In February 2023, Spain’s LC Paper’s was working towards starting up a new converting production site. Following the Covid years, Chief Executive Pau Vila discussed how the company had been “very exposed” to the HoReCa segment both directly through converted products as well as indirectly through selling parent reels to converters which were oriented at the HoReCa segment. Because of that, he said at the time, “the Coronavirus crisis produced a very significant demand reduction.”

In response, the company diversified and entered the At-Home market through its own converting (Dalia brand and third-party brands) with a clear bet on e-commerce products. The segment, he said, “grew exponentially” during Covid before later stabilising, while the HoReCa segment had fully recovered.

Plans included the ramp up of a newly launched Fornells production site for converting in the second quarter of 2023, and Vila expected to see “significant growth” in the At-Home channel due to “both the market having higher sensibility to sustainable formats, and our increase in production output for this product family thanks to the launch of our new Fornells production site.”

Now in June 2024, Vila confirms that in the summer of 2023, the new production site, the third for the company, had been successfully launched in the municipality of Fornells de la Selva, Catalonia. The Fornells site is dedicated to the production of converted tissue products for the domestic market, both in e-commerce formats and smaller retail packs for supermarkets and local stores. The 5.500m2 facility is the result of a €5m investment to grow in tissue converting and is in addition to the existing approach for this category of products – plastic-free packaging, production with 100% renewable energy, and certified carbon-neutral footprint – that Vila says LC Paper has pushed through over the last few years.

“After the launch of this converting site, LC Paper reaches a 30% share in internal converting of its 50,000tpy production capacity, with the rest being sold to third-party converters,” he adds. “This partial vertical integration has awarded LC Paper with additional operational flexibility and resilience.”

As for changes and developments in the local tissue market, on one side he says it has continued to embrace sustainability initiatives by the progressive phase-out of plastic packaging and a faster adoption of unbleached fibre products. “However, the innovation and sustainability dynamics of the tissue industry are now challenged by a negative costs scenario due to the severe growth on the pulp market prices, fuelled by the Red Sea situation and other global situations which impact the global pulp trade flows.”

In Spain, he adds the most significant merger and acquisition operation was the purchase of Gomà-Camps’ Spanish consumer business and Gomà-Camps France by Portuguese-headquartered Navigator. In the scope of the Navigator’s growth strategy in the tissue segment, the company also then completed the purchase of UK-based converter Accrol Group Holdings for £131m in April 2024.

Is he still seeing growth in the Spanish market? “In the past fiscal year, we have observed a slight total growth in our national market of Spain, despite a stagnation of the consumer market growth. This is due to national tourism enjoying a strong recovery in the past months, now exceeding the pre-Covid levels in many cases. The accumulated inflation during the past three years together with the current cost increase of pulp and the already budget-oriented At-Home tissue market in Spain has increased the already high relevance of distributor brands in this geography, while manufacturer brands remain weaker than in other European markets.”

For the rest of 2024, Vila says LC Paper is “executing a complete rebuild of its recycled stock preparation section which will allow significant improvements both in the quality of the recycled pulp as well as in the efficiency of the sorting process, so that the separation of the waste paper between the actual paper elements and non-paper traces is fast and precise.”

This installation will be shared for both the MG kraft production line and the tissue production line, with recycled tissue being focused on in the unbleached market segment: “Within LC Paper’s strategic views is the conviction that both domestic and professional customers will continue to increment their adoption of unbleached grades as the market understands that the colour choice does not impact the hygiene level of the product in any way.

“The new stock preparation section represents an investment of €5m and has received a grant of approximately €2m from the Next Generation European funding scheme, due to its contribution to the minimisation of waste. The facility will be operational by early 2025.”