Turnover of the Grass group increased during 2014, continuing the trend in profit recovery. There is more emphasis on sales and marketing worldwide, and the introduction of two synthetic turf systems for hockey and football respectively has strengthened brand recognition and positioning of GreenFields in the worldwide sports market over the past two years.
The development of new synthetic turf systems and substrate structures has continued. The focus is on creating new quality standards for synthetic turf systems. In the meantime TenCate Grass and TenCate Geosynthetics are consolidating their value propositions by further alignment of products and systems.
TenCate Grass is world market leader in both yarns and backing for tufted and 3D-woven synthetic turf systems. TenCate Grass is considered ‘best in class’ because it offers the best price/quality relationship for both systems.
Synthetic turf for football club Sparta at Het Kasteel (The Castle, Rotterdam)
Synthetic turf is used worldwide. The number of suppliers has grown in recent years, particularly in Asia. Several major competitors have doubled their production volume, and here it’s often a case of integrated companies: those that have their own yarn production. Partly because of government cutbacks, some production companies in Europe and the United States have decided to discontinue their own fibre production. Furthermore a few companies in the installation market have suspended their activities. This has led to a growing market share for TenCate Grass.
Since the World Hockey Championships halfway through 2014 the product brand GreenFields® TX has attracted international attention.
The marketing of synthetic turf systems received an additional boost with the launch of GreenFields in the United States, which has led to accelerated growth and a strengthening of market position. Demand in the United States turned out to be stronger than anticipated. This was partly the result of a growing economy and increased spend on sporting activities. Growth and development of market share were recorded in Asia too, especially in Southeast Asia, as a result of the expansion of the distribution network of GreenFields and TigerTurf in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan.
In Asia (photo: synthetic turf at the Hong Kong Wah Yan College) is currently the standard for hockey at all levels. As far as football is concerned, synthetic turf is used mainly for multi-purpose applications at schools and for training fields. In Europe market demand for sports fields remains stable. The cooperation in Dutch professional football with the Corporatie Eerste Divisie (CED) has significantly boosted the profile and recognition of synthetic football turf. In addition the woven GreenFields® MX synthetic turf system is of overriding importance. The system is one of the pillars of the joint innovation strategy of TenCate Grass and GreenFields. Thanks to the combination of weaving and extrusion technology, a distinctive system has been developed that is fully recyclable. In 2014 a start was made on expanding (weaving) production capacity, and this will continue in 2015 – in the United States too.
Synthetic turf for the Western Mustangs in Ontario
TenCate is focused on creating new quality standards for synthetic turf. In this regard it is important to work closely together with partners in the market and interested parties such as national and international sports associations. As of 2015 three newly developed components can generate additional sales: a new foundation of recycled plastics, a shock-absorbent base of woven foam fibres, and a special geotextile that serves as substrate in an easy-to-install synthetic turf system. A system of this kind requires less foundation work, which reduces the total cost and the environmental load of installing a synthetic turf field. Innovative, easy-to-install synthetic turf systems form one of the spearheads in the development by TenCate of new product-market-technology combinations. These systems are nearing commercial introduction. Initial market introduction has been in progress since 2014, with the installation of several pilot fields. The combination of different components developed and produced by TenCate will – in conjunction with new production methods for the synthetic turf top layer – result in a new generation of synthetic turf sports fields.
With the introduction of the hybrid system XtraGrass™ (photo) GreenFields fills the gap in the market between fully natural grass and fully synthetic turf. XtraGrass™ is a network of synthetic turf fibres woven into a strong backing material that can be directly laid on a standard football pitch base. It is infilled with a special rootzone mix sown with grass seed. Within a few days the grass seeds germinate and grow between the synthetic turf fibres and through the backing. This creates a strong natural grass carpet with greater resistance to wear and tear. As the grass grows, the backing decomposes biologically.
Ton Raaphorst, group director TenCate Grass EMEA
The replacement market continues to show healthy growth, especially in the United States and Europe. This has also had a positive effect on the sales development of TenCate Grass. In 2014 the market group secured 15 to 20% of its turnover from the replacement of synthetic turf fields. A substantial number of third-generation synthetic turf fields, which made their breakthrough at the beginning of this century, are now in need of replacement. Thanks to product developments that have raised the quality and reduced the costs of the system, the replacement market finds a ready response, and this area of activity will continue to grow in the years ahead.
The market for landscaping experienced sound growth in 2014. It is expected that this market will continue to develop positively over the coming years. To respond to this, synthetic grass yarns and backing are being given certain funtionalities, for example antibacterial and moss-growth-inhibiting finishes for application in swimming pools and playgrounds.
The majority of the manufacturers of synthetic turf carpet and synthetic turf components are found in China. Often these concerns are fully integrated and operate worldwide. Furthermore manufacturers of synthetic turf carpet can be found especially in Japan and Australia, where they chiefly serve the local markets. TenCate is active in Australia and New Zealand via a sales office and a production company respectively. Since 2013 the downstream activities (marketing, sales, (external) production and installation) have been centrally managed by the office in Singapore, leading to a positive development in growth. Moreover the Grass group has a sales office in Beijing.
Acceptance of and interest in synthetic turf applications are also increasing in Asia-Pacific (APAC), ‘although there are regional differences,’ as Sales Director Asia Vincent Homrighausen (photo) explains. ‘The acceptance of high-grade synthetic turf is growing because of the increasing knowledge and experience of the interested parties. This steady development is absolutely a trend. As a result quality demands are also rising – although you could say Asia has not yet reached the level of knowledge found in Europe and North America.’
Synthetic turf at the Amara Hotel in Singapore
The sale of tufted fields is up against competition from cheap − particularly Chinese − suppliers. TenCate is endeavouring to distinguish itself with the woven product of GreenFields, and as the knowledge level rises, so too will demand for this product. A good example is Japan, where the knowledge level is comparable to that of Europe and North America and end-users are also willing to pay for high-grade quality. That’s why the first woven fields have already been installed there. The environmental aspects are also becoming ever more important in the region. This is because central and local government agencies wish to use environmentally friendly products. This is a significant theme within the industry, and one in which TenCate and GreenFields have distinguished themselves from competitors through the introduction of 100% recyclable products.
Landscaping in Asia
The market for synthetic turf in Asia-Pacific is still in its infancy and has great potential. To respond to the growing market, TenCate has for some time now devoted more attention to the development and sale of landscaping products. ‘TigerTurf has an exceptionally good product portfolio for landscape applications and so we are particularly targeting the middle and high segment,’ explains Vincent Homrighausen. ‘Ultimately we want to achieve a leading position. We foresee a positive market development and the expansion of our position in both sport and landscaping.’ Marketing efforts will be concentrated mainly on synthetic turf systems from TigerTurf and GreenFields through directly approaching end-users and stakeholders as far as possible.