A story through time in three editions which will tell us of the past, present and then the future of a sector that has revolutionised consumer behaviour: tissues.
Episode 1: DIVING INTO THE PAST
What are tissues?
When we talk about paper, we often tend to generalise, by thinking of goods like toilet paper, paper handkerchiefs and kitchen paper as part of this category. But features like softness, volume, strength, and capacity to absorb are distinctive characteristics of these goods. The special features just cited make the difference in hygienic and sanitary-use products from those made in traditional paper, making them form part of the tissue category.
The tissue sector is born
But what do we know about the history of tissue? Although in 1300 Italy could already boast a very significant level of development in the paper sector, the production of paper for hygienic and sanitary use only took off in 1850, in America. The introduction of tissue products into the American market changed consumer needs and demand, leading them to perceive these luxury goods as consumer goods in a matter of a few years.
Tissues touched down in the EU
Nowadays it is difficult to think of a world without tissues, even though this product started off in the European market at the end of the world wars, and was actually brought over by American soldiers. It was with the end of the Second World War that the first paper makers specialising in tissue products started to develop in Europe.
A first attempt to begin this kind of work should be attributed to Gioacchino Carrara, who founded Cartiere Carrara in 1873. The company was founded to produce straw paper, a special kind of absorbent paper which was mainly used for wrapping food. The term “straw paper” comes from its particular yellow colour, which derived from the wheat straw used to produce it. Despite Carrara’s efforts, the wave of destruction caused by the war destroyed the facility, and it was only reopened once the conflict was over.
Cartiere Carrara, ICT (Industrie Cartarie Tronchetti) and Sofidel were the first companies in Italy to realise there was a demand for tissue paper and to ride the wave of the revolution of the paper sector. A contribution to the development of this market in Italy was given by the Europeans’ wish to remove the American monopoly in producing it. Thanks to the approach taken by a German supermarket chain, Aldi, alliances were created between EU tissue producers (including Italian companies) and Europe thus managed to wrest the top spot from the US.
The story of tissue paper in Italy
If this area of paper production is not much known, a look at three large Italian papermaking firms can help us.
We have already mentioned that Cartiere Carrara, despite the fact it was the first company to get a foothold in this sector with the production of straw paper, was forced to close until 1950, when it restarted.
A similar path was taken by ICT (Industrie Cartarie Tronchetti). The company was founded in 1960, also to produce straw paper, and then moved into the tissue area in 1978, and differentiated its products with brands that could reflect its high quality and the perception of being very soft (the Foxy brand was launched in 1982). Over the years, ICT also managed to stand out by showing its commitment to the environment.
Another company in the sector we are looking at, in this case since 1966, is Sofidel, which is also notable for its long-standing support of environmental sustainability. The Sofidel name has its roots in the merger of three companies: Soffas (1972), Fine Paper (1966) and Delicarta (1979). These companies were brought together under the Sofidel brand in 1988.
This is a brief excursion into the history of the tissue sector. But what has changed in tissue production between 1980 and now? What are the events that have marked the technological revolution of the sector? And, most of all, what does the future hold for the sector? If you would like to find out, don’t miss the next chapter of “A tissue story: a journey in the tissue sector”:
07/08/2018 Episode 2: From the past to the present
11/09/2018 Episode 3: A look at the future