Changes in the South African nonwovens industry – nonwoven industry magazine


South Africa is Africa’s second largest market as well as sub-Saharan Africa’s largest market. Currently, the number one and two players in the absorbent hygiene industry — Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark, have established businesses in South Africa. Additionally, number three, National Pride, part of investment firm Lodestone Brands, manufactures the Cuddlers and National Pride diaper brands.

It’s no wonder that PFNonwovens, the largest producer of spunmelt nonwovens in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, chose to build a factory here in Cape Town in 2017, at a cost of around $ 100 million. dollars. While this factory was PFNonwovens’ first in sub-Saharan Africa, it was the second on the African continent. The company is already present in Egypt.

In addition to PFNonwovens, Spunchem has local manufacturing capabilities in South Africa. While Spunchem has been present in the South African nonwovens market for 20 years, it has historically focused on the industrial side of nonwovens. Recognizing the growth of the absorbent hygiene industry, Spunchem increased its capacity for hygiene applications in 2018 and began working with a leading local baby diaper manufacturer to test raw material products for the hygiene sector. Spunchem was also one of the few meltblown suppliers able to supply its local markets with face mask material during the coronavirus pandemic.

Freudenberg Performance Materials operates two sales offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but has no local manufacturing capacity. Paul Hartmann is also very active in the supply of absorbent nonwoven medical and hygiene supplies, but without local manufacture either. MoliCare is a recognizable brand in the adult incontinence field in the South African market through pharmacy, modern retail and online channels. V&G Personal Products manufactures the Lilets, Nina Femme and Eva brands. Another global player with a presence in the South African nonwovens market is Fibertex Nonwovens, located near Durban and whose key areas are automotive, bedding, filtration, furniture and geotextiles.

After selling National Pride, Ebrahim Kara started another hygiene company several years later called Infinity Care, which manufactures baby diapers, adult diapers and wet wipes. Other notable players in the South African hygiene market are Cleopatra Products based in Durban and L’il Masters based in Johannesburg. These two family businesses have been very successful in their own right, taking their place in the private label and own label space in the absorbent hygiene market in South Africa, with their very strong quality control services.

Other important players in the South African market include NSP Unsgaard, based in Cape Town and part of Lion Match Company. NSP Unsgaard is the market leader in panty liners and also owns a value-priced sanitary napkin brand called Comfitex, which has reduced its market share. NSP Unsgaard has increased its manufacturing capacity in recent years, including a R20 million investment to increase manufacturing capacity by 55% in 2018, which was part of a larger R100 million investment plan which started in 2016. According to Retail Brief Africa, South Africa’s panties The cruise ship market is growing 9-10% per year in volume.

Unsgaard has also gradually strengthened its export capacity in the SADC region and is working to replicate the success of its panty liners business with sanitary napkins. T
The Twinsaver group owns brands of diapers for adults and babies as well as brands of wet wipes. Through acquisitions, the Twinsaver Group has refined its specialization in the field of wipes, offering all kinds of wipes offerings ranging from waterless baths, hygienic wipes and various other wet wipes offerings which strengthen their position in this sector. .

In an interesting development, L’il Masters acquired Infinity Care. With this acquisition, L’il Masters now has seven lines of baby diapers, one line of adult diapers, one line of baby pants, one line of sanitary napkins and four lines of wet wipes at three operating sites, two in Johannesburg and one in Durban. According to CEO Preyesh Bhawan, in 2022, the company plans to acquire two more lines of baby diapers. With more than a decade of experience, this family business is the largest hygiene manufacturer in South Africa and this decision clearly places it in third place after P&G and KC.

L’il Masters’ roots extend from a company called Sapphire Wet Wipes Manufacturers Pty Ltd, established in 2002 and specializing in baby accessories and wet wipes. Over the past 17 years, the business has grown dramatically and spawned L’il Masters Diapers, a company specializing in the manufacture of baby diapers and wet wipes and now adult diapers. The il Masters has moved into a larger, 16,000 square meter state-of-the-art facility in Vereeniging. and has a factory in Durban.

