Image: E. Archivell, CC

Visiting mills for our Country Report brings home a real appreciation that Spain’s tissue industry is on the brink of a new era. It is just a matter of when.

Luciano Lopez expects it to be little short of a cultural revolution. Importantly, he plans to be not just ready to reap the benefits when that happens, but to play an active part in changing Spanish consumers’ buying habits.

Luciano is plant director at Lucart Tissue & Soap, the Lucart Group’s Artziniega- based converting facility, a short distance from the vibrant Basque-Country
city of Bilbao. Sustainability was a key reason for Lucart Group’s move into production in Spain, the potential for developing recycle paper products. In four,five or six years, he reckons, the market will change significantly.

To-date Spaniards, he says, have had a ‘big problem’ with recycling: “If you go to a supermarket here in Spain and try to find recycled paper, you won’t find it.
I don’t know when exactly, but demand for these products will explode. And we will be ready when it does.”

That readiness is manifest in investing to boost production from 200 to 1,600 tonnes per month.

He aims to be an enabler: “We would like to be productive in bringing these products to the market, changing people’s habits and buying preferences and making people realise that this is something that is needed. At the moment, we haven’t created the right culture, and we want to encourage people to move in that direction.”

In Besalú, Girona, L.C. Paper has long been ahead of the curve on sustainability. Chief executive Joan Vila sees “an awakening” over consumer tissue products.

He explains the complexity behind his statement that LC Paper is the first European tissue manufacturer with carbon-neutral production lines … rethinking sources of energy and materials, adapting manufacturing processes, products, packaging … each operation of the company strongly impacted by that cross- department goal.

Our research analysis of Spanish tissue details fundamental issues against which optimism on the ground should be judged: 2018 retail sales at less than 1% growth volume; five-year growth rates to remain static; high unemployment; low Spanish birth rate and emigration to EU countries seeking work; 2018 consumer spending just recovered from 2007 level; and unmet value potential in tissue of USD473m.

Global consumption of tissue has potential to double

World tissue consumption has grown continuously year-on-year for more than 30 years. In 2018, global tissue consumption reached 38.7m tonnes and is approaching the benchmark of 40m tonnes this year.

Top consumer the US – at 25kg per person – is likely to remain unmatched, but untapped potential consumption in other regions of the world is still huge … less than 1.0kg in Africa and Asia Far East for example. Of course, the key word is potential. Some potential is harder to realise than others.

Marketissues with Esko Uutela explores short- and long-term prospects: what forces are driving market growth; will competing products and systems challenge the outlook; where are the best expansion opportunities; will the intensity of use of tissue continue to grow … or are we gradually nearing the absolute limits?