlaced, stitchbonded, high-loft nonwovens, etc.) are currently widely used for the manufacture of high performance (HP) nonwovens,” says Detlev Käppel, Tenowo GmbH, one of Germany’s leading producers of nonwovens. “The nonwovens are utilized in conjunction with different core material substrates such as PUR or Melamin based foams, impregnated cotton shoddy felts, hybrid fiber blends (inorganic and/or natural fibers), or high-loft nonwovens.”
Similar to other EU countries, the greated demand for nonwovens in Germany is currently coming from manufacturing and construction, as well as automotive sectors of the country’s national economy.
But growth is also being seen in a majority of market segments, including hygiene (essentially consumer, disposable products) and industrial (durable) products.
In the case of the automotives industry, the demand from local automakers for nonwovens has significantly increased in recent years. One of the major features of the German market is the active use of nonwovens in this industry, and in particular in exterior and interior applications.
Due to the ever-growing demand, local producers are planning further expansion.
In the case of Tenowo, it is planning to become a leading player not only in the domestic market, but also worldwide. Its current global expansion plan, which was announced a few years ago, totals about €50 million ($63 million), and involves modernization and expansion of its production facilities in Germany, the U.S. and other EU countries.
At the same time the company has plans to continue expansion in the promising Chinese market.
Until 2009, Germany was the dominant producer and exporter of nonwoven fibers in the EU, however, in recent years it has faced fierce competition from the U.K., France and other Western European countries.
In terms of structure, up to 65% of the German market for nonwoven fabrics accounted for industrial products, while the remaining materials tarted hygiene appications. Capacity utilization from the industry is currently estimated at about 90%, which is comparable to the figures of other Western European states.
The German nonwovens industry remains largely fragmented with a variety of manufacturers ranging from large corporations to small privately owned companies. Though in recent years the industry has seen much consolidation, with the acquisition of smaller companies by large players.
Ever-growing production costs currently remains one of the major problems for the German nonwovens industry, which forces many producers to cut their investment plans and revise their investment programs.
In addition to domestic producers, the German market in recent years has become a subject of expansion from some multinationals.
For example, the U.S.’s Hollingsworth & Vose plans to expand NanoWave filtration media production capability in its plant in Hatzfeld, Germany, to support the rapid growth in demand for high performance filter media.
According to a spokesman from Hollingsworth & Vose Germany, Germany’s subsidiary of the company, thanks to a strong automotive industry, the demand for nonwovens is growing. In recent years the demand has shifted from woven fabrics—from tufted carpets—to needlepunched nonwovens, due to the cost and weight factors and fuel economy. There is a possibility that this trend will continue to be observed during the next several years.