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A look inside teabag paper: teabag paper manufacturers respond to environmental, packing, and marketing challenges.

I began preparing for battle the moment I agreed to write an article about teabag paper. "Everyone's very sensitive about the bleached versus nonbleached paper issue, but we've got to cover it," I was forewarned. Well, as it turned out, I was spared any direct confrontation, not out of courtesy but rather because tea paper manufacturers have adapted. This is not to say that the issue is no longer controversial it remains so, and nearly every spokesperson I interviewed quite willingly shared his or her views on the various bleaching processes, the meaning of dioxin, its relative toxicity, and the amount of it present in nature. But, somewhere along the line, tea companies, and in turn tea paper manufacturers and packers, decided to accommodate consumer perceptions rather than spend their resources to resist or change them.

I also realized early on that we were finding plenty of other things to talk about. What emerged from conversations with representatives of tea paper manufacturers Dexter, Crompton, Schoeller & Hoesch, Bollore and its subsidiary Bolmet, Kimberly-Clark, Johnson & Johnson, and Aldine was a rough sketch of an industry that is responding to challenges posed by intensifying environmental concerns, efforts at product differentiation (e.g. the round tea bag) and technological developments in pursuit of higher levels of packing efficiency.


What makes a good teabag paper? In short, neutrality of taste, dust retention, infusion speed. Innovations in teabag paper will be judged according to these key criteria in the first instance.

Neutrality of taste, taken for granted by most everyone but the testers themselves, is clearly one of the most basic qualities sought in a teabag paper. Paper manufacturers had relatively little to say on the topic, however. "After all these years, it's largely been dealt with," I heard. How does a manufacturer assure neutrality of taste? "Basically, to be considered neutral in taste, a paper in water must have no taste," explains Steve Higgins, sales manager, Long Fiber Papers with Bolmet, a Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary of Bollore. "We are very careful in our pulp selection for this reason. We buy dry bundled pulp, manila, and wood, put them in beating units, saturate and dissolve them in water. It then goes into the paper machine with lots of water, in what is called the "wet laid" paper process. There the pulps are tasted and tested for neutrality."

The teabag paper industry has always had another, equally important calling: in the words of Schoeller & Hoesch commercial manager of Long Fiber Papers, Horst Dannhauser, "keeping the dry particles in on one side, but later on allowing the taste and color to infuse in the cup. It's very difficult, a balancing of density and porosity."

Stephen Higgins of Bolmet assesses this essential function of tea paper in similar terms: "The issues we in the business of manufacturing tea paper are concerned about are, along with keeping the paper running on the machines, keeping the tea in the bag, brewing qualities in the cup and infusion speed. The trick is to find the right balance between these different considerations."

Dust retention and infusion characteristics still do present challenges to teabag paper manufacturers, who typically serve many distinct tea-drinking traditions around the globe. What is acceptable in one country or culture may offend another. As one example, tea dust can settle to the bottom of a tea carton with certain papers and teas. This, I'm told, has limited the use of patterned tea paper in the U.S. in particular, though it poses no obstacle in many other markets.


Most papers, such as writing papers and newsprint, writes Peter Hart, commercial director for Bollore, are made of short-fibered pulps. Teabag paper, on the other hand, is long-fibered, composed largely of cellulosic fibers with the addition, in the case of heat-sealing papers, of thermoplastic fibers.

According to Bolmet's Steve Higgins, "Long fiber is a type of pulp derived from manila hemp which itself is won from the abaca plant ['musa textilus'] grown commercially in the Philippines and Ecuador. It's higher in strength, its fibers are longer, it gives high porosity and high wet strength, and is therefore more resilient. In comparison, your average paper is made from wood pulp. These tea papers are all "wet-strengthened" in order to withstand the impact of boiling water without any risk of disintegration."

"Manila long fibers are the expensive ingredient," Higgins explains, "and typically make up more than 50% of the tea paper content. The remaining content is mostly wood pulp."

At least two manufacturers have become directly involved in the production of abaca pulp, presumably because of its relatively high cost.


Wood pulps have become the focus of much unsought attention in recent years. Up until the late 1980's, most wood pulp was bleached using the chlorine-based process. To allay environmental concerns and reduce the formation and effluent disposal of dioxins at the pulp mills, tea paper manufacturers have replaced chlorine-- bleached wood pulps with either oxygen-bleached or unbleached wood pulp.

