Northwood’s recent acquisitions in the UK’s AfH tissue market has propelled it to the number three spot in the sector. Now with its latest joint venture Northwood & Wepa acquiring the former Georgia- Pacific GB & I private label consumer tissue business from SCA in May, it has a significant footprint across all tissue sectors.
By Helen Morris, Tissue World Editor
Originally a supplier of flat paper grades to the UK converting industry as Northwood Paper Sales, over the past 15 years the group has significantly increased its focus on the tissue market. Headed up by principal shareholder and chairman of Northwood & Associated Companies, Paul Fecher, its associated companies now consist of Connect Hygiene Products and Peter Grant Papers which focus on sales of converted products into the Away from Home market, and Disley Tissue and Lancaster Tissue which produce parent reels for own conversion and sales to third parties through Northwood Paper Sales and Northwood Recycling and Northwood Logistics. Fecher says: “Our aim is to be the preferred supply chain partner for any organisation involved in the disposables, paper, and tissue industries. We are now one of only a small handful of companies in the UK market that sells as well as converts parent reels into final product and also has mill facilities to guarantee supply.”
TW visited its T&T site Disley Tissue/Connect Hygiene Products, located in the picturesque English village of Disley, south of Manchester, on the western fringes of the Peak District National Park. Director Chris Wickham, who heads up the site, told TW: “By name we are a relatively new manufacturing company, but we have a long history in the sector and our ambition is to build on that experience and continue our growth. We have targeted investment strategically in the tissue sector and grown organically as well as through acquisitions. To us it feels like we are bringing back some paper manufacturing ownership and initiative into the UK.”
The Disley site dates as far back as 1820 when, as a cotton mill, it was part of Manchester’s domination of the world cotton trade. In 1890 it started producing paper and now makes the majority of the AfH group’s 40,000tpy of high quality DIP & tissue parent reels for Northwood’s in-house conversion and as part of the mother reels tissue supply network. Capacity at Disley was recently increased by 10% with the startup of a Metso-supplied Yankee Advantage AirCap hood and Advantage WetDust dust control system. The Advantage WetDust system applies the patented concept of a fully wet system to capture dust at the source by encapsulating it in water. Wickham says: “Investment in our assets is an important part of our strategy and since acquiring the manufacturing sites we have made significant changes to improve the cost base and reduce our environmental impact. We support environmental initiatives such as FSC and Ecolabel, and our investment is in people, processes and our brands in addition to assets, so we can continue to build on our market position.”
The Northwood AfH business is predominantly UK-focused, and Wickham adds that its footprint has enabled it to develop brands such as the Leonardo range of towel and tissue systems which he says “offers end users tangible (cost in use) savings, hygiene and environmental benefits”. “Leonardo dispensers can be found in washrooms throughout the UK, in hospitals, hotels, golf courses and in almost every motorway service station,” he says. “We believe in constant product range development and improvement to meet ever changing user and market requirements. We recognise that in order to achieve our aim of being the key supply chain partner for any organisation involved in the disposable paper industry we also need to be flexible and resourceful in responding to customer enquiries and market demands. This is a very exciting, open and energetic environment to work in.”
On 1 May 2013, Northwood & Wepa, the joint venture formed by the shareholders of Northwood Companies (the Fecher family) and the shareholders of the Wepa Group (the Krengel family), acquired the former GB&I Georgia-Pacific private label tissue business from SCA. The move brought an extra 80,000tpy of finished products converting, placing it in third position in the UK private label consumer tissue market.
Fecher says the opportunity to acquire the Bridgend e-Tad Tissue production facility with its integrated modern converting operations “gives the business a solid platform for further growth. The key management team from G-P has been retained and with our guidance is operating the business independently. With continuity assured and with experience and knowledge of the sector, Northwood & Wepa brings significant opportunities for the UK and Ireland private label clients. This is a tremendous opportunity to make a unique synergy with the energy and ambition of the shareholders’ other companies.”
For both sets of shareholders the acquisition expands the overall business to now include consumer products; Northwood can now offer the full range of finished products in e-Tad and conventional tissue for every sector of the consumer and AfH markets. For the Krengel family, already a major supplier of private label products as well as operating in the AfH markets in mainland Europe, the acquisition means the extended business now has a major independent UK market presence.
FACTFILE – Northwood Associated Companies
Companies – Northwood Paper Sales, Connect Hygiene
Products, Disley Tissue, Peter Grant Papers, LancasterTissue, Northwood & Wepa, Northwood Recycling and Northwood Logistics
Sectors – AfH, private label, hygiene, consumer
Markets – parent reels, AfH & Consumer converted products, waste paper procurement, Logistics
Staff – 550
Annual UK sales – £230 million
Chairman: Paul Fecher