Events like these are rare. "We are used to dealing with agents in the Turkish market," observes Fulya Eraktan, Procurement Group Manager for Yildiz Holding. "It's different to meet face-to-face and discuss business issues in person."
Yildiz is one of Turkey's best-known conglomerates, with operations that include foodstuffs, finance, packaging and personal care products. Its tissue subsidiary, Aktül Kağit, makes toilet paper, kitchen towels, napkins and handkerchiefs under the Komili brand name and for private labels.
"We currently manufacture 65,000 tonnes annually, and will double our capacity by the beginning of 2016," Eraktan says. "And of course the price of pulp is the most important component in tissue costs."
"The Turkish tissue market is growing rapidly, but everyone is investing in new capacity. Now some manufacturers are facing export problems due to the regional political situation, so even more output is being targeted at the home market. Competition is very tough."
Metsä Fibre has been a regular supplier of softwood pulp to Aktül Kağit.
"We have a very good relationship. Metsä really helped us by diverting supplies here in response to a lack of softwood in the Turkish market in recent years."
"As this technical tissue seminar demonstrates, we can always count on Metsä for commercial or technical support."
The right fulcrum
This view is echoed by Orhan Öğücü, chairman of Lila Kağit, one of the top tissue producers in Turkey. "Fibre characteristics are important and the presentations were very helpful," he observes.
"We've been in the tissue business for seven years, and Metsä has been with us from the start. Of course our technical people know their business, but a seminar like this refreshes the mind."
"TURKISH BUYERS ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW INFORMATION," SAYS SARP ERKAYA OF PERICHEM.
Lila Kağit is a major exporter, selling 80 per cent of its output outside Turkey. "We have exported to 28 countries and are now entering our 29th market."
Öğücü sees logistics as an important source of added value. "Archimedes said: 'Give me the right leverage point and I can move the world.' In the same way, if you can solve the logistics issues, then I can sell anywhere."
Choosing virgin fibre
"The entire pulp industry is keenly interested in Turkey, thanks to very rapid growth in its demand for market pulp," explains Oliver Lansdell, a director at Hawkins Wright.
"Turkey has no domestic fibre production, but is installing a lot of new non-integrated virgin fibre tissue capacity. This will inevitably stimulate even stronger imports of market pulp."
New tissue machine installations in Turkey will stimulate pulp imports even more: Oliver Lansdell of Hawkins Wright.
Hawkins Wright is an independent consultancy that provides market intelligence and forecasting to forest product companies. "Tissue consumption is mostly stable in mature markets, although it's still growing in regions of rapid economic and population growth," Lansdell points out.
"But with little initial demand in emerging markets, sales really take off only when consumers reach a certain level of wealth and tissue becomes affordable. Then they want it not only for practical uses, but also because it can represent status."
We should not underestimate the quality difference between recovered and virgin fibre tissue, he adds. "Moreover, Turkish consumers believe that the whiter the tissue, the higher its quality. Tissue made from recycled fibre could be perceived as unhygienic and would stay on the shelf."
Sending a message
"Turkish buyers are always looking for new information, and an event like this puts us on the map," says Sarp Erkaya of Perichem. "It sends a strong message to customers that Metsä Fibre wants to work with them and grow together."
Perichem is a trading company with key employees who have been working with Metsä Fibre for ten years. Erkaya explains how this work has evolved: "Over this period Metsä has become committed to seeking major player status in the Turkish market, and not merely serving as a yo-yo supplier. The company has increased its market share from a couple of per cent to 22 per cent in just five years."
"It's unusual for a major supplier to arrange a technical seminar for customers in Turkey, but this event was warmly received. It also demonstrates that Metsä Fibre is seriously seeking strategic partnerships in this region."
The seminar also has definite practical value, adds Semih Yeşilkir of Hayat Tissue, who attended with colleague Yasar Guloğlu:
"We will be applying this information in our mills and it will affect our business decisions."
Hayat is the largest and fastest growing tissue producer in the region. It currently has two machines operating in Turkey with a new one coming on stream early next year, plus one machine in Iran, one coming on line later this year in Russia, and one planned in Egypt.
"As a technical team, we were more interested in the practical presentations at the seminar," Yeşilkir says. "Some of the topics, such as the comparison of northern and southern softwood fibre, were entirely new to us and very helpful."
Like several other participants, Yeşilkir and Guloğlu have visited Metsä Fibre in Finland. "We've seen your mills and we know your quality, so it's good to see you here."