Our pulp in the world: North America

Metsä Fibre is committed to systematic growth in the North American pulp market. Having entered the market just four years ago, it is already delivering pulp to its local customers to the tune of over 100,000 tonnes per year.
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  • 2024, Pulp, Markets and trends

“We have ramped up operations in North America quickly and now hold a market share of over five per cent. With fresh production from our new Kemi bioproduct mill, we are eager to grow that share even higher, to well over 10 per cent,” says Kustaa Laine, VP, Sales, Americas & MEA, Metsä Fibre.

But how can you conquer highly competitive North American markets with pulp that is shipped from so far away? Laine responds that the company’s expansion to North America is the result of careful planning and determined execution.

“We make sure that we have the product that the customers want, and that the supply chain delivers, day in and day out. In the big picture, it’s simply vital that you are able to deliver what you promise on time,” Laine says.

Identifying potential customers and areas was another important building block when entering the new market.

“We have built our North American operations to serve the customer to the best of our ability. For example, local tissue makers have very tight requirements for the pulp they use. When you have a sustainable, high-quality pulp product with a proven track record, it certainly goes a long way.”

At the same time, while Metsä Fibre was finding its place, the North American market has faced some challenges. Many local pulp mills feature older technology and are nearing the end of their life cycle. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed severe challenges in the supply chain of some North American suppliers. All this has contributed to the rise of Metsä Fibre as a real alternative in the market.

We have built our North American operations to serve the customer to the best of our ability.

Kustaa Laine

Jointly planned logistics for better synergies

The Metsä Fibre logistics pipeline from Finland stretches across the Atlantic, delivering pulp to two United States ports: Baltimore, Maryland and Jacksonville, Florida. The pulp is then picked up by local carriers and delivered by trucks and trains to customers who are mostly located on the east coast. Victor Perry, Regional Logistics Manager for Metsä Group, says that careful monitoring of pulp deliveries is at the heart of logistics operations.

“For example, we get load status reports and use them in our performance analysis. Work like this is important because there are always areas we can improve upon,” he says.

Although Metsä Fibre started almost from zero in 2019, it did not have to do it all by itself. The presence of other Metsä Group companies in North America has been a big help. All logistics in North America are planned jointly for better synergies.

“We have monthly meetings with carriers to make sure deliveries proceed smoothly without any major problems”, says Perry.

John Concha, Supply Chain Coordinator for Metsä Fibre, knows the “hands-on” realities of pulp logistics. His job is to communicate with the carriers and help them hit their delivery windows.

“Since the customer depends on timely deliveries, you can’t drop the ball. Of course, sometimes there are issues, but we deal with them together,” Concha says.

“This job is largely about building good relationships with the customers and the carriers.”

Support to customers

Technical customer service (TCS) also plays an important role in Metsä Fibre’s work in North America. Technical Customer Service Manager Juho Rossi says that North American companies have been curious about the Nordic newcomer and eager to see if Metsä Fibre can offer them something that other pulp suppliers cannot.

“We provide information on how to handle pulp and how our pulp compares to that of the others on the market,” Rossi says, and adds that improving the process together with the customer is a strength of the company’s technical customer service.

“It’s not always about a problem, but you can also get support from us for problem-solving.”

Being in a new market is also about learning new things, like the popularity of through-air-drying technology (TAD) in tissue production in North America.

“TAD products are of high quality, with great softness and strength. The downside is that the process uses a lot of energy,” says Rossi.

The Technical Customer Service team, based in various parts of the world, is always there to support the customers regardless of the technique, process or product they use.

“Knowing each market and its special characteristics is something that our customers really appreciate.”

This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2024.

The United States tissue market

  • Two main market segments: Away From Home (AFH) and At Home (AH).

  • The AFH market is primarily composed of recycled-content tissue products, such as for the hospitality sector, the food service industry, educational institutions and healthcare facilities.

  • The AH market is primarily composed of 100 per cent wood pulp-based bathroom tissue, facial tissue and paper towel used at homes.

  • There are various types of tissue focusing on different special features such as softness, comfort, strength, hypoallergenic materials and sensitivity.

  • North American (Canada, Mexico and United States) tissue production in 2021 was 9.7 million tonnes, of which approximately 65 per cent was AH and 35 per cent AFH.