In Germany, unbleached paper has become standard for teabags. This makes it a good place to begin a discussion of this controversial topic. Dannhauser of Schoeller and Hoesch notes: "The German consumer is especially environmentally sensitive. Bleaching, or rather not bleaching, has become a big marketing issue. Nearly all of the German tea market is unbleached for Schoeller & Hoesch. There's also some unbleached in Austria, a little in Switzerland, and some in the Australian and Sri Lankan markets. In fact, a good portion of our paper production is unbleached. It looks brighter now than it did initially. We use more manila or abaca. Neutrality of taste is not an issue with these papers."

Only a handful of tea comparues use unbleached paper for their teabags on the U.S. market. Traditional Medicinals is one of them.

Drake Sadler, ceo of Traditional Medicinals operating out of Sebastopol in Northern California, reviews his company's experience in introducing its unbleached products to the American consumer. "We were the first company to use unbleached paper for our teabags exclusively. We conducted a variety of taste tests and taste profiles, and determined that there was no taste and no consumer resistance to the brown paper. Once we informed consumers why we were using unbleached paper, and once we triggered consumer awareness, we found a very high level of consumer acceptance and preference."

Traditional Medicinals' Canadian line of teas is packed by Hersa-T out of Boucherville, Canada, advises Christopher Hensby, a spokesperson for the packer. Hersa-T buys its oxygen bleached supply from Bollore. Traditional Medicinals packs its own teas for the U.S. line using Crompton unbleached tea paper.

Some may argue that the U.S. audience is highly self-selected and therefore not a good measure of broader consumer receptivity. Undoubtedly, there is some truth to this contention, but consider that this same group of consumers has proven to be "pioneers" before, with other consumers trailing not too far behind. Combined with the success of the unbleached teabag in the German market and elsewhere, unbleached tea paper is no longer such a radical notion.

Sadler admits that it required foresight and consumer education to introduce unbleached teabag paper successfully. "It was important to inform consumers at the beginning because there were some initial questions, if for no other reason because it represented change. Consumers want consistency, and any major departures will raise questions. So we went ahead and put that information right on the box. We used the whole inside flap to communicate to consumers. It reads: "In 1980, Traditional Medicinals was the first tea company to introduce a natural teabag. Eager to capitalize on consumer trends towards "environmentally friendly" products, several other tea companies have recently introduced a new "oxygen bleached" teabag paper, which may use hypochlorites and peroxide in the bleaching process. Our natural teabag paper however is not bleached in any way, hence the plant fiber look to the bag. It just doesn't get any better or friendlier than this!"

As if that weren't enough to stir up controversy, the text continues on the opposite flap on the subject of teabag design. "We believe the teabag design is also important. Unlike the common pillow type teabag, the edges of which are heat sealed with chemicals, our natural teabag with its fold over and staple design is free of these chemicals." Here, Sadler refers to the thermoplastic fibers added to heat sealable tea papers.

Traditional Medicinals is a $10 million a year company based on its herbal tea sales internationally. "We do especially well in Canada, where we have 10 to 12 over-the-counter medicinal items, and of course, the packaging is bi-lingual. We also have a Commonwealth line, designed for the U.K., Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe, and Malaysia."



Others disagree with Sadler. Reservations expressed by several manufacturers range from initial concerns about taste, cleanliness, and packing efficiency to its use as a marketing tool.

I directed these questions to Randy Davis, general manager of sales & marketing for the NonWovens Division of the Dexter Corporation. He replies: "Unbleached products were so dirty that pulps available at the time didn't yield good taste characteristics. But in less than a year, unbleached pulp products got better and cleaner. The Germans, in particular, bought unbleached teabag paper."

"Using unbleached pulps," Davis continues, "basically creates a much dirtier manufacturing environment. You may need to clean the system more often and that may require harsh chemicals and a special cleaning regime beyond that necessary with oxygen-bleached pulps. In general, most people have adopted the oxygen process as the most cost-effective quality system and product. Almost all of our paper is oxygen-bleached. There is also a small differential in taste-- you therefore need to match paper and tea blends. It has a different reaction with the tea. We check for neutrality of taste all the time. and we approve pulps based on their taste neutrality."

