New market opportunities, technological advancements, international strategies and flexible production are helping the field of specialty papers and their converted products maintain steady growth in the global economy. So says Dr. Graham K. Moore, consultant with Smithers Pira. Moore opened the two-day Specialty Papers USA 2018 technical conference last month in Appleton, WI.
Some Converting Curmudgeon bullet points-of-interest:
- The global specialty-papers market is estimated at 24.7 million tonnes today and forecast to reach
26.98 million tonnes in 2022 – up about 2.2% a year.
- New market opportunities for specialty paper-based products include luxury packaging (jewelry, liquor, fragrances); high-end/custom printing; security documents; and barrier-treated papers for specific packaging applications.
- As technological changes further influence end-use markets, demand for some products will increasingly decline (cheques, photographic paper, etc.). Product development cycles must become shorter to exploit potential new business.
- Increased M&A activity is changing the nature and makeup of the specialty-paper field. Note the 2017 merger of Ahlstrom and Munksjo; Neenah Paper's buy of Coldenhove, and Sappi's purchase of Cham Paper. And in 2018, the sale of ArjoWiggins' paper divisions to Fineska BV, and Glatfelter selling it specialty-paper business to private-equity firm Lindsay Goldenberg.
- Many specialty-paper mill suppliers and converters are increasingly international in their outlook and strategy and, through acquisition, are becoming more multi-national.
- Geographically, China is the growth leader and will replace the US as largest specialty market before 2022, making up almost 10% of global sales. Chinese growth and demand is expected to continue in many end-use applications.
- Packaging-related end uses remain the largest and fastest-growing market. Flexible packaging will continue to lead with nearly a 21% share by volume in 2022. Specialty-paper labeling will be the second-largest application in the sector with a >7.5% share.
- Successful specialty mills must maintain flexible production and cultivate strong relationships with converters who have the most direct contact with end users.
- The role of third-party technology providers will increase to the benefit of all.
The Specialty Papers USA 2019 event will be held at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, WI, on Sept. 30-Oct.2.