The global paper market, valued at over $837 billion in 2020, is expected to exceed $1 trillion before 2024, with Asia-Pacific responsible for 35% of the market share in 2020, leading ahead of North America. Despite experiencing a 7% drop in turnover due to the health crisis in 2020, the French paper industry saw recovery in 2021 with increased levels than prior years. France consistently displayed a negative paper trade balance, with imports exceeding exports. The French consumption of paper and cardboard declined markedly in 2020, with the majority used for packaging (56.9%). The industry, impacted by the health crisis, led to increased paper import prices and longer delivery times, with rumors of a shortage. Recycled materials grew in proportion as raw materials for paper production, reflecting a shift towards sustainability. Major industry players include International Paper, Smurfit Kappa, DS Smith, and Saica in various segments, with a notable focus on packaging, hygiene, and stationery.

Understanding the Paper Market Dynamics in France Amidst Health Crisis Shifts

In the French paper market, a sector deeply intertwined with daily lives and a wide range of industries, signs of both persisting tradition and dynamic change are evident. The market, which saw a significant turn in the 1990s due to environmental concerns, has continued to adapt, especially with the increasing shift toward recycled paper as a substitute for plastic packaging. This move is in response to ecological pressures to minimize plastic use, providing the paper market with opportunities for expansion through innovative and derived materials. Despite the progressive concentration of producers in France, the paper and cardboard industry has displayed growth in 2021, although certain segments faced downturns due to the health crisis. Notably, the turnover index for the retail trade of newspapers and stationery in specialized stores experienced a notable dip, not regaining the heights, consequently affecting upstream suppliers.

Looking specifically at paper consumption in France, it has shown a decline in recent years, becoming more pronounced in 2019 and 2020. The consumption can primarily be broken down into papers for graphic use, packaging, hygiene papers, and industrial and special papers. Observing further into the application areas, packaging emerges as the dominant use, accounting for approximately 55 to 60 percent of total consumption, with corrugated paper taking the lion's share of packaging use at around 65 to 70 percent. In terms of the market structure, despite moments of employee reduction coinciding with plant closures, the number of businesses remains fairly stable.

The French paper industry spans various subcategories, including the manufacture of paper pulp, paper and paperboard, corrugated cardboard, paper stationery, and a range of other related products. The lion's share of the turnover is sealed by the manufacture of paper and paperboard, corrugated cardboard, and sanitary or household paper products, collectively contributing to more than 70 percent of the total turnover.

A significant insight into raw material usage reveals that there has been a consistent increase in the proportion of recycled paper and cardboard used, which indicates a trend towards more sustainable production practices. It's important to note that the utilization rate of paper for recycling aligns closely with consumption patterns, with packaging still at the forefront. The health crisis has inevitably influenced paper prices. A notable increase in the paper import price index was observed in early 2021 and 2022, although initial fears of a paper shortage were later dismissed. It has, however, led to longer delivery times.

Key Market Players in the Transformative World of Paper and Board

The landscape of the paper and paperboard market is dotted with a variety of specialized companies, each contributing its own unique set of products and services to meet the diverse needs of consumers and industries. Reflecting on the prominent companies mentioned, we paint a picture of expertise, innovation, and adaptation to an environmentally conscious era.

  • International Paper is an undisputed leader in the realm of paper and cardboard, steering the market with their expansive range of products. They serve critical needs across various domains, including providing cellulose fibers, as well as a variety of packaging solutions that cater to transport, sales, and bulk packaging requirements. **Smurfit Kappa** stands tall as a giant, particularly skilled in offering innovative packaging solutions. Their portfolio extends across a spectrum from transport packaging to ready-to-sell packaging, emphasizing strength and sustainability.
  • DS Smith emerges as a key figure, particularly for their expertise in paper for corrugated board, which plays a significant role in the packaging industry. Their offerings are an essential backbone for businesses seeking reliable and environmentally conscious packaging materials.
  • The hygiene sector displays an impressive assembly of specialists like Essity and Kimberly-Clark, who delve into the production of a range of hygiene-related paper products. From tissues and toilet paper to wipes and diapers, their products are woven into the fabric of daily life, ensuring comfort and sanitation.
  • In the domain of stationery, Exacompta-Clairefontaine offers a wealth of products that span across traditional paper needs to modern office essentials. They cater to the evolving demands of the workspace with their variety of papers, office commodities, and creative materials for educational purposes.
  • For the newsprint arena, Norske Skog carves its niche, serving as a specialist in a sector that has faced declines yet remains indispensable in certain aspects of media and communication.

The paper industry has undeniably been reshaped by ecological considerations and the palpable shift towards digital media, compelling longstanding businesses to pivot and innovate. These main players have not only adapted to the changing tides but have also set the benchmark for quality, innovation, and environmental stewardship within the market. Each company, with its distinctive strengths and specializations, continues to contribute to the rich tapestry of the global paper and board industry.