I put the same questions to Peter Gould, president of Aldine Technologies, toll manufacturers of teabag paper based in Carlstadt, New Jersey. He responds by relating one story in which a client, for whom they were manufacturing unbleached paper, complained because it didn't look brown enough. "What we had to do was add color to make the paper a darker brown so that it would look more like what consumers expect an unbleached product to look like." Gould adds that, "The industry itself has moved toward 'TCF' or "totally chlorine-free" paper. It is available for teabag paper and will continue to be in the future."

Matt Christian, marketing manager with Kimberly-Clark, observes: "Most of the interest we see is in the oxygen bleached paper and things seem to be moving in that direction." When I caught up with Christopher Hensby of Hersa-T, he concurred as well--unbleached paper is indeed being given more consideration.


Peter Hart of Bollore suggests keeping the concern about the bleaching processes in context. According to literature provided by Bollore Technologies, dioxins are a group of 210 chemicals found in trace elements in the natural environment. Seventeen in this group are regarded as potential health hazards because of their toxicity. Number 2, 3, 7, and 8 TCDD is the most toxic. Dioxins are mainly formed as the result of the combustion of organic materials and of certain chemical reactions involving chlorinated compounds, one of which is the use of chlorine and chlorine dioxide in the bleaching of wood pulp; paper products containing wood pulp treated in this manner contain minute quantities of 2,3,7,8 TCDD ranging from one to two parts per trillion.

Steve Higgins pursues the topic further: "The move toward oxygenbased compounds to bleach pulps eliminates chlorine and therefore dioxin as a byproduct. Hydrogen peroxide is used in the oxygen bleaching process instead. The majority of our papers are white environmental papers that have been oxygen bleached and which are also slightly more expensive. The unbleached wood pulp, which is light brown in color, is washed but not bleached, but it is not widely used here."

Johnson & Johnson sidesteps the bleached versus unbleached dilemma altogether with its synthetic gauze fabric for teabags: "The bleaching issue is not an issue for Johnson & Johnson's gauze, Andre Prud'Homme, a company market specialist is delighted to point out. "There is no wood pulp, no bleach, and therefore no problem."



Meanwhile, it has also been necessary for teabag paper manufacturers to attend to the latest round of technological developments in tea packing machinery, which could reduce the teabag to its barest essentials: a stringless, tagless heat-sealable packet. Or, if Aldine Technologies succeeds with its latest innovation, the teabag could become a one-piece paper unit with an integral string-like strip, called an Integral Retrieval Device, or IRD. With no fold or staple, it too relies on heat sealable paper for closure.

These innovations in the teabag and the papers they use have largely been inspired by the promise of greater packing efficiency. Packing speeds now approach 3,000 and 4,000 units per minute. Again, according to Aldine's Gould: "Heat sealable is the way of the future because of speed. There's a good chance that Lipton will go that way too. Synthetic fibers will also gain in momentum. We have also come up with a new teabag paper, a lightweight super strong teabag tissue for use on the new IRD machine." This is just one clear illustration of the effect of tea packing innovations on tea papers.

Says Randy Davis of Dexter: "The basis weight of non-heat sealable paper is lower than it is for heat sealable paper, but, generally speaking, the packing efficiency pay-off for the heat sealable is greater in an economic analysis. The considerably faster packing speeds with heat sealable papers offset the loss in yield. I do see the start of a trend, though it is too early to tell definitively in what direction things will go."

Davis explains that until recently, packing technology was built around the Constanta-folded, stapled, nonheat sealable with a string and tag. "In the U.K., for example, there is what is called a 'pot market.' A serving size there is larger, and typically they don't have strings and tags. That market is almost exclusively made up of heat sealable paper. The U.S., on the other hand, is a single-cup dispensing market, and the non-heat sealable string and tag has been predominant." By most accounts, then, this the trend is toward heat-sealable papers. This is largely being determined by the packing machinery.


Aldine Technologies brought out its Super 5000 packing machine earlier this year. From his interested perspective, Gould predicts: "We would expect the biggest change in the tea market to come in the form of modernization of packaging in the next decade." He then proceeds to itemize the impressive efficiencies won by tea companies if they abandon other machines which pack Lipton's flowthru bags at 180 or 190 bags to 400 bags/minute respectively. "Lipton round, tagless decaf and regular smooth blend family size bags are packed on a Super 5000 machine at speeds of 3,000 tagless or tags per minute. And the Super 5000 is easy to modify for a change in size of the teabags--a matter of 20 minutes as opposed to two months. You see, machines used to be what we call "dedicated," made to produce teabags in one size only. With the Super 5000, you can change size, shape or even product in a matter of 20 minutes. The industry is moving away from the standard IMA machine with its 11,000 parts. Our machine has 140 parts, which translates into easier maintenance. It is mechanical technology versus computerized electric technology."

