Over the long sweep of history, the paper industry evolved through big, long-term trends driven by different regions of the world. After WWII, North America started on a 30-year capacity building binge that dramatically expanded the world’s pulp and paper-making capacity.
The expansion of the late 1950s through the early 1980s brought us new softwood pulping technology, faster, wider machines, dominant companies like Beloit, and a huge amount of product, most of which was for domestic consumption.
Europe followed shortly thereafter with its own period of expansion that brought on more capacity, created major companies like Voith, Valmet, and Andritz from the previously fragmented industry of suppliers, and its own contribution to technology development. Europe’s expansion, however, differed from that of North America’s in that it was built on the premise of exporting.
Today, Finland and Sweden, which have only 2% of Europe’s population, make 24% of the continent’s paper, so they clearly are exporting most of their production across country lines. Europe’s paper industry grew also with the expectation of exporting outside the region, making its capacity considerably larger than required for domestic regional consumption.
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