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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and scope of the study

The paper market includes all the players involved in each stage of the transformation of raw materials (mainly wood, but also natural fibers) into paper pulp, cardboard and paper. Introduced in the West as early as the 12th century, paper has revolutionized graphic media, but has also become indispensable in everyone's daily life.

The 1990s marked an important turning point for the paper market: government and individual ecological considerations forced this polluting and energy-intensive industry to adapt. Increasing the production of recycled paper, developing innovative tools and reducing pollution and energy consumption required a lot of financial investments. However, ecological considerations pushing to limit or even ban the use of plastic, particularly in packaging and supermarket bags, are encouraging the growth of the paper market, which is partially replacing certain plastic packaging (hence the rise of recycled paper). At the same time, the research and development of derived and innovative materials has gained an important share of the paper market.

Cardboard, packaging, paper products and its multiple derivatives or recycled material products are all specializations that fragment this market. In France, the paper and cardboard industry is showing a growth trend from 2012 to 2021, despite profound changes in the country's production fabric with a progressive concentration of French producers. However, some business segments have suffered from the health crisis, with the turnover index for the retail trade of newspapers and stationery in specialized stores still not having recovered its 2019 level, impacting upstream suppliers.

More structurally, the decline in production recorded is mostly due to the decline in newspaper print runs, we note conversely that the production of packaging paper and cardboard has been improving since 2016.

The stationery manufacturing sector, linked to the paper market, has been in crisis for many years. It has undergone a profound change: there are ten times fewer big players in the stationery industry than there were twenty years ago and many small companies have filed for bankruptcy.

List of charts

  • World paper market
  • Turnover of the retail trade of newspapers and stationery in specialized stores
  • Turnover of the paper and cardboard industry
  • French consumption of paper and cardboard
  • Breakdown of French paper and cardboard consumption
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Latest news

Hygiene: Essity invests in Eure to improve recycling of food cartons - 22/11/2023
  • The Hondouville plant in the Eure region of France produces toilet paper, handkerchiefs and paper towels for professional markets (hotels, restaurants, businesses, industry, etc.), marketed under the Tork brand.
  • To manufacture these products, the company has been recycling food bricks for over fifteen years
  • In each food carton, paper fibers (75%) are mixed with aluminum (5%), plastic (14%) and cork (6%).
  • The Stockholm-based international group, whose products are marketed in some 150 countries, has sales of 15 billion euros by 2022 and 48,000 employees worldwide.
  • In France, the Group's fourth-largest market, it operates eight sites with 2,500 employees.
  • Its Eure plant also manufactures cotton personal care products under the Demak'Up and Lotus brands.
  • Over the past three years, investments at the Normandy site have totalled 47 million euros, reassuring the plant's 360 employees
Essity claims "world first" in recycling - 21/10/2023
  • A new recycling line for liquid-food packaging was inaugurated on October 17.
  • Essity's sales target is 15 billion euros by 2022.
  • Essity employs around 48,000 people in 150 countries.
  • In France, Essity employs 2,500 people and has six production sites and a research and development center.
  • France is the Swedish group's fourth-largest market.
  • The Hondouville plant employs 360 people.
Antalis always greener | Greener with Antalis - 11/10/2023
  • Antalis belongs to the Japanese group Kokusai Pulp & Paper (KPP). KPP is a leading distributor of paper, packaging and communication products.
  • The group is present in 29 countries.
  • It generates sales of 563 billion yen, or around 3.578 billion euros.
  • Antalis is the leading BtoB distributor of paper and industrial packaging.
  • Antalis is also number two in the distribution of visual communication media.
  • Antalis employs 3,800 people.
General mobilization for Condat paper mills, a former industrial flagship and the Dordogne's largest private employer - 06/09/2023
  • Papeteries de Condat, the largest private employer in the Dordogne, is planning to cut 187 jobs - almost half of the plant's workforce.
  • The Spanish group Lecta, which owns the plant, employs a total of 3,000 people in seven factories across Europe.
  • Lecta posted sales of 1.7 billion euros last year.
  • The graphic paper market, which includes two-sided coated paper, continues to decline by 3% to 5% each year.
  • Since the summer of 2022, this decline has accelerated, with a reduction in volumes of 40%.
  • The Condat plant, founded in 1907, employed 1,200 people in the early 1990s, but now only 380.
  • Three job-saving plans (PSE) have been decided since 2007.
Ahlstrom paper mill in the Meuse region finds a buyer - 26/07/2023
  • The Stenay paper mill employed 130 people.
  • German fund Accursia Capital announced the takeover.
  • The company is positioned in the coated paper market.
  • In 2021, Accursia Capital will also acquire the Cenpa paper mill, which employs 300 people.
  • The Meuse plant produces 55,000 tons of specialty paper a year.
DS Smith donne un nouvel élan à sa cartonnerie de Durtal - 24/05/2023

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

International Paper
Smurfit Kappa
DS Smith
Saica Pack France
Norske Skog
Exacompta Clairefontaine
Guyenne Papier
Antalis France

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