Buying catalog paper hasn’t been fun for a while. For one, prices keep heading up — the third quarter marked the fifth consecutive hike in paper costs. Supply is down, too, so not only is it more expensive to buy paper, it’s been harder to get hold of this year.
And widespread mill consolidation has decreased brand name choices, according to Chris Kendziora, paper purchasing manager for Royle Printing Co.
So is there any good news from the paper industry?
Maybe. For one, there are more “green” options when it comes to catalog paper, says Kendziora. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified papers, he says, have been rolled out to the extent that most mills now provide FSC certified, FSC certified with 10% post-consumer waste, or FSC certified with 30% post-consumer waste offerings.
And there are a few new grades, says Dan Walsh, vice president of catalog/publication papers at distributor Bradner Smith & Co. First, the Cascades mill in Thunder Bay, Ontario — which shut down in 2006 — has reopened. Now known as Thunder Bay Fine Papers, the mill currently produces primarily coated matte grades, but plans to make a heavyweight (45-lb. and up) coated #4 grade.
“The challenge they’ll face is being able to achieve a price point for their grades that the exchange rate doesn’t totally erode when it ships across the border into the U.S.,” Walsh says.
A trend that has become more prevalent, Walsh says, is the move from lightweight coated (LWC) groundwood #5 in 34-lb. and 32-lb. to supercalendered-plus (SCA+). “With the numerous paper price increases that catalogers have had to endure, a switch from #5 to an SCA+ can save them as much as 10%,” he says.
NewPage has SCA+ Voyager paper (the former MagniPress from Stora Enso North America), and SCA brand Superior Gloss (formerly known as SuperiorPress), he says. “The mills that are producing SCA+ are repositioning these grades away from the traditional end-use of Sunday newspaper inserts to a higher profit #5 alternative aimed at catalogers and publishers,” Walsh says.
One very important point a cataloger should check out before making a move to an SCA+ is whether its printer is comfortable printing it, Walsh says. “It is a different animal than #5, and there still are some printing plants out there that don’t have the expertise to print it.”
Another new stock is Saturn, a #4 grade from Domtar, produced at the old Weyerhaeuser mill in Columbus, MS. Walsh says: “Here again you see a mill repositioning its product mix to more high-profit grades.”
Perhaps expecting more catalogers and other mailers to reconsider postcards, Thunder Bay Fine Papers is now making several unique grades of paper for the direct mail market in the form of lightweight postal reply cards, says Gary Evjen, senior vice president of sales at Deerfield, IL-based Wade Paper Corp.
One new grade is heather matte, an 88-lb. basis for high-quality business reply card stock. This grade offers the user a 9% yield advantage over competitive grades, Evjen says. In other words, since paper is sold by weight, the user can buy 9% less paper to yield the same number of cards.
Likewise, the coated matte BRC, basis 108-lb. has a yield advantage of 11% to 14% compared to other mill offerings, Evjen says. “The grades from Thunder Bay involve lightweight (or high yield) BRC,” he adds. “The mill will also make #2 freesheet coated matte and gloss grades, and later this fall produce a #4 LWC publication grade.”
BRC grades consist of uncoated freesheet, coated freesheet matte, and coated mechanical matte. All of these grades have a minimum caliper (thickness) of .0070 or .0090, depending on the size of the business reply card, Evjen says. “BRCs are carefully monitored by the U.S. Postal Service to make certain they will work in the USPS sorting machines,” he adds.