Many times, the best inventions are unintentional. Like when Mikko Sorjonen, Manager Production in Division Paper at Hylte Mill, was looking to create a cream-colored paper and ended up with a paper that has been a huge hit with customers. But not for the color.
"We had an idea of a light paper with a warm feel to it – the kind that is used for books – so we changed the mix to a 70-30 ratio between virgin fibre and recovered paper. The result was a standard paper with a genuine premium feel to it," says Mikko.
The new product not only had the look and feel of premium paper, it also happened to be substantially lighter. Mikko holds up two strands of paper and challenges his visitors to choose the lighter paper. The secret is the added virgin fibre. Fresh from the forest, they are longer and sturdier than fibers from recovered paper.
One of the reasons why Mikko and his colleagues started looking for ways of improving the paper quality was digital media. "In 2012, the market declined. Demand was down 25% in one year, mainly because of these," Mikko says and holds up his smartphone. As inexpensive tablets and smartphones made an entrance, a lot of people went digital. Overall, media consumption was up, but traditional business models proved to be outdated as giants like Google and Facebook took an increasingly larger cut of the pie.
But could a new type of paper really turn things around?
"We had the idea of catering to a new need," says Mikko. Enter direct marketing – the physical mailers and newsletters we all get in the post. The new paper fit like a glove. Sturdy yet light, it came with a promise of lower postage and shipping costs. And even better: “Our customers tell us that the paper reproduces photos much better in the printing process,” says Mikko.
Even as consumers spend more time online, advertisers are revisit the printing press."I think that we are seeing a revival of printed ads," says Mikko. "Companies want to use several sales channels in tandem. So they might put an advertisement on the web in the form of a short video and point to a flyer that the consumer will get in his or her mailbox."
The new paper has gotten off to a great start. From the Hylte Mill in Southern Sweden, it literally goes out to the rest of the world. Asia is a huge market and there are customers as far away as Australia.