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Don't look now....

Don't Look Now

That's right, don't look now but the nonwovens industry is about to reach a landmark that few people know about. Indeed, it almost snuck right by us until we saw some figures earlier this summer. This historical event nearly passed without fanfare, without celebration, without the industry patting itself on the back and without a parade.

We will take care of those things right now ... except for the parade.

For the first time North American sales of converted disposable end products made from nonwovens will surpass the $10 billion mark in 1989. After climbing uphill for the past two decades in the face of price wars, disposability and environmental charges and marketing attacks by conventional fabrics, these converted products, according to figures from John R. Starr, Inc., "approached" the $10 billion sales mark last year. That means 1989 is the year it will go over the top.

For an industry that has long been the stepchild of its giant textile, paper and plastic parents, the simple fact that North American consumers spent this much money on baby diapers, medical products, wipes and apparel is only one in a continuing series of indications that we have, indeed, come of age in the 1980's.

The surge to this lofty level has been led by baby diapers, of course, which accounts for more than 30% of this volume, and by medical products, which chips in with another 10% or so of the total. Other personal care items certainly contribute their share. But we like to think the smaller consumer markets that utilize our engineered fabrics, markets such as wiping materials, envelopes and fabric softeners, are the new driving forces behind continued expansion.

That is precisely the reason we focus on many of these smaller segments in this issue. The big guys get their own issues ... baby diapers in January, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene in March, medical nonwovens in November. But the often overlooked niches, where the smaller companies thrive while the larger suppliers eye them with desire, are the new heartbeat of the nonwovens industry.

This month we also list what we feel are the top 12 new products of the past year. We could have easily made this a list of the top 20 new products; admittedly, we originally tried to keep it to a much neater "top 10," but then two more interesting entries were found and we couldn't bring ourselves to make that tough decision. At the least, the activity of the past 12 months is testimony to the vibrancy of the business.

It is not a tough decision, however, to focus on these niches every year. As we track them over the next decade, some will surely fade away while others become even more prominent. As we approach the 21st century--about when these disposable products reach the $20 billion plateau--there will probably even be a few new products we don't even think about today.

We'd say that's a fairly safe bet, so you can look now ... and be sure to keep looking.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:North American sales of converted disposable end products made from nonwovens to surpass $10 billion in 1989
Author:Jacobsen, Michael A.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1989
Words:507
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