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Specialty Paper Grades-Expect the Unexpected

Specialty paper products in packaging, printing and technical segments of the industry include essential and nonessential products (Moore 36). These products are outside of the mainstream commodity production, are usually of higher value and produced in lower volume for a smaller sized clientele. This sector of the paper industry is small and highly fragmented, with 78 North American companies manufacturing 220 different paper machines at 126 different mills (Perkowski 20-24). Worldwide, the representation is larger, with 681 paper machines (out of an estimated 5000 machines in overall use in the industry) producing specialty paper grades (Rodencal 21). In 2012, 23% of North American paper demand was for specialty paper grades, an increase from 21% of demand in 2005. Specialty paper grades have enjoyed a shift in demand that has them outperforming commodity grades with a projected acceleration of growth on the horizon (Perkowski 20-24).

There is no official standardization of specialty paper grade categories and diverse product offerings exist within business, consumer, food, industrial and graphic applications (Rodencal 20). The innovation and new developments in the specialty paper sector are constant, as meeting customer demand is the key to establishing competitive advantage. Barrier coatings are revolutionizing areas of packaging technology. Nanocrystalline cellulose, from pulp production, is a readily available and renewable material that in being developed for bioplastics applications. The airline industry is testing composite aerospace board, curtain coaters are in development and hemp and flax fibers are finding their way into the industry in Canada (Moore 37).

Many mills are developing production of specialty papers in efforts to stay in business in the face of declining demand for commodity products (Perkowski 20). The risks in developing specialty grades are very real, with no guarantee that specialty products will improve a mill’s profit margins (Moore 37. In order for a mill to succeed in producing specialty grades, they have to create a variety of products and keep their cost structure competitive. These measures will enable them to adapt to change in customer demand (Perkowski 22).

Check out this list of Grades of Paper from the resource website PaperOnWeb.


Featured Image from the UK Paper Label Company Ovalring

Moore, G K. “The Specialty Paper Market.” Paper 360 July/August. 2011:36-38.

Perkowski, F. “North America Shifts to Specialty Papers.” Paper 360 March/April. 2012:20-24.

Rodencal, T. “The Diverse Landscape of Specialty Papers.” Paper 360 March/April. 2010:20-22.

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2014 by in Paper College, Paper Industry and tagged , , , , , .
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