In terms of investment, says Gould, the Super 5000 costs about twice as much as an IMA, but should be competitive on a per unit or per bag basis. "Because of the Super 5000's price tag, we anticipate that it will interest the big names in the industry, the Liptons, Tetleys, Bigelows, and Celestials of the world, who will be in a position to make the investment. Our goal is to sell 12 machines between August '93 and the same time next year."


Hart may dampen some of the enthusiasm mounting for the highspeed packing technology. He observes a few of the drawbacks as they currently operate. According to Hart, "The early teabag machines produced as few as 60 bags/minute. Today, the most modern machines are producing 2,000 bags/minute, for example the IMAC50, IMAC51, RE370, while one machine, the SIGRT, has a production of 4,000 bags/minute. With the faster machines, one needs fewer machine operators, but if a machine breaks down, the loss of production can be very significant. For this reason, I do not expect that the machine manufacturers will design machines in the future to exceed 2,000 bags/minute."

As tea packing equipment becomes faster and more sophisticated, it also demands more from a tea paper. The paper has been improved in order to meet these more exacting requirements in terms of cut-ability, and time and temperature required to achieve a heat seal.

Again, according to Hart, "A slow running machine allows the paper a longer period of time between its sealing cylinders to affect a good seal whereas, on a faster machine, the sealing temperatures have to be raised in order to compensate for the much shorter 'dwell time' between the crimps of the sealing cylinder. Paper is more likely to tear on a faster machine, and, for such reasons, the physical characteristics of the teabag paper have had to be improved. The introduction of computer controls on the papermaking machines has also enhanced the quality."

Most of the manufacturers supporting research and development are actively addressing these problems. Gould also notes his company's research in this regard: "We also have been working on what might be termed the "next generation" of seal material for teabag paper. It is stronger, and it dry seals at a lower temperature, which means it can be run faster."

Manufacturers of tea packing machinery emphasize the greater flexibility of the new machines that use both heat sealable and non-heat sealable paper and can produce both string and tag and tagless bags. Despite this flexibility, the highspeed packing machines increasingly dictate the kinds of tea paper manufactured to run on them.


It is entertaining enough to consider the relative merits of the round teabag. In addition to its value as a novelty, it may even offer a better infusion. It also creates some additional paper waste, as the round shape leaves an excess portion when cut out. The round teabag packing process tests the paper in new ways as well. "Round bags are also inspiring new research to create a paper best suited to the equipment that makes them," says Steve Higgins. "These bags are "punched" rather than cut, so the knives are different, and there is also more paper waste."

In Peter Hart's opinion, the round bag has been a success: "Initially, I expected that it would be a flop because there is the same weight of tea in a bag which is smaller in surface area than the conventional rectangular bag. It is important, to obtain the best infusion, to have maximum contact between the water and the surface of the tea leaves and one would expect to achieve this with the larger bag. In the 1970s, all the major tea companies increased the size of their bags in order to attain this. In fact, a round bag always falls flat, distributing the tea more evenly over its surface, whereas a rectangular bag can stand on end causing the tea to concentrate at the bottom of the bag and, as a result, some of the tea leaves are never properly infused. The round bag, and the machines upon which it is packed, have produced the most exacting demands ever on teabag paper."

Finally, if the round bag can be called marketing success at the very least, "something new and exciting in the market," as Andre Prud'Homme describes it, how long can it be before we see further efforts to differentiate teabags with new shapes? And what demands might these other shapes place on tea paper? How about hexagonal? The shape of a tea cup? A tea leaf? Which brings me to the next possible arena for tea paper differentiation: patterned paper.



"Apertured papers" bearing a "diamond" pattern have been available at least since the 1960's, according to Hart. Here, manufacturers look for some optimum balance between dust retention, which can be controlled by producing a paper with a closer formation, and good infusion of the tea. "The initial problem with the diamond pattern was that dust retention was poor and tea dust escaped from the teabags into the cartons. However this problem has largely been overcome, certainly by Bollore, and more complicated patterns are now available, Bollore has produced papers with 'tulip,' 'teapot,' and other distinctive patterns while it has also invented a process of embossing teabag paper with very complicated logos."

