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Speaker interview with Pirita Huotari

60 seconds with the Senior Consultant, Business Intelligence at Fisher International

Your presentation will discuss “Recent capacity trends and developments in specialty papers”, can you give us a sneak peak of what delegates will hear?

The overall capacity of specialty papers has been in steady growth over the past 10 years. Structural changes like conversions, consolidation and downstream integration to converting will greatly reshape the industry in the future, along with global megatrends like antiplastics and digitalization. These changes in the operating environment offer smart operators a chance for exponential value growth.

What are the trends and developments that will redefine the Specialty industry the next 5 years?

The specialty industry is among the grades with potential for unpreceded growth as the giant among the global megatrends – the sustainability movement – is reshaping the economy.

The anti-plastics movement and increasing plastic bans around the world present a historical opportunity on a range of existing and completely new applications for fiber-based products. At the same time, in consumer packaging , the shift toward smaller package sizes, customized solutions and convenience is still ongoing. All this, combined with the requirement for circular economy presents an unpreceded opportunity for creating smart sustainable and recyclable fiber based products.

Producers and brand owners who are not taking sustainability seriously will lose this opportunity. Public pressure from society , legislation, investors and financers are pushing the industry to more sustainable production and into creating truly circular value chains.

The operators capable of investing in development and commercialization of new technologies, along with creating truly circular and sustainable production will be the winners in the new economy.

What are some of the biggest challenges the specialty papers industry is facing? What are some of the biggest opportunities?

The challenges are related to technology and changing the current structures of the business.

There is a desperate need to stop plastics from ending up in the environment. Replacing even a small part of the 400 million tons of plastics produced in the world every year with renewable or reusable materials offers any business a profitable window of opportunity.

Single-use plastics are the first targeted as they end up outside of the recycling loops the most often. Specialties has a once-in-a-lifetime chance and challenge to innovate technologies to answer the monumental challenge with biodegradable materials, while providing performance similar to plastic packaging.

Still, a bigger challenge than the technology may be the cost of change.

Plastic packaging is produced everywhere in the existing supply chain, from brand owners’ packaging lines throughout the logistics chain. The renewable option, unless it can be processed with the same equipment , will require a lot of investments to take over a significant market share.

Why is sustainability so important to this industry and its future?

Sustainability has truly moved to mainstream and from public opinion and small-scale bans to affect legislation, financing and purchasing decisions also in B2B. The sustainability will truly reshape the industry and it will become more and more expensive for companies to be unsustainable. The mills that don’t proactively reshape their business to answer the requirements of sustainability and circular economy will experience acquisitions or cease to exist.

Why do you feel it’s important for companies to attend the Specialty Paper Europe conference?

The Specialty Paper Europe conference gives a perfect platform to hear about the news and future trends and phenomena in the industry. It is a perfect way to network and build relationships across the industry.