In 2021, the nonwoven industry underwent unprecedented changes, marked by growth, investment, and the onset of new challenges – from the surge in demand for nonwoven materials in protective clothing, healthcare applications, face masks, and disinfectant wipes to grappling with supply chain disruptions and raw material cost fluctuations. Despite these obstacles, optimism remained a staple among nonwoven producers. Now, in 2022, the industry focus has shifted towards new product development, partnerships, and line improvements, anticipating an eventual easing of supply issues.
This article highlights the ten leading nonwoven manufacturers of 2022, the year when sustainability became a key driving force for many companies. With an increasingly green-oriented approach to manufacturing processes and product development, these companies continue to flourish in an ever-evolving market. From Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s biodegradable nonwovens to TWE Group’s partially recycled RePEaT product line, these top ten companies are innovating and adapting to the dynamic landscape of the nonwoven industry while paving the way for a sustainable future.
Kimberly-Clark Corporation, a Fortune 500 American multinational personal care corporation, reported substantial 2022 revenues of $20.2 billion. With origins dating back to 1872, the company has a rich history of producing a plethora of nonwoven materials. These materials enter various markets, including filtration, acoustics, construction, consumer hygiene, and medical packaging.
Notable products include Huggies diapers, Kleenex facial tissue, and Kotex feminine hygiene products. Kimberly-Clark also demonstrates its commitment to sustainability through a partnership with RWDC to develop biodegradable nonwovens. With 40,000 employees and operations around the globe, Kimberly-Clark continues to be a leader in personal care and nonwoven materials.
Berry Global, Inc, a Fortune 500 firm based in Evansville, Indiana, is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging products. The company operates over 265 facilities worldwide and employs more than 46,000 people. Its annual revenue in 2022 was a substantial $14.49 billion, marking a 4.66% growth from the previous year. Their notable products include Spunbond PP Landscape Fabric and Everist Nanofiber Nonwoven.
Berry Global, which changed its name from Berry Plastics in 2017, operates three main divisions: Consumer Packaging; Health, Hygiene, and Specialties; and Engineered Materials. Renowned as the global leader in aerosol caps manufacturing, Berry also offers an extensive range of container products. Its client list of over 2,500 includes major brands like McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart.
DuPont, with 2022 revenue of $13 billion (up 4% from 2021), is a significant contributor to the global nonwoven industry. The company’s product range, which saw an 8% increase in organic sales from 2021, includes brands like Tyvek, Kevlar, Styrofoam, and FilmTec. While there was a recent dip in demand for Tyvek PPE products as COVID-19 receded, DuPont continues to increase its supplies to other markets such as construction, medical packaging, and graphics. Operating in diverse markets like construction, healthcare, and industrial filtration, DuPont has demonstrated its strong foothold in nonwovens, continually expanding into new domains such as air cargo and graphics applications.
Freudenberg Group is a successful German-based nonwoven manufacturer. The company’s 2022 sales totaled $12.65 billion, a significant leap from $10.8 billion in 2021. Freudenberg employs nearly 51,462 people worldwide, producing technical textiles for various applications. Their diverse product portfolio includes drylaid, spunlaid, melt-blown, and wetlaid nonwovens. These products cater to several sectors, including automotive, construction, apparel, and medical supplies. Committed to sustainability, Freudenberg has set a goal to be climate-neutral by 2045, indicating its long-term vision for environmental stewardship.
Johns Manville Corporation, an American manufacturing giant based in Denver, Colorado, is known for producing insulation, roofing materials, and engineered products. The company has undergone significant transformations over the years, including a notable pivot away from asbestos-containing products in the 20th century.
