Top 10 Pulp & Paper Manufacturers in 2021


The role of paper remains vital in the digital age with this ever-present product found everywhere you look. With the rise in digitisation, you’d be forgiven for thinking the forest-based products industry must be in decline. However, the opposite is true. The global pulp and paper market is projected to grow from $351.51 billion in 2021 to $370.12 billion in 2028. Social and environmental concerns are shaping the industry and leading to some exciting prospects for growth.

2021 has been an exciting year in the pulp & paper manufacturing industry, with many companies performing much stronger than in 2020. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic had a considerable impact on the paper industry in 2020. Some companies managed to weather the storm with increased sales of packaging materials for ecommerce products due to the boom in online shopping. However, many companies were hit with lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, and labour shortages, which impacted revenue and output. Now in 2021, paper industry leaders are getting back on their feet. With this in mind, let’s look at the top ten pulp and paper manufacturers in 2021.

Note: We’ve considered revenue, annual production, and significance in the paper industry when determining a company’s rank.

1. International Paper

  • Revenue: $19.36 billion
  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Also in the number one spot on last year’s list, International Paper continues to be a world leader in the paper industry. The company operates through two primary segments, Industrial Packaging (container boards) and Global Cellulose Fibers (speciality pulps used in absorbent hygiene products). International Paper’s containerboard production capacity was 13.8 million tons in 2021, making it the leading producer of containerboard in the US. By 2030, the company hopes to restore 1 million acres of ecologically significant forestland and source 100% of its fibre from sustainably managed forests. With approximately 56,000 employees, it’s also one of the biggest employers in the paper industry.

2. WestRock

  • Revenue: $18.7 billion
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

2021 was a good year for WestRock, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies and the 2nd largest packaging company in the US. It made an eye-watering $18.7 billion in revenue, up 7% compared with 2020. The company has a whopping 39,000 employees across 250 locations spanning North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The total annual production capacity across all pulp & paper products was 12.05 million tonnes in 2021.

3. Oji Holdings Corporation

  • Revenue: $12.8 billion
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan

Oji Holdings Corporation is a leading producer of pulp paper products and converted paper products, including containerboard, corrugated container, folding cartons, packaging papers, boxboard, paper bags, and household products. The company ranked number 2 on last year’s top 10, but 2021 revenue was down 9.9% from 2020. Despite this dip, the company has plans to open new facilities in Asia in 2022 to boost its annual capacity. Oji produces 2.5 million tonnes of pulp per year. On the sustainability front, the company plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.

4. Smurfit Kappa Group

  • Revenue: $11.96 billion
  • Location: Dublin, Ireland

Smurfit Kappa‘s annual revenue for 2021 was a whopping $11.96 billion, an impressive 22.72% increase from 2020. The company is a world leader in paper-based packaging solutions and has over 48,000 employees across 350 production sites. Its total global paper and board capacity is approximately 7.7 million tonnes per annum.

5. Stora Enso

  • Revenue: $10.67 billion
  • Location: Helsinki, Finland

Stora Enso operates in more than 40 countries and produces paper-based products, including packaging boards, fine papers, and wood products. It has approximately 22,000 employees and considers itself the “global rethinker of the paper, biomaterials, wood products and packaging industry“. The company produces 2.3 million tonnes of paper, 5.3 million tonnes of board, and 5.8 million cubic metres of sawn wood products per year.

6. UPM

  • Revenue: $10.31 billion
  • Location: Helsinki, Finland

UPM is the second Finnish company on our list and one of the world’s largest forest and paper companies. The company has production plants in 13 countries and makes various products, including pulp, paper, plywood, sawn timber, labels and composites. UPM’s production capacity per annum as of 2021 was 6 million tonnes.

7. Kimberly Clark Corp

  • Revenue: $19.4 billion
  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Kimberly Clark owns many household brands that most of us will be familiar with, if not use daily. These brands include Andrex, Huggies, Kleenex, and Kotex. The popular firm is due to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2022, making it one of the oldest companies on the list. They sell products in over 175 countries and employ over 55,000 people. Unfortunately, much like Procter & Gamble, information on pulp and paper materials production and consumption is severely lacking, with some of the most recent figures dating back to 2004. That’s why we’ve ranked it here despite it coming in top for revenue.

8. Nine Dragons Paper Holdings

  • Revenue: $9.32 billion
  • Location: Hong Kong

While Nine Dragons‘ revenue may be lower than many on this list, it’s one of the largest paper producers worldwide in terms of production volume. In fact, the company plans to reach 23.82 million tonnes per annum by the end of June 2024. Nine Dragons sells a broad range of packaging containerboard products, packaging paper, and recycled printing and writing paper. The company had over 19,000 employees as of 2021.

9. Mondi

  • Revenue: $8.14 billion
  • Location: Weybridge, England, UK

Mondi produces sustainable packaging and paper products for the global market. It produced an impressive 2.7 million metric tons of containerboard in 2021. And with the European ecommerce packaging market expected to grow at a high CAGR of 14% between 2022 and 2029, the future is looking bright for the company. Mondi is also investing 1 billion euros in expansion projects for their plants and mills. For example, the modernisation and expansion of the Kuopio mill is expected to produce 55,000 extra tonnes of corrugated packaging.

10. DS Smith

  • Revenue: $7.37 billion
  • Location: London, England, UK

Since the start of DS Smith back in the 1940s, the company has reached a revenue of $7.37 billion. DS Smith is known worldwide for being a leading provider of sustainable packaging solutions, paper products and recycling services. In 2021, DS Smith reported a 3.5% increase in the production of corrugated box products. Since 2015, the company has also achieved a 23% reduction in C02e per tonne.

If you’re a pulp and paper manufacturer and want to increase efficiency with cutting edge software, get in touch today.

Notable Mention: Procter & Gamble

  • Revenue: $19.03 billion
  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

*The company’s total revenue is 75.11 billion, with 25% of net sales and net earnings coming from Baby, Feminine, & Family Care paper products.

Procter & Gamble is primarily a consumer goods company, and its annual production and consumption of pulp and paper materials are unknown. That’s why we’ve ranked it here, despite it being the third-highest in terms of revenue. The company was founded in 1837 by a candlemaker and a soapmaker and is still going strong today. P&G runs well-known household paper and pulp-based product brands, including Pampers, Always, Tampax, and Bounty. It’s also a global market leader in baby care with baby wipes and taped nappies, with a 20% global market share.

If you’re a pulp and paper manufacturer and want to increase efficiency with cutting edge software, get in touch today.

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