KELHEIM - Sustainable Nonwovens talks to Dr Marina Crnoja-Cosic, Director New Business Development, Marketing and Communication, at Kelheim Fibres.
Sustainable Nonwovens: Kelheim Fibres has undergone a transformation from being a mere supplier of speciality fibres to an innovative partner in the textile and nonwovens industry. Could you tell us more about this development?
Marina Crnoja-Cosic: Many decades ago, we realized that we couldn’t succeed in Germany by producing standard fibres. That’s why we focused heavily on specialties and generated numerous functional fibre innovations. As a result, we now have a product range comprising 15 main fibre types and over 100 different fibre types.
Now, we have taken a step further. It is no longer enough to simply present the market with a great new fibre with new functionality. We can’t leave it to chance whether someone notices it and says, “I could use this in my product.” Not to mention that it takes far too long for a new fibre to find its way into an end product using this approach. Therefore, we recognized the need to go beyond the role of a pure supplier and actively engage as an innovation partner in the industry to meet market demands.
SNW: And how do you implement that?MCC: We understand the importance of identifying unmet customer needs and providing solutions. Our open innovation approach plays a crucial role. We actively monitor trends and identify application areas where our fibres can deliver value to consumers, fulfilling unmet needs.
Then, we develop a solution approach specifically to address these, in collaboration with partners along the value chain. Our role in this process is to align our existing fibre types precisely with the processing requirements and desired functionality of the end product.
In addition to offering tailored and functionalized specialty fibres, we also provide our entire expertise, technical capabilities, innovative spirit, commitment, and industry and scientific institute connections.
This is particularly advantageous when collaborating with startups. I consider collaboration with startups very important. They bring innovative thinking and the speed we need to quickly bring new solutions to the market. However, their founders often lack the technical knowledge, which we provide as an industrial partner.
SNW: Can you tell us more about the current product developments at Kelheim Fibres?
MCC: Unlike in the past, I’m not going to present our latest fibre types. Instead, I’ll talk about holistic concepts we have developed in partnership with others. And there’s a lot to tell.
For instance, just this year, we have collaborated with nonwovens specialist Sandler and hygiene product manufacturer pelzGroup to develop a plastic-free panty liner, which will soon be available in the market under the brand COSMEA.
We are also very proud of the result of our collaboration with Italian textile machinery manufacturer Santoni. We have developed a concept that enables the production of bio-based period underwear.
Our speciality fibres used to make the period underwear ensure extremely high performance, while Santoni’s textile machinery enables highly efficient, energy- and waste-saving manufacturing. We are currently seeking a partner to commercialize this project.
We are also working with the Recycling Atelier of ITA Augsburg. The goal is to make recycled cellulose fibres processable into new nonwovens by blending them with our sustainable viscose fibres.
SNW: What are the biggest challenges currently faced by the textile and nonwovens industries, and how does Kelheim Fibres address these challenges?
MCC: Naturally, the textile and nonwovens industries need to become more sustainable, and we don’t have unlimited time for that. Both consumers and political regulations are stepping on the accelerator here. Therefore, we need to become faster in implementing innovative, sustainable solutions.
In my view, it is essential that we learn to competitively implement these solutions in Europe.
As a manufacturer of fibres made from the renewable resource of wood, which is transformed into precisely functionalized high-performance fibres through our production process know-how, we already have a sustainable foundation for future-oriented product solutions. With our innovation approach I have described, we can realize them quickly. We invite all industry participants to join us in doing so! SNW