Boilore and other paper manufacturers have also developed "lowdust" papers to minimize or eliminate siftings. "We use the low dust paper with patterns. We've developed the concept in recent years. It adds uniqueness to a product and an interesting angle for marketing."

On the prospects of patterned paper in the German market, Damhauser says, "Most of the tea consumers in Germany drink herbal tea. The U.K. has a more competitive black tea market. Only the big companies can think about putting logos on the paper, which is very costly and requires big quantities to justify the expenses."

Christopher Hensby of Hersa-T packers adds "At this point, we use patterned paper only for black tea. This sector is quite small, but I think it may be up and coming."


We may witness a growing demand for low dust paper because of its particular suitability for flavored, decaffeinated, and herbal teas. Several manufacturers point out the advantages of this match. Bolmet's Higgins remarks, "Decaffeinated teas and herbal teas, for example, can be very dusty and require a "low-dust" paper, which will keep the dust in the bag in a dry state." Gould of Aldine anticipates growth in demand for these tea varieties and calculates that this may translate into a greater demand for low dust papers, depending on the flavoring processes: "You're going to see, as we did with fla- vored coffees, flavored teas, non- traditional flavors like amaretto tea in a can, or a mint julep."


Johnson & Johnson's synthetic gauze, while by no means a low dust paper, may be well positioned to take advantage of the emerging interest among specialty tea companies in bagging their teas to broaden their acceptance in the U.S. market (see Tea & Coffee, April 1993, pg 68). The match would be a fortuitous one for Johnson & Johnson. Its gauze costs considerably more than regular tea paper and therefore is well out of range for non-specialty teas companies. "Our gauze is two to three times more expensive than paper, but it offers better infusion than paper, it's a faster infusion process," explains Prud'Homme. "Our fabric will address the niche specialty market." The gauze is an entirely human-made material, rayon with a cellulosic base, and can be folded and stapled or heat sealed, contends Prud'Homme. And, with its big hole structure, it is apparently suited for use with premium tea blends. Again, Prud'Homme: "Ultimately, it results in a richer, fuller cup of tea."

Other manufacturers have also been working on developing synthetic materials for use in teabags. I am not surprised when I learn that Aldine is making trade news in this arena as well. "We have developed a new synthetic fiber that allows a better and faster infusion," says Peter Gould. "It wets out immediately but doesn't expand. Normally, the fibers of a teabag paper expand and close pores, which reduces pore size and infusion rate. The effect of this expansion is to lengthen the time to the first color. The longer it takes, of course, the cooler the tea water gets."


When I joined the company 2 years ago," writes Peter Hart, "Bollore employed only 700 persons but, with our dynamic president at the helm, the company has grown and grown and currently employs 27,000 people. Twelve years ago, our interests were limited to the production of paper and polypropylene film, but today, our activities include: shipping (50 vessels), nine factories in France, subsidiaries in China, Italy, Japan and the U.S., distribution of coal and oil in France, freight services, tobacco plantations, and the manufacture of cigarettes."

Bollore remains a family controlled operation after 121 years, presently led by Vincent Bollore. Bolmet, its U.S. subsidiary located in Dayville, Connecticut, does about $50 million a year in business, which contributes to Bollore's worldwide annual earnings of approximately $6 billion. "Teabag paper is a secondary product in the total for Bolmet at this time. Metalizing film is the number one source of income," acknowledges Higgins, and Bolmet sales are about evenly divided between heat sealable and non-heat sealable.

Higgins adds that the company supports a division dedicated solely to research and development: "The research is looking to make a better teabag, a faster infusing bag, a paper with better performance on the machine, as well as improving cost issues."


Dexter is the originator of the rocess from which tea paper was first made," according to Randy Davis. "We have roots in Connecticut that go back to 1767. We are also the leading supplier of teabag paper worldwide, and the only manufacturer to operate at three distinct sites," referring to their plants in Connecticut, Scotland, and Sweden. The Windsor Locks facility in Connecticut produces for the U.S. and export markets. A large percentage of the capacity at the Chirnside, Scotland plant, which was acquired in 1972, is dedicated to the U.K. market. Although little tea product is manufactured currently in Stalldalen, which they've run for three years now, the company sees it as potential support for its activities in European markets on the continent.

