Image: Europap Tezol Kağit

In three years annual capacity rose from 95,000tpy to a projected 130,000tpy with an AHEAD 2.2S tissue line start up in 2023, boosting super-prime branded tissue products sold abroad by Turkish-headquartered Europap Tezol Kağit. Alpay Yalçın, Export Sales and Operations Manager, talks to TWM Senior Editor Helen Morris about setting their sights on export potential.

Alpay Yalçın, Export Sales and Operations Manager, Europap Tezol Kağit

Since we last spoke two years ago for TWM’s 2020 Turkey Country Report, Europap Tezol Kağit has, unsurprisingly, been incredibly busy. The company has navigated the many market and customer changing trends by making a series of investments: an ICM-supplied Multifold Handtowel machine to produce AfH products started up at the end of 2020, a Korber-supplied Myline with mini-catalyst system complete with a KPL packaging machine was installed in 2021, and Valmet is undertaking a complete hood replacement of the company’s PM2, due to be completed in 2023.

Most significant of all is the new Toscotec-supplied AHEAD 2.2S tissue machine which is planned for start-up in early 2023, and will be the focus of the company’s new business strategy.

“Most of the new investments we have made over the past two years are for the export market,” Alpay Yalçın, Export Sales and Operations Manager Europap Tezol Kağit, says from his office in Izmir. “There, we are seeing big increases in demand for tissue and towel products. In tissue production, Turkey is in a more advantageous position in sales compared to many countries in the world, especially European countries, except for a few. Our machinery is also mostly brand-new, so quality is more than acceptable across most of the world and from Turkey we can still maintain an advantage in terms of costs. So, we really see a big opportunity.”

The AHEAD 2.2S tissue machine will not only boost production of super-premium branded product, but will also boost the company’s presence across international markets.

When TWM last interviewed Yalçın in October 2020, the company had two Recard-supplied Crescent Former tissue mills at its Torbali-Izmir plant and a total capacity of 60,000tpy. At the company’s Mersin plant, and a Valmet-supplied DCT with a Kadant deinking plant produced 35,000tpy.

Now, annual capacity is currently around 95,000tpy, and the business is planning to increase this to 130,000tpy when its new tissue machine start-up.

Production boost: Annual capacity is currently around 95,000tpy, and the business is planning to increase this to 130,000tpy when its latest TM starts-up

The investment decisions have largely been based on the sales slowdown seen in the Turkish tissue markets after the outbreak of Covid-19, which led the business to turn to other markets that needed tissue and towel products. Finding new customers and new territories has opened production potential and the business now works with new customers and has also since started to re-supply its previous local markets – branded products, private label and jumbo rolls for the Turkish markets.

Key growth areas: The export market is a big opportunity, something brought on by events in the region and the aftermath of the pandemic 

The new tissue machine will be installed at the company’s integrated production base in Mersin and will use virgin pulp. Start-up is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, and once up and running it will produce 40,000tpy. Yalçın says that start-up had been planned for around October/November 2022, but the arrival of some parts of the mill had been delayed. “These delays in the start-up are due firstly to the pandemic,” he says, “but also the crisis that broke out due to the war in Europe after the pandemic. Those two issues are heavily related to the current transportation crisis.”

He adds that demand for tissue and towel products has increased in Turkey over the past two years, progressing “on a fixed route”, and because of the investments production has been enough to feed the domestic tissue market. “As a result, most of these new investments are for the export market, which is where we are seeing the biggest increases in demand.”

At the beginning of the pandemic he adds that there was “an unrealistic excess of demand”, followed by a period of stagnation due to the congestion in the warehouses. “After a while, and after the re-openings, this turned into another demand explosion, and we saw that the demand has returned to its normal levels in the last few quarters. So we think that the balancing process has been completed.”

In addition to its own brands in finished-products, he adds that private label production now “maintains its key sector position” in company strategy. “In addition, we aim to increase our share in the AfH market with the new investments made and planned,” he adds.

And while it was true that there was “a natural recession” in AfH products due to the closure of all facilities, Yalçın adds that this demand rebounded linearly with the openings. “This linear rise still continues to grow,” he says.

E-commerce has also somewhat changed the marketplace, but he doesn’t expect this trend to continue widely: “We definitely saw an increase in e-commerce in many sectors before the pandemic, but it peaked in some sectors with the pandemic. I don’t think it will create any disadvantage in the tissue (finished product) market because the companies that produce both in the AfH market and the household market have mostly created their infrastructure for this situation. Marketing departments and sales channels had created – and still are creating – strategies according to this new situation and position themselves accordingly. In the semi-finished jumbo roll market, I personally do not foresee that e-commerce will be very effective due to the diversity of product features and the fact that it is an area where production is more according to order.”

The main opportunity is export, something brought on by events in the region and the aftermath of the pandemic: “Turkey is growing mostly in the export market by using the advantages of its location. In the domestic market, the 2023 Turkish general election will be held in June and therefore we expect the current growth rate to be maintained even if there is no increase in CAGR. But the same is not true for the European market. It is likely that production will decrease in many areas, including tissue production, due to increasing energy prices and supply shortages, and the growth rate may decrease as a result. Therefore, it is possible to foresee that the key growth opportunities in our sector will remain mostly in the export market.”

The biggest challenge for the Turkish tissue paper industry in the coming years is overcapacity, he adds, “as it produces more than it normally consumes”. “We can also see this situation as an opportunity because we are still more advantageous than Europe and the USA in some parameters in production. If the manufacturers make good use of this situation, their share in the world market and the perception of quality will be permanent.”

However, he cautions that this can be possible only if the competition is not made just in the field of price, that business development is not brought to the point of only giving better prices than all companies, and that the right techniques are used to settle a regular customer satisfaction and service quality.

Raw materials also remain a key concern: “As a result of the anomalies experienced in the world since the beginning of 2020, some raw material prices have been faced with the danger of overpricing due to excessive demand or underproduction. Some governments and financial resources could not manage these situations well and unfortunately this also facilitated the growth of these problems. This abnormal situation still continues and as long as it continues, uncertainties will remain.”

Lastly, he summarises that the last few years has seen the world having to deal with the Russia-Ukraine war, and the energy and food crisis it brings. “In addition, the crisis due to high pricing in shipping and port strikes in some countries continues. Those who run macroeconomics could not foresee many of these situations, and many of the necessary measures were late.”

There is also, he says, the concern of whether a pandemic related to Covid-19 will repeat as populations enter the winter: “The ‘inflation, energy price hikes, pulp price hikes’ we have been discussing here are all directly caused by the results of this situation. Of course, we must reflect the cost increases brought about by these situations to a certain extent. However, while doing this we must work by taking market dynamics and people’s purchasing power to the forefront.”

Overcapacity: The biggest challenge for the Turkish tissue paper industry in the coming years remains supply and demand