More than 450 participants from 18 countries converged in-person at the Marriott Marquis in Chicago to experience the World of Wipes® (WOW) International Conference, June 27-30. The energy was invigorating, as colleagues enjoyed reconnecting and meeting those new to the sector, while seeing first-hand what innovative insights could be garnered to enrich the segment’s future. INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, was pleased with the strong attendance at its 16th WOW conference.
Highlights included a powerful conference, award presentations, a separate 1.5-day WIPES Academy training course, and a new mentorship program.
WOW speakers focused on the future of the $17 billion wipes sector amid changing consumer trends, supply chain complexities, sustainable packaging demands, and medical disinfection challenges. Program sessions included Circular and Sustainable Wipes, Supply Chain Challenges, Sustainable Substrates, Disinfection Concerns, Sustainable Packaging Trends, and Flushability Developments.
Tony Fragnito welcomed participants in his new role as INDA President for the first time since succeeding Dave Rousse, now President Emeritus and advisor.
“WOW is the nexus for wipes professionals to convene and connect,” said Fragnito. “With powerful content addressing the key issues facing the industry – sustainability, economics, and supply – the conference was highly valued by participants to advance their businesses and the industry.” He continues, “From my perspective, as a first-time attendee, I continue to be amazed at the excitement of our community to gather to celebrate innovation within the entire nonwoven supply chain. What I find encouraging, and where I think INDA plays a unique role, is bringing the community together to solve tough problems. I hear members of our community acknowledge that only through collaboration will we solve the tough issues, and INDA provides the environment to facilitate connections and collaborations.”
Preceding the conference, Chris Plotz, INDA, Director of Education and Technical Affairs, conducted a successful INDA WIPES Academy, the first and only comprehensive wipes training for the entire wipes supply chain.
From a technological standpoint, he commented on his view of the entire event. “I enjoyed the sessions on disinfection and packaging trends. I think the speakers did a great job bringing technology trends to the industry. I particularly enjoyed the case study detailing incompatibility issues is a hospital. These issues magnified during the height of Covid but will linger for years to come.”
He continued, “I thought Richard Knowlson, who is an INDA lifetime technical achievement award winner, presentation on recycled fiber sources provided an excellent overview of what the supply chain and retailers are willing to accept in a bid for sustainability.
“The innovation of the year award winner, Nice Pak had a great to ‘flushable wipe.’ Their technology combined with their innovative marketing really told the story in an educational manner.”
Participants share their thoughts
The event drew many positive remarks from participants for its business, networking and educational value:
“We’re pleased with the networking, and our exposure to new business at WOW,” said Darrell Dean, Program Manager, O’Neal, Inc.
“The World of Wipes always offers value for us every year. It’s never redundant. I wouldn’t miss it,” said John Patton, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Althea Laboratories.
“Everyone in the wipes industry is here. It’s easier to do business with people once we’ve met during the conference,” said Olivia Reiber, Product Line Manager, Specialties, US&C, Berry Global.
“Everything and everyone here is in and about wipes. I’m glad I’m here,” said Susan Faile, Berkshire Corporation, VP Operations/Global R&D.
Celebrating the Industry
Participants connected face-to-face during the Welcome Reception atop the 22nd floor at the Vu Rooftop Bar, with stunning views and refreshments. The WOW event attracted 50 tabletop exhibits to create commerce with meaningful relationships throughout the entire wipes supply chain.
WOW highlights included the announcement of Nice’ N CLEAN® SecureFLUSH™ Technology Flushable Wipes from Nice-Pak as the winner of this year’s World of Wipes Innovation Award® for their flushable wipes made of 100 percent cellulose nonwoven. Strong and durable, the product breaks apart five times faster than the leading brand of two-ply toilet paper. A specialty “lock and key” design of plant-based fibers and formula leverages patent-pending technology to ensure responsible care of plumbing and wastewater.
The World of Wipes Innovation Award® recognizes and rewards innovation within the entire wipes value chain that expands the use of nonwovens through new fabrics or technologies.
Other highlights included the presentation of the 2022 INDA Lifetime Technical Award to Richard Knowlson, Principal, RPK Consulting. The award honors an individual with a long-established nonwovens career that advance technology and the commercial success of the North American nonwovens industry.
Knowlson pioneered the use of powder super absorbents in airlaid forming systems creating new period product designs for ultra-thin products. He co-founded Airformed Composites, co-invented the first commercial multi-bonded airlaid products in North America that were used in characters for Sesame Street and served in leadership positions with Rayonier, Ciba/Huntsman and Jacob Holm.
INDA announced that WOW 2023 will be held July 17-20, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia. For information, visit www.worldofwipes.org and follow #Wipes23 on Twitter.