Today, Johns Manville Corporation is a significant player in the nonwoven materials industry, with offerings for a broad range of applications, including building insulation, commercial roofing, and mechanical insulation. The company, which employs over 8,000 people and records over $4 billion in annual sales, caters to diverse markets such as aerospace, automotive, HVAC, and wind energy. Johns Manville operates 44 manufacturing facilities across North America and Europe.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö, a Finland-based manufacturer of fiber-based products, reported an impressive $3.6 billion in revenue in 2022, up from $2.6 billion the previous year. A leader in sustainable and innovative fiber solutions, Ahlstrom emphasizes renewable fibers, which account for 95% of the company’s total fiber use. They have strategically organized their business into two sectors: Filtration & Performance and Specialties. They produce a range of products, including decor papers, health care materials, graphic papers, tapes, and wall coverings.
Ahlstrom serves a variety of industries, from automotive to healthcare, and operates in several regions, including Europe, North and South America, and Asia. With 8,000 employees and 45 facilities in 14 countries, Ahlstrom-Munksjö is an international force in the nonwoven industry.
With a history dating back to 1864, Glatfelter Corporation, a global manufacturer of engineered materials, enjoys a strong presence in the nonwoven industry. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the corporation reported an impressive revenue of approximately $1.49 billion in 2022, a significant increase from 2021’s $1.08 billion.
Glatfelter’s manufacturing prowess is showcased in its twelve facilities across multiple continents. They specialize in the production of airlaid, wetlaid, and metalized engineered materials used in a diverse array of segments, including personal hygiene, tea and coffee filtration, packaging, and home improvement. Glatfelter employs around 3,250 people globally, effectively catering to customers in over 100 countries.
Founded in 1973, Fitesa is a global manufacturer of nonwoven materials primarily serving the hygiene and healthcare markets. As one of the world’s largest producers of nonwoven spunmelt textiles, Fitesa operates 23 plants across 13 countries. Its product offerings include spunmelt, carded, airlaid, films and elastics, and specialty fabrics. These nonwovens find use in a range of applications such as feminine hygiene, baby care, adult incontinence, medical, agricultural, and industrial products.
Fitesa is also notable for operating five innovation centers and three pilot lines, showcasing its commitment to continuous advancement in the nonwovens sector. With recent sales growth attributed to its dedication to investment in the hygiene market, Fitesa continues to expand its reach and innovative capabilities. Indeed, Fitesa’s revenue grew to $1.4 billion in 2022.
Suominen Corporation, a Finnish multinational entity, has carved its niche as a leading player in the nonwoven manufacturing industry. Established in 1898, Suominen’s journey has seen it become the world’s leading nonwovens manufacturer, specifically in the wipes segment. Specialising in nonwovens for wiping, hygiene products, and healthcare applications, the company’s products are used to create wet wipes, sanitary towels, swabs, and respirators.
With about 63% of its turnover originating from the Americas and the rest from Europe, Suominen operates production facilities across the United States, Brazil, Spain, Italy, and its home country, Finland. Its workforce includes approximately 700 global employees, and it brought in $530.7 million in revenue in 2022.
Committed to sustainable practices, Suominen boasts a diverse portfolio of responsible products made from renewable, recycled, or plastic-free raw materials. 62% of its production in 2022 was from renewable natural resources. Meanwhile, 37% of its products used oil-based materials. The company continues to explore innovative sustainable solutions, with recent ventures including a New Fiber Center project, which investigates the potential of organic fibers such as hemp, flax, and straw.
Founded in 1912 in Emsdetten, Germany, TWE Group has grown to become a significant player in the nonwoven fabrics industry, reporting a robust $450 million in sales in 2021 (the most recent year available at the time of writing). With a focus on hygiene and automotive markets, TWE Group has also been enhancing its presence in construction, filtration, and healthcare sectors. Hygiene, however, remains the most significant segment, accounting for half of the company’s sales. To meet the growing demand for topsheet and backsheet materials, the company is building a new air-through bonding line in Belgium. It is also investing in upgrading existing production lines.
TWE Group is a pioneer in sustainability, showcasing its commitment through the RePEat product line. This line comprises materials either entirely or partly recycled. The three central products in this range are rePEaT circular, manufactured using recycled fibers or customer waste; rePEaT social, made from plastic collected in developing countries, providing a source of income for locals; and rePEaT bio, composed of natural and biodegradable fibers like jute, hemp, bamboo, PLA, or PBS.