The il Masters Diapers started out with a baby diaper machine and wet wipe machine and added a second line in 2011 to meet growing demand. Currently, continuously operates five diaper lines, which produce 28 million diapers per month, and two wet wipe machines. Private label customers include Jet, Clicks, Dischem and the Massmart Group. Each of the private label OEM brands has different characteristics and key metrics. According to the CEO of L’il Masters, these diapers are of high quality and can easily be compared to international brands. L’il Masters’ export markets include Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland (Eswatini), Lesotho and Madagascar.

The company gives back to the community through various programs and has strong sustainability programs in place. They have 700 solar panels installed in their new headquarters, making them the only diaper manufacturer to have an energy efficient facility at this level and taking advantage of sustainable energy options for their factories in South Africa. . Some of the company’s other carbon offset projects include water savings, paperless billing, and water cooling systems. Waste and dust extraction units have also been installed in the building to minimize the environmental impact. Plastic and cardboard waste is collected daily for recycling by the waste management companies with which the company works.

The absorbent hygiene sector in South Africa has faced challenges in recent times. Some are linked to the damage that plastic products cause to the environment when they find their way into South Africa’s rivers and oceans.

The industry is under increasing pressure. Environmental lobby groups and communities are all calling for solutions and they are putting pressure on the Department of Environmental Affairs and municipalities to force brand owners and manufacturers to take responsibility for pollution caused by diapers and towels. used in communities, water systems, beaches and the general environment.

This challenge is also common in the rest of the continent and used diapers are among the products that block the city’s rainwater drainage system, causing flooding in cities and other problems during the rainy season. To make matters worse, municipalities across the country in South Africa are not coping with the rate of urban growth. Municipal budgets are under pressure and household waste is not collected regularly, prompting service delivery protests from communities who are annoyed by general waste which includes used diapers and discarded feminine hygiene products. in neighborhoods by domestic animals.

Service delivery issues blur the lines between the starting point of brand owner responsibilities and the normal delivery of basic municipal services.

It also doesn’t help that there isn’t enough trust between brand owners and manufacturers, the biggest global brand owners, and the smaller AHP independent family brand owners. Due to the lack of confidence, the industry is unable to come together to meet the challenges it faces. As an industry, they have made several attempts to come together, but so far without success. Interestingly, however, other industries such as food and beverage have successfully come together with other brand owners and other stakeholders such as communities, retailers and others to form multiple organizations. focused on the recovery and recycling of plastics, such as Petco, PET Recycling Company, Polyco, SA Plastics Pact and many others, which bring together recyclers, retailers, brand owners, processors, the national government, commodity producers, academics and consumers. Even the glass industry in South Africa has made good progress that the AHP sector can learn from.

As a result of the pandemic’s disruption to global stocks and container supply and shipping routes, freight rates have increased dramatically and in some cases more than doubled. This means that there is a significant increase in the cost of raw materials imported from AHP. Christmas is fast approaching and the demand for shipments to meet Christmas orders will not allow freight rates to drop.

China is one of the main supply points for products such as artificial Christmas trees and toys. Add the fact that soon after the Christmas season, the Chinese New Year is also in the cards, these factors will almost guarantee that freight rates won’t go down anytime soon.

With China out of sight as a supplier, local nonwoven suppliers like Spunchem have become even more powerful. Luckily for them, they also have the backing of the government, which is one of the biggest buyers of face masks and in their purchasing process, insists that the local businesses they buy from must prove that their raw material supply and other inputs is local. This point also further emphasizes the need for a local supply of non-woven raw materials for the hygiene industry.

To this end, PFNonwovens is currently expanding its manufacturing facility in Cape Town with another $ 40 million investment that will create 40 new jobs. The first company to invest in the latest Reicofil R5 machines in South Africa, this investment strengthens PFNonwovens as the market leader in fusion for the hygiene sector.

With this investment, the company “will have the ability to meet the growing needs of the local market for high value and specialty products with increasing levels of softness, comfort and durability,” according to the company. The Western Cape was chosen for this expansion due to its world-class infrastructure and access to the rest of the continent.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the short to medium term as L’il Masters and National Pride compete for the position of third player in the South African market.


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