In 2022, Sofidel America is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a lot of history and many reasons to commemorate. Recognized for its solid work, the company operates in the US in the production and conversion of tissue papers through Nicky and Papernet brands and has been standing out across the country.
Part of the Sofidel Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of paper for hygienic and domestic use, the company collects good moments in its history and a grateful portfolio of clients from different regions of North America.
“2022 is a memorable year as it marks the tenth anniversary of Sofidel in the United States. Ten years of work. Of commitment. Of growth. Ten years that have confirmed all the good reasons Sofidel decided to invest in this great country, where we have always been welcomed and supported. Ten wonderful years. Today we are established in seven states and, in terms of revenue, the United States is our primary market and the one where we expect to see the most growth” said Fabio Vitali, Vice President, Marketing at Sofidel.
THE HISTORY OF SOFIDEL IN AMERICA
This was a year of great change. Sofidel decided to expand its boundaries, landing in the United States of America, the largest market in the world in terms of per capita consumption of tissue paper.
Here it acquired the company Cellynne, later renamed Sofidel America, which was mainly active in the “AFH” market with three plants: one integrated in Florida (Haines City) and two converting plants, in Wisconsin (Green Bay) and Nevada (Henderson) – the latter moved to Las Vegas in 2018.
At this stage, there was a lot to be built: a presence in the retail market, but, most importantly, a team that could propel the company onto success in America. At this time, Sofidel America had 317 employees.
In 2014, Sofidel intensified its presence by opening a new converting plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and upgrading the one in Nevada. Production also began to increase, the integration of Cellynne was completed, and some retail customers began to arrive.
The Group acquired part of the assets of the company Green Bay Converting Inc., in particular a converting plant in Wisconsin (still in Green Bay) and a building in Mississippi (Hattiesburg), which was soon used to house a new converting plant.
Sofidel participated in the federal SelectUSA program, a project designed to encourage foreign investment in the United States and initiated its first greenfield investment on the new continent in Circleville, Ohio, on a 280+ acre site within a major logistics hub for distribution operators.
The company also opened new offices near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to where it relocated its U.S. corporate office. It was a completely new phase, with a big challenge ahead for employment growth while expanding business and penetrating the US market.
In June, one year after participating in the program, U.S. President Barack Obama referred to Sofidel as a SelectUSA success case, with the following words: “At last year’s summit an Italian tissue company started a conversation with folks from central Ohio and next month they are breaking ground in the town of Circleville on a manufacturing facility that will create hundreds of jobs in a part of the American Midwest that needs them. It will be the largest private sector investment in Circleville in decades, and it started right here at SelectUSA.”
Work began on the Circleville Integrated Plant, intended to be operational by the end of 2018. It would be the Group’s largest production site ever. The plant installed state-of-the-art paper mill technology (Advantage New Tissue Technology 200 machines by Valmet) and converting technology (Constellation by Fabio Perini).
The site is also highly innovative from the point of view of automation, with systems for the automatic transfer of reels between the paper mill phase and converting phase – using Laser-Guided Vehicles (LGVs) – and the complete automation of the management of the finished product warehouse.
The first commercial successes also began to arrive, especially in the retail world, under Mark Madrack. Meaningful business partnerships were also being strengthened in the AFH world.
The Sofidel America team was also growing, and there were now 717 employees. But that was still nothing! “The challenge, more intense than ever as we looked ahead to opening the new plants, is that, on the one hand, we needed to sell more and better, and on the other, we needed to speed up the process of building the new plants and hiring the staff to run them,” stated the company.
In February, the first converting line was put into production at the Circleville plant.
March saw the start of the second major greenfield investment for building an integrated plant in Inola, Oklahoma, about 30 miles from Tulsa, to serve the southcentral and west-central areas of the country.
In June, Luigi Lazzareschi was one of the featured speakers at the 2018 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC. Introduced by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, he was the only entrepreneur called to present Sofidel’s investment in Inola, recognized as a success story in rural economic development.
In October, the Group’s largest, most modern and sustainable manufacturing facility opened in Circleville. The plant features the latest generation technologies for the paper mill, converting, and warehouse phases. A total investment of about 400 million dollars for a production plant that will employ about 700 people once fully operational.
Despite a complicated year for the tissue sector, due to a challenging economic situation with unprecedented production costs (in fact, many companies would close), the Sofidel America family, with a big financial commitment, continued to make progress on the operations and commercial level. There were 1256 employees at the time, and critical partnerships took root, such as those with Amazon in AFH and Kroger in retail.
Between July and October, the first five converting lines in the new integrated plant in Inola started on schedule, two of which were transferred from the Tulsa, Oklahoma plant. Other lines were installed from the Tulsa plant, which was later decommissioned after the relocation to Inola was completed.
In total unawareness of the coming storm (COVID), Sofidel’s journey continued with a somewhat quieter year as regards costs. The team expanded further, and the company began to have a unique make-up with a state-of-the-art production park, a remarkable production capacity, territorial dislocation capable of satisfying critical customers’ needs, and an increasingly competitive and large team. The historic Philadelphia offices were no longer adequate, so the team moved to new offices. It was a new beginning that positioned the company amongst the most important in North American industry.
In a ceremony held in Appleton, Wisconsin (US), Sofidel’s Chief Executive Officer Luigi Lazzareschi was inducted into the Paper International Hall of Fame (PIHF), the small number of big names in the global paper industry. He was the first Italian to be recognized with this honor.
In January, the first paper machine at the new integrated plant in Inola, Oklahoma, started up: a 60,000 ton/year Toscotec AHEAD-2.0L. The second paper machine – with the same characteristics as the first – became operational in September, and, overall, 14 converting lines were installed for the production of the finished product (toilet paper and paper towels) for both the Away-from-Home and consumer markets
Despite the world’s difficulties, the Sofidel family – which at this point had 1591 employees – continued its process of expansion. In conjunction with market conditions, everyone’s commitment marked 2020 as a historic year for sales and production. Sofidel succeeded in meeting the sudden demands of customers, thanks to an increasingly efficient production system and the determination of the supply chain, operations and sales. Deliveries began to customers such as Costco, Walgreens, and many others.
If 2020 was a particularly positive year in terms of the results achieved, the same cannot be said of 2021: it immediately started under a cloud, with COVID raging and market conditions, for energy, raw material, and transport prizes, that were the opposite of 2020. But Sofidel was not discouraged and adopted measures that could protect the health of employees and safeguard business continuity. While competitors devised drastic restructuring and downsizing plans, Sofidel retained its employees and, indeed, expanded again.
During this year, Edilio Stefani succeeded his father, Emi Stefani, as Chairman of Sofidel.
In July 2021, Sofidel launched Nicky, its first consumer brand for the U.S. market.
AND THE STORY GOES ON…
In 2022, Sofidel America celebrates 10 years of great success in America and to commemorate this mark with its employees and their families, the company has planned a specific party to each Sofidel America location. “These parties will include a plant visit open to our employees and their families as a memorable moment, with music, games, food,” said the company.
The celebrations have already started. In June, at the Circleville plant, and in July at the Green Bay plant. In both locations, the festive moment was shared between the team and their families, who, over the years, played a key role in the company’s success.
In the coming months, the celebrations will also reach plants in Inola, Horsham, Hattiesburg, Las Vegas, and Haines City.