Azur Papier keeps growing in North Africa

Azur Papier was founded in Tunisia to supply tissue paper to the SAH Group – itself a leading producer of hygiene products in North Africa. The company now produces some 55,000 tonnes of tissue paper a year. Metsä Fibre is a reliable long-term supplier that offers the stability Azur Papier requires.
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  • 2024, Customer story, Pulp

The market was not easy to penetrate. Historically Tunisia was dominated by an operator with a 90 per cent market share. But Jalila Mezni and her husband Mounir El Jayez created SAH (Société d’Articles Hygiénique) in 1996 and launched a high-quality line of hygiene products with their Lilas brand. This new generation of products marked a break from the classic hygiene items then available on the Tunisian market.

Initially established in towns distant from the capital Tunis, they gradually gained market share in both the north and south of the country through large-scale marketing campaigns. Nowadays SAH is one of the fastest growing groups in the Tunisian market and the country’s undisputed leader in hygiene products.

Subsidiary of quality products

Opening-up to private equity investors in 2008-09, the SAH Group started its major industrial investments with a tissue paper machine and the creation of Azur Papier. This vertical integration strategy aimed at securing the quality of its main raw material and ensuring its supply independence in tissue paper.

It was backed by a horizontal development that expanded its operations beyond Tunisia, to countries such as Libya, Algeria, and later Morocco, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

Azur Papier manufactures tissue paper at its Zriba factory, located 60 kilometres south of Tunis. In 2021, production began on its second tissue paper machine, increasing Azur Papier’s production capacity by 150 per cent and allowing the SAH Group to carry the growing needs of it subsidiaries.

In 2022, Azur Papier exported more than 25,000 tonnes of paper, which accounts for 53 per cent of its total sales.

Sustainable industrial production

Azur Papier offers paper reels in virgin and recycled quality, designed and manufactured in an ethical and responsible manner. The company also produces its own electricity by gas-fired cogeneration, with the help of an English partner at its plant. The natural gas cogeneration unit produces both steam and electricity, of which the surplus output of 1.4 MWh is sold to STEG, the Tunisian public company for electricity and gas. All wastes are directly treated in the plant, creating no landfill.

A wastewater treatment plant also recycles 100 per cent of the water. After treatment, water is reused directly by local agriculture. The company now produces some 50,000 tonnes of tissue paper a year but plans to invest in a third production line to produce up to 80,000 tonnes per year.

A long-term relationship with Metsä Fibre

Azur Papier works exclusively with certified fresh pulp suppliers who provide optimum quality with a minimum impact on the environment and people. Metsä Fibre provides about 20 per cent of Azur Papier´s total fresh fibre supply. The supplied grade is long fibre pulp, which is not available locally.

Jalila Mezni says that the long partnership meant that Azur Papier emerged unscathed from the recent feedstock shortage. The company has been very satisfied with Metsä Fibre’s quality, technical customer service and support during the Covid-19 pandemic, and has recently concluded a formal cooperation agreement.

“Thirty years has passed since we set up SAH but it feels like yesterday,” she says.

“I’m proud of what our company has achieved, and grateful for the stability provided by our suppliers.”


This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2024.

Azur Papier

  • 375 people employees.

  • Annual tissue paper production
    capacity of 55,000 tonnes.

  • Exports to 15 countries in Africa,
    Europe and Middle East.

  • Total sales growth of 72 percent
    between 2021 and 2022.

  • Sales more than €61 million in 2022.

In this article

Jalila Mezni heads the Société d’Articles Hygiéniques (SAH) group and its subsidiary Azur Papier. She was ranked 45th in the Forbes Middle East Top 100 year 2022.