Kerem Durdag, CEO, Biovation II LLC, provides an insight into future innovations in nonwoven healthcare products and discusses challenges in offering sustainable products at competitive prices.
What is the size of the global non-woven fibre industry? Where do you see prospects of new markets growing?
The non-woven industry is a multi-billion dollar one with many large vertical segments. There is a significant amount of information to be absorbed and synthesised for one to determine the mechanisms of the nonwoven industry. In my opinion, the biopolymer market that will result in "green" and biosustainable products will continue to grow in the next decade with concurrently the healthcare sector also becoming a globally dominant player.
Which are your biggest markets for specialty advanced material end-products?
Our biggest markets are those that have a need and requirement for materials that are manufactured from biosustainable biopolymers because it is part of their value proposition.
What kind of innovations will be seen in future in healthcare products?
There is a macro market trend of integrating mechanical and chemistry features in nonwoven healthcare products, inclusive of nonwoven material approved by the FDA (or CE) as a medical device. Whether this be in smart fabrics, high-strength nonwovens, barriers against hospital acquired infections, biopolymer based products that can clearly show attractive cradle-to-grave return on investment results and advanced wound-care with therapeutics, there will be movement of nonwovens having multiple performance features in healthcare. Bringing such valuable products to the marketplace will require significant leadership.
It can be challenging to provide sustainable value-added products at affordable prices. How do you go about it?
One has to be honest enough to admit that there are many situations currently where sustainable products are expected to be at price points that are equivalent to those manufactured from petroleum based polymers, but are not. Such price equivalence is sometime impossible given the state of current polymer technology (raw bulk pricing, speed of processing, freight logistics et al). This is more true given the current oil prices and global allocation of capacity to manufacture sustainable products. For us, the focus is tethered to three anchor points:
a. The end customer has to be able to allow for the pricing that is technologically and operationally possible with sustainable products based on their value proposition, branding and positioning to the global marketplace.
b. The performance of the product has to exactly match the end requirements allowing for not only creativity and optimisation in the design of the product, but also a very specific articulation for the value of the product (cradle-to-grave lifecycle).
c. Markets have to realise that the constant commoditisation of value products has a certain "termination" point wherein the race to the cheapest erodes not only the confidence of the end purchaser of the product but also undermines efforts in place to bring next-generation products that require leadership and forward leaning attitudes.