The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 10, Number 2
Oct 1997

Consumers Prefer Whiter, Brighter

IP Pulls Plug on Unity & Incentive Groundwood Office Paper

by Ken McEntee

Reprinted with permission from Recycled Paper News v. 7, #12, Sept. 1997. The author is the editor and publisher of RPN.

Are American consumers willing to sacrifice brightness in exchange for recycled content in their paper?

The answer, based upon the failure of two lines of office paper made from 100 percent recovered old newspaper and magazines, appears to be absolutely not.

Disappointing interest in the once highly-touted lines led to International Paper's decision to pull the plug on its Unity DP and Incentive 100 lines effective Oct. 1, the company said.

Officials at International Paper said the disappointing performance of the grades may have been due to consumers' preference for brightness in their office papers.

The 100 percent recycled groundwood paper is produced at IP's mill in Lock Haven, Penn. The mill's 250 ton-per-day deinking plant will be shut down while the machine that produced the recycled paper will be converted to make other lines of paper.

Unity DP, marketed under the Hammermill brand, was designed for use in copier machines, laser printers, plain paper fax machines and offset presses. Incentive 100, marketed under the Springhill brand, was available in rolls to commercial printers and converters.

Where's the Demand?

Consumption capacity of scrap paper for the Unity and Incentive lines is 300 tons per day--half ONP [old newspapers] and half magazines. However, according to Julie Brennen, spokeswoman for the Lock Haven mill, the line has averaged about 200 tons per day since it started in December 1993.

"In the four years that we operated we never operated at capacity," Brennen said.

The nation's first office paper made with 100 percent recovered newspapers and magazines was introduced with considerable hoopla. But the interest was not there to keep the product going, said Molly Felling, IP spokeswoman.

The reason they are being discontinued is that unfortunately the market never materialized to the level that the company could sustain manufacturing those products," she said. "We are going to permanently close the deinking facility and the recycling operation this fall after we give our customers time to find replacement grades."

The $80 million investment in the product was based on research indicating high demand, Flemming said.

"Our investment in the technology at Lock Haven was based on some pretty serious marketing research including input from government agencies and environmental groups," she said. "The research indicated that there would be a good market for 100 percent recycled products made from old newspapers and magazines. However, it never materialized in price or volume. It never met expectations. It was an unfortunate business decision."

She said the decision to discontinue two grades was not an easy decision because "environmental stewardship remains a major commitment for International Paper."

She said many of IP's core printing/writing grades will continue to contain 20 percent post-consumer fiber.

The downfall of Unity and Incentive, IP officials say, was likely its grey color. While most recycled copy papers have a brightness of 85 to 96, Unity had a brightness of 60.

"A lot of the reaction we hear from the market is that it's not white so it must be inferior," Brennen said. "You always hear the commercials that say whiter brighter; it's everything, not just paper. So people think it's better. This was not an inferior product, it operated just like any other sheet of copier paper. It just didn't look white and bright and people weren't willing to give it a shot."

Not even at a lower price than what was being charged for other office papers. Another IP spokeswoman, Rebecca Wix, said the groundwood paper was being offered at prices as much as 5 percent lower than virgin pulp-based copy paper.

"When (the large demand projected by environmental groups and the government) didn't materialize we were really shocked because we thought they would really jump at this," Wix said. "Especially when there is a price break of 5 percent or so. If you look at what the government buys, a 5 percent price break, I would think, would be a pretty big number."

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