Smithers: Wipes and personal hygiene drive sp...

Wipes and personal hygiene drive spunlace expansion

(Source: Smithers)
(Source: Smithers)

Multiple factors are combining to drive a rapid expansion in the global spunlace nonwovens market. Led by burgeoning demand for more sustainable materials in baby, personal care, and other consumer wipes; global consumption will rise from 1.85 million tons in 2023 to 2.79 million in 2028. These figures are based on exclusive data forecasting available in the market report “The Future of Spunlace Nonwovens to 2028” from Smithers, Akron, OH/USA.
Disinfecting wipes, spunlace gowns and drapes for medical applications were all vital in battling the recent Covid-19. Consumption surged by almost 0.5 million tons across the course of the pandemic; with a corresponding increase in value from US$7.70 billion (2019) to $10.35 billion (2023) at constant pricing.
Across this period, spunlace production and converting were designated as essential industries by many governments. Both production and converting lines operated at full capacity in 2020-21, and multiple new assets were brought online rapidly. The market is now experiencing readjustment with corrections in some products like disinfecting wipes, already underway. In several markets large inventories have been created due to disruption to transport and logistics. At the same time, spunlace producers are reacting to the economic effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has led to increases in material and production costs, while simultaneously damaging consumer purchasing power in several regions.
Overall, however, the demand for spunlace market remains very positive. Smithers forecasts value in the market will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.1% to reach $16.73 billion in 2028.
With the spunlace process especially suited to producing lightweight substrates – 20-100 grams per square meter (g/m²) basis weights – disposable wipes are the leading end use. In 2023 these will account for 64.8% of all spunlace consumption by weight, followed by coating substrates (8.2%), other disposables (6.1%), hygiene (5.4%), and medical (5.0%).
With sustainability central to the post-Covid strategies of both home and personal care brands, spunlace nonwovens producers will benefit from their ability to supply biodegradable, flushable wipes. This is being boosted by impending legislative targets calling for substitution of single-use plastics and new labelling requirements for wipes specifically.
Spunlace nonwovens have the best combination of performance properties and the best near-term global capacity to deliver this compared to competing nonwovens technologies – airlaid, coform, double recrepe (DRC), and wetlaid. Flushability performance of spunlace still needs to be optimized; and there is scope to improve substrate compatibility with quats, solvent resistance, and both wet and dry bulk.
The wider sustainability drive is extending beyond wipes, with spunlace use in hygiene also set to increase, albeit from a small base. There is interest in multiple new formats, including spunlace topsheets, nappy/diaper stretch ear closures, as well as lightweight pantiliner cores, and ultrathin secondary topsheet for feminine hygiene pads. The main competitor in the hygiene segment are polypropylene-based spunlaids. To displace these there is a need for improved throughput on spunlace lines, to improve price competitiveness; and ensure superior uniformity at lower basis weights.
The report Future of Spunlace Nonwovens to 2028 combines penetrating technical and business insights to give a high level of detail. Historic, current, and future consumption is presented and forecast expertly (by value, weight, and surface area) in a data set of over 120 tables and figures. This segments the market by spunlace variant, raw material, end-use application and world region (Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Rest of the World).

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