More Than Just A Pulpboard

Stacked display boards

The CEO of the KATZ Group, Daniel Bitton, was recently interviewed in the German publication, Diplomatisches Magazin, in regards to the history, successes and direction of the KATZ Group.  We have provided the interview below; questions are in bold with answers as quoted by Mr. Bitton below each question.  For more information from the interview, please visit Diplomatisches Magazin.

Mr. Bitton, the roots of your business are almost 300 years old. The defining year for your current line of production was 1903, when Casimir Otto Katz created the first beer coaster in its current form. How did the idea originate?
In 1882, Katz set the foundation for the Murgtal paper industry with the purchase of the Belzer mill in Weisenbach. Initially, the mill repurposed wood waste from the sawmills into wood pulp for paper factories, and in the 1890s the mill began producing paperboards on vat machines. Since he also owned a brewery in Metz, Katz thought about industrially manufacturing beer coasters out of wood pulp made from local spruce wood in 1903. The wood coasters functioned as a replacement for the commonplace and unhygienically perceived felt coasters that were typical at that time.

Nowadays, the KATZ Group is the largest producer of beer coasters, with a world market share of about 70 percent. What makes your business special?
We are one of the few manufacturers worldwide and we are proud of dominating this niche for over 100 years. But we are even prouder of the fact that we are capable of continuing to lead our raw material based on wood pulp securely in the future. We are loyal to our core businesses. Our clients, who include both the largest international breweries as well as small family-owned businesses, expect this of us. Whether an international company or a small business: for decades, we have been a reliable partner to all. And we wish to continue remaining reliable in our continuous search for innovation. For us, changes imply finding ways to ensure that we don’t continue to just create renowned beer coasters from wood pulp, a product that represents our key skills. Nowadays, the KATZ Group represents many projects: through technical changes in our production, we’re now also active in the food industry through KATZ FOOD SAFETY BOARD, are working on air fresheners through KATZ AIRFRESHENER BOARD, and also provide material for book binding and pressure balancing material. And due to our internal product development, we now also offer true raw material alternatives to the POS and impact sound market through our KATZ DISPLAY BOARDS and GREEN LIGNIN products.

In 2001, your business began to expand worldwide, first to Great Britain and Belgium, and in 2007 to the USA. What importance does the international business have to you?
Nowadays, the KATZ Group delivers beer coasters to 50 countries in five continents, and is the undisputed market leader in many areas. Our international market share constitutes about 70 percent, and in the USA it’s even 95 percent. The international business therefore plays an important role in our company’s success.

Your headquarters in Wiesenbach, close to Karlsruhe, employ almost two thirds of your company’s 250 employees. What value does the label “Made in Germany“ have for you?
Products from KATZ are not only “Made in Germany“, they are also “Made in Black Forest“. Since we are dependent on the forest as a supplier of wood for our raw material and require the water of the Murg river as a starting point our our own product, the Black Forest is the ideal location for us. And the best thing is that our trucks do not block any highways!

For over five years, your business strategy has been guided by the areas of Creative Service and sustainability. How has this changed your production?
Since the takeover by the paper factory August Koehler SE in 2009, some millions have been invested in the production in order to make it more efficient and less wasteful. In August 2010, we began using a heat recovery system. That means that we can reintroduce the heat created through the production process and therefore significantly save energy during production. In 2015, another large project will be finalised: the modernising of the hydroelectric plants in the working mill and the Ehrlen mill, as well as the improvement of the ecological consistency with the help of new fish ladders. With this new technique, we are expecting an increase in energy production and of our production capacities by 11 percent. Simultaneously, we have invested in our Creative Service and have created our own marketing team with the Creative Centre in 2010. This team of graphic designers, product managers, and trained marketers support our clients with innovative solutions and provide new energy. This allows us to recognise trends early on and to implement them in a timely fashion. Naturally, this applies to our own product concepts and KATZ-specific marketing measures.

The KATZ Group has increased its product spectrum by including display boards and industry solutions. How are clients responding to the new offers?
Essentially, the KATZ Group only specialises in a material with a wood pulp basis. The key lies in what can be made out of this versatile material. For the past 100 years, it has been a useful material for beer coasters. But material made out of wood pulp can do so much more: due to its particular properties, it meets the highest industry demands and simply convinces due to the versatility of its uses. And this is not a recent discovery! Our base material is appealing and has a high recognition value due to its particular feel. Therefore we decided to apply this base material to more uses. This led to the idea of offering “more surface area for your ads“ to advertising companies and simultaneously offer the printing industry an environmental alternative for high quality hanging signs, displays, and other presentation materials. Diverse show tests at fairs and in demo centres have also proven that synthetic material in display boards are not necessary and that they do not surpass KATZ DISPLAY BOARDs in matters of printability and cutting quality. KATZ DISPLAY BOARDS work in cooperation with UV flat bed printers from HP, Screen, Canon Océ, EFI, swissQprint, Mimaki, Agfa, Mutoh and Durst, and produce excellent results. This has been confirmed by the HP Media Solutions Locator, who have taken up our product and where clients all around the world can now search for and find KATZ DISPLAY BOARDS for graphic media solutions. We have also continued our cooperation with our partners in issues such as the use of our materials in various demo centres worldwide. For the KATZ group, these results have also created a positive resonance in the markets themselves. Our market entry into the USA, Japan, and France has been effectively carried out, and the first test commissions are already taking place in various other countries.

Apart from the production of beer coasters, the KATZ Group has been offering footfall sound insulation systems for over a year now. What differentiates your product from that of your competitors?
After a long period of development, we are certainly not the first suppliers of insulation mats, but we are perhaps one of the most innovative ones. Like a gecko, GREEN LIGNIN products stick to the topsoil thanks to their extraordinary surface structure, and therefore reach great acoustic properties in reducing footfall sounds. It is important to consider the GREEN LIGNIN material’s unique surface structure, which resembles a biopolymer and therefore achieves great results in the areas of compressive strength. GREEN LIGNIN products are therefore not only better than the rival materials, but are also healthy and competent.

What are your plans for the KATZ Group’s future?
In the past years, we have been working hard toward expanding KATZ GmbH & Co. KG’s position in the market. With our slogan “more than a cardboard“, we will continue to strengthen our position outside of the beer coaster market and increase our international recognition.

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