"The Connecticut facility," continues Davis, "is a multi-machine mill using the wet-laid method. It is what is known in the industry as an 'inclined wire wet form product.' We carry the full range of custom heat sealable or regular (non-heat sealable) paper. We are also the most advanced company manufacturing patterned paper in the U.K. In the last three years we've advanced patterns, designs of logos into teabags, so that the logo actually goes in and out of the cup itself. We do this for the leading brands in the U.K."

Davis adds that they are quite proud of the fact that the company has been audited and accredited as a ISO 9001 Quality System. This status was granted by an independent body after comparing Dexter's total quality system against ISO 9001 criteria. "It's a very rigorous process, and represents a considerable investment of time and energy on the part of the company, but it also says a lot about the high quality of our operation."


From the early 1800s until its acquisition by Portals Group plc in 1990, JR Crompton Ltd produced and exported long-fibered paper to more than 70 countries. It is, by all accounts, one of the major forces in world-wide teabag paper production. Since the late 1980's, all wood pulps purchased by Crompton are either bleached by "less environmentally damaging" or peroxide processes, or purchased in its unbleached form. The manufacturer ceased using chlorine bleached wood pulps years ago. The Crompton line includes non-heatseal paper, its "Superseal" perforated and plain paper, which gives the strongest "wet" seal of any heat sealable paper, so strong, in fact, that Superseal can withstand being immersed in boiling water for hours. Superseal possesses additional properties which make it uniquely suited to conversion on some of the very latest generation teabag machinery. Its thermoplastic layer is much thicker than that found in ordinary heatsealing papers, so that when it is heated, rather than just sealing at the point of contact, the seal extends through the fiber layers, providing a stronger bond of than that achieved by standard heat sealable grades.

The company was rounded in 1856 by James Roger Crompton at the Elton Paper Mill in Lancashire, the heart of the papermaking industry in the North of England. Following WWII, the Simpson Clough Mill was commissioned at Heywood in 1945/6. Paper production at the purpose-built Lydney mill started in 1965 and that mill now houses one of the biggest longfibered paper machines in Europe. In 1974 the company made a strategic decision and began devoting its resources exclusively to the manufacture of long-fiber papers, and JR Crompton became the largest producer of these papers in Europe.


Schoeller & Hoesch's predecessor was rounded back in 1881, originally as a pulp production facility, and began paper production several years later. As of 1992, five paper machines were in operation at the Papierfabrik Schoeller & Hoesch, Papierfabrik Schoeller & Hoesch, tucked away in the Schwarzwald of southwestern Germany, producing 40,000 tons of special paper valued at more than 232 million German marks (approximately $140 million). The company maintains an extensive distribution and storage network including a facility in Summerville, South Carolina.

Schoeller & Hoesch produces a variety of long fiber papers, but specializes in teabag paper, coffee filter papers, papers for the cigarette industry, and other specialty papers. Tea papers are available in healseal and non-heatseal versions in plain and patterned, and contain either oxygen bleached or unbleached pulps. No chlorinebleached pulps are used.

According to the company's commercial manager of Long Fiber Papers, Horst Dannhauser, Schoeller & Hoesch is one of the biggest tea bag paper manufacturers worldwide. "Germany has a limited demand, though it is still our biggest single market. We export quite a lot around the world from our production plant in the Black Forest near Baden Baden. We have slitting and warehouse operations in Summerville, South Carolina, but all our paper is manufactured in Germany. About 10% of our business is in the U.S., which is also the most promising. As you know, 80% of the tea drunk in the U.S. is iced, and the readyto-drink is very popular. Other regions that will be important markets for us include the Far East and Russia."


Matt Christian, marketing manager with Roswell, Georgia-based KimberlyClark, says they have recently rededicated their efforts towards the teabag and coffee filter industries. Christian explains, "Our business is mostly in the U.S. at this point and most of it is in heat-sealed paper. It's a good base for us technologically. Our sales volume is small at this point, but we want to expand our activities in teabag paper. Since January, we've concentrated more on people, hiring staff, and we're expanding our capabilities while working toward gains in efficiency.

"Currently, we are not making patterned paper. We will build from a product quality standpoint. Kimberly-Clark is a well-respected name already. Since January, we've concentrated more on people, and more research funding. We are very small at this point, but growing, in tea paper. We also are quite involved in manufacturing paper for coffee filters and vending papers."


