Just two years ago, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the company profited from an influx of consumers rushing to stock up on essentials.
But as the health crisis abates, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused energy costs to skyrocket, forcing Hakle to recently file for bankruptcy.
Innovation can now be the key to survival.
Europe’s food industry produces a ton of coffee grounds each year, and Hakle has found a way to turn that waste into material for making toilet paper.
Karen Jung, Hakle’s chief marketing officer, told AFP that the first rolls using the new process were produced last week at the company’s Düsseldorf-based factory.
“The target is 20-25%” of coffee grounds, which makes up the material to make the paper instead of wood pulp, Jung said, adding that the company is working to reach that level.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means we have a quarter less trees to use,” said Jung, whose company filed for bankruptcy in September due to skyrocketing energy costs. Added.
Hakle sees a strong economic case. The price of wood pulp, which is in high demand in China, the world’s largest consumer, has risen sharply since 2020.
This isn’t the first time the company has taken an unconventional approach to toilet paper manufacturing.
Two years ago, Jung, who runs a business with her husband, said she was making toilet paper from the grass that grew in the Rhineland.
ride a roller coaster
The company has been on a roller coaster ride lately.
Since 2020, it has generated nearly €80 million ($80.2 million) in sales and made a profit of around €700,000. Now, with costs exploding, its fortunes have been reversed.
“The cost of toilet paper is 80% dependent on pulp, energy and logistics, all three of which are driven by the global market,” said Jung.
Gas prices rose to up to €400 per megawatt hour and electricity to up to €1,000, a heavy blow to the company’s Düsseldorf plant, which consumes around 100 gigawatt hours a year.
“It’s going to be a real problem,” says Jung, because “it costs 10 times more in the short term.”
Nearly 100 years ago, Hakle’s survival is now at stake.
“Formula 1 Race”
The company has had several different owners over the past 40 years, including US consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark and a Luxembourg private equity firm, until Volker Jung acquired a 50% stake in the new company in 2019. I was.
An entrepreneurial approach with a penchant for innovation.
Three months of preliminary bankruptcy proceedings have given the company a breather as it tries to fulfill a large order volume, Jung said.
“After a temporary complete stoppage of activity (at the beginning of September), now we have to step on the gas like in Formula 1 racing,” said Jung.
The company wants to continue investing in its Düsseldorf site, which employs more than 220 people.
Hakle has already stopped using gas in its papermaking process and is using gasoline instead. As for the power used to turn it into rolls, the ultimate goal is to have half the required solar power.
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