Operations Report

JAPAN’s rapidly ageing population presents opportunity for producer Oji Nepia.

While the world eyes China’s rapid progress, there’s no denying that many countries are looking to Japan to see how it responds to its demographic crisis. The country is ageing incredibly quickly and some projections say four out of ten Japanese people will be over 65 by 2050. It has one of the lowest birth rates ever (1.4 per woman), and this coupled with a lack of immigration means that generations are moving into retirement without being replaced.

This has big economical implications, making the country something of a test case for others on how to handle an ageing population. And for the tissue sector, these changes in demand have been quite a challenge – and they have also led to opportunity.

Oji Nepia is one tissue producer that has taken advantage of the changes. It has plans to expand its offering and invest further in the incontinence market.

Oji Nepia products

In an interview with TW at the company’s Tokushima mill, Tomotsugu Miyoshi, mill manager of the site, says that while there has certainly been a decrease in demand for diapers, on the other hand there has been “a big increase” in the need for incontinence products for the elderly.

He says: “The total number of older people in Japan is increasing. We can’t expect them to use as many tissue products so we put emphasis on incontinence products. Incontinence consumption is definitely increasing here and our aim is to expand our brand power in this sector.”

A new plant – dedicated solely to incontinence products – is expected to begin production in the Fukushima area in 2012. H i s torically, the company’s presence had been in the northern and eastern part of Japan, with plants in Nagoya and Hokkaido Island, where it produces household paper products.

Oji Nepia converting production

The company’s Valmet PeriformerTM Crescent former

In 1998, production started up at the 85 staffed Tokushima site. It now produces 40,000 tpy of facial tissue, bath tissue and kitchen towel annually on a 6.1m-wide Valmet Periformer™ Crescent former from Metso Paper.

Through its tissue and toilet paper production it has some 13% of the Japanese tissue market, and Miyoshi says the aim is to keep that level. There is also more demand for expensive luxury products. “There is a trend for quality as far as tissue is concerned,” he adds. “We are seeing more and more natural drivers, such as increasing numbers of hay fever sufferers, etc.

“However, one of the main sources of opportunity for us is the incontinence sector, and it is here that we will make our investments going forward.”