At the present time, the Johnson & Johnson Company plays a minor role in providing material for the teabags, but its gauze fabric does possess qualities that may perform well in the U.S. specialty tea market, as discussed earlier. "We have 10 to 15% of the Canadian teadrinking market in dollar value, and 5 to 6% in units," according to Andre Prud'Homme. "Much of it is under the King Cole brand, which represents 40% of the Maritime market."

"About 16% of tea consumption across Canada is in the Maritime region," says Andre Prud'Homme, "which includes New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the most eastern part of Canada. They have a very strong tea-drinking tradition and use premium blends. Our gauze has been very successful in the Maritime. Typically the tea leaf pieces are larger in size, which means there is less sifting, yet infusion performance is excellent. Our fabric is used for the teabag here."

One of several hurdles still facing Johnson & Johnson's gauze is its ability to run on a wide variety of packing machinery. As a part of his five month plan, Prud'Homme plans to travel to Italy, home of the IMA machines, and to begin trials with various target companies. "This will be a critical time to evaluate equipment, address this issue of adaptation to machinery, develop technical service support etc. By the first two quarters of 1994, we plan to run trials with various target companies."


Aldine is a co-patent holder with Dexter for tea tissue paper dating back to 1939, according to Gould. He describes the niche the Carlstadt, New Jersey-based company has carved out for itself and the rest of the A.T.I. Group, made up of Aldine Technologies, the ATI Machinery Division and Copack International.

"Aldine creates the design and procures materials, but we use other people's machines to manufacture. We are a toll manufacturer of teabag paper," explains Gould. This also helps to explain how the ATI Group manages to be innovative on all fronts: tea paper, the teabag (e.g. Integral Retrieval Device) and packing technology (e.g. Super 5000, see Tea & Coffee,


Though the oxygen-bleaching process has become the bleaching process of choice for tea manufacturers, especially for the U.S. and U.K. markets, unbleached tea paper will continue to gain adherents. But other environmental concerns and the attendant marketing strategies show little sign of abating, and paper manufacturers may face them as well. "What about all the water? They use a heck of a lot of water at those paper manufacturing facilities," one industry observer exclaimed in a recent conversation.

The water used in paper manufacture, rid of dioxin, may come under increasing scrutiny in terms of sheer volume and because of other effluents emitted from the mills. Finally, the issue of natural versus synthetic fibers, such as the polypropylene and polyethylene fibers added to heat sealable paper, has also been raised by a small segment of the industry.

The abovementioned concerns notwithstanding, synthetic gauze should gain in visibility. This applies to the Johnson & Johnson gauze product and synthetic teabag materials being produced by toll manufacturer Aldine and several others.

Of the trends I've noted thus far, the developments in packing machinery must be near the top of list in terms of impact on tea paper. Most manufacturers acknowledge the overall shift toward heat sealable papers, with or without string, tag or strip, and they see it primarily as the outcome of the higher packing speeds afforded by the newest packing machinery. Yet the folded, stapled, string and tag bag will not disappear so quickly, despite inefficiencies of production. Americans in particular, I am reminded by paper manufacturers, have become attached to the string and tag--it's part of an American tea-drinking tradition, if such a thing can be said to exist. Perhaps we will be seeing more heat sealed teabags with strings and tags as one compromise, which Aldine's "Integral Retrieval Device" may anticipate quite dramatically.

Several manufacturers offer compelling reasons for us to expect demand for low dust tea paper to increase. The interest in patterned paper, and its ability to provide some product differentiation, along with the growth in her herbal, decaf, flavored teas in bags, lead me to the same conclusion.

One final note: most representatives speak of dedicating increasing resources to research and development. This suggests to me that manufacturers expect teabag papers to remain a profitable venture into the foreseeable future, no matter the shape, size, or color of the teabags themselves.

The author would like to thank the following individuals for the time and information they contributed to this article, not to mention all the pleasant conversation: Peter Hart of Bollore, Steve Higgins of Bolmet/Bollore, Randy Davis of Dexter, Peter Gould of Aldine, Matt Christian of Kimberly-Clark, Andre Prud'homme of Johnson & Johnson, Horst Dannhauser and Joseph Szorc of Schoeller & Hoesch, Drake Sadler of Traditional Medicinals and Christopher Hensby of Hersa-T.
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Title Annotation:Teabag Paper Report
Author:Hackeling, Joan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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