Any growth ins a market that is as developed as North America is impressive, but the fact that this market continues to be strong is not news to avid industry observers. While adjacent markets, like traditional textiles, have struggled in recent years, nonwovens continues to be strong as foreign companies continue to find ways to get closer to their customers in the region.
Another bright spot is an increase in both imports and exports, which both grew more than 12% after decreasing in 2017. However, it looks like exports will start trending downward while imports start increasing, which has been the case over the past five years.
While some markets for nonwovens do look for discounted products made outside of the U.S., for the most part, it does not make sense to ship these materials around the world and nonwovens tend to stay where they are produced.
It is with this in mind that several European- and Asian-based nonwovens producers have opted to start production in the region in recent years. Most recently, Fibertex Nonwovens purchased a spunlace facility from Mogul Nonwovens as part of its effort to expand its relationships with U.S. customers. The company already had a production site in Illinois but the Mogul site, which is located in South Carolina, has lots of room for expansion.
Like Fibertex Nonwovens, other European leaders like Sandler, Fibertex Personal Care, McAirlaids, Albaad and Norafin have recently expanded their operations in North America and these investments follow an already impressive period of growth in the region. According to INDA, the North American nonwovens industry added 663,000 tons of capacity between 2012 and 2017, allowing the materials to expand their presence in existing areas like hygiene and wipes and target new areas like transportation.
Therefore, the health and the strong prospects for growth of the nonwovens industry cannot be denied and while new line announcements have slowed, for now, the new lines coming onstream will surely open up new opportunities for manufacturers or nonwovens and their customers.