Capability of interpreting market changes, ability to listen to customers, team-work aimed at finding solutions. KPL Packaging launches the new napkin packaging machine Casmatic F450BP, ideated for an emerging market.

Fabio Gurioli, Chiara Grossi

Among tissue products, napkins are no doubt the highest added-value one. Market demands are more heterogeneous in the field of napkins with respect to traditional kitchen rolls, handkerchiefs and toilet rolls, thus rendering this market very segmented. This results in wide opportunities for marketing as far as dimensions, quality, colour, packaging and even quantity.

Napkin producers must know their market very well to be able to satisfy its demands with highly added-value products. Napkins are a constantly evolving product, particularly in the away-from-home and consumer segments, as consumption increase and life-style improvement in Western countries demonstrate.

But let’s go back for a minute to our starting-point, i.e., the high added value of tissue napkins: the role of suppliers of napkin production and packaging machines is therefore very important.

In terms of business-to-business marketing, the capability for adapting a simple product like napkins to market evolutions means passing from the focus on product to the focus on service; supplying customers with a packaging machine able to offer a service in terms of different possibilities of napkin packaging, package structure and quality. The machine must be flexible and capable of answering the highest number of demands, in order to achieve advantages in terms of scale economy.

Continuous market analysis and proactive solutions have always been a priority in Fabio Perini’s and KPL Packaging’s mission, which aims at developing systems always in line with customers’ requirements.

Some years ago, for example, thanks to a market research focussed on folded products, an important potentiality for growth was identified in bulk-packed napkins. In this format, napkins are produced and packed vertically with the advantage of a high number of napkins per pack.

This format is particularly requested in the AfH market, above all in fast-food restaurants, which use single-ply white napkins in the standard 33x33 cm size, or in other smaller sizes such as 33x30 cm or 28x22 cm, fit for dispensers.

In some countries, this format is also requested in the consumer segment, as it is very useful for large families that daily use paper napkins. Also in this case the most common product is single-ply, but also printed. Being napkins a widely used product, they are strictly connected to the social and demographic conditions of the country.

The current main market is North America, where napkins have a high penetration, with a per capita annual consumption of 3 kg in 2001. In these recent years the North American napkin market has grown at an annual rate of 1.5% for both consumer and AfH segments, in which this product is now well-established and the market has been mature for some years.

In North America the bulk pack has a share of 70% in the napkins market, in terms of volume.

This is due to the diffusion of fast-food outfits and to the tendency to have lunch away from home. Furthermore, in many states there is a long distance between supermarkets and residential areas, so consumers prefer to buy large packs.

In Western Europe, the average per capita annual consumption in 2001 was less than half that of North America (1.2 kg), but with an estimated annual growth rate of 4.6%.

Here bulk packs still have a limited market because fast foods have been introduced only recently. Nonetheless, the demand for this format is increasing because of the progressive diffusion of fast foods and away-from-home lunches. As far as the consumer segment is concerned, bulk packs have undergone the effects of a social/demographic phenomenon: the progressive reduction of family size. This trend is common to all European countries and makes people keener on buying products in small size packs. According to a Eurostat forecast, this trend is going to reverse, mainly due to increased immigration.

In Italy, the market share of consumer bulk-pack napkins in 2003 was 3.67% (in terms of volume); it is, however, worth considering that this product is not very diffused yet. The product that has the top market share is distributed only by 4% of outlets.

Mexico is one of the countries in which bulk pack is highly requested in the consumer segment: here, the large size at low price is the best answer to most customers’ needs. According to our direct evaluation, bulk-packed napkins account for 75% of the total Mexican market of napkins.

On the basis of such data and of the market research carried out in 2001, KPL Packaging developed a packaging machine for bulk-pack napkins. William Nelson, Sales Director of KPL Packaging, is very satisfied with the results achieved.

“Our range of machinery did not include a wrapper specifically ideated for bulk pack format. Now we have a highly innovative and flexible machine, which is capable of processing a wide range of products in this format allowing noticeable reduction in packaging material costs”.

The new KPL Packaging machine can boast of having the Casmatic brand: its name is Casmatic F450BP. “Before producing it, we carefully listened to our customers to be able to answer market needs in terms of finished product. But we also added something new. The model Casmatic F450BP is equipped with an innovative packaging system: Tumbler, which KPL Packaging had already developed and successfully used in paper reams packaging machines. This system allows to achieve an on-line packaging cycle: the product is never diverted during the packaging process and this results in the high quality of the finished product.

Moreover, an age-old problem was solved, that concerning connection to the folding machine: the model Casmatic F450BP is fully integrated with the folding machine, thus eliminating the long bucket-chains infeed”.

As far as product flexibility, this machine is unequalled on the market. It can process napkins from 100 to 200 mm (already folded), thus covering also the AfH sector; especially during packaging, it can process napkins from a minimum thickness of 200 mm to a maximum of 750 mm. If we consider a 1-mm thickness for single-ply napkins, with just one machine it is possible to produce packages that range from a minimum of 200 napkins to a maximum of 750.

“We know”, William Nelson concludes “that the market of bulk-pack napkins is evolving. This is confirmed by the increasing demand for packaging machinery dedicated to this format. In the years 2002-2003 we received 25 inquiries from napkins producers: 18 from North and South America and 7 from Europe. Today we are able to answer these requests with a concrete and flexible solution”. •

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