Volume 8 | Issue 5 | Year 2005

When it comes to making ultra-white glossy paper that jumps out of the pages of a magazine or an annual report, the Cascades Fine Papers Group has a serious case of the blues.

That’s because of an optical illusion: the human eye looks at paper that’s printed with a bluish tinge, and it sees bright, bright white.

“We call it blue-white because we put optical brighteners in the sheets, because if you put in a blue tint, it tricks the eye until you see white,” said Marc Goguen, the director of marketing for the division of the Cascades Fine Papers Group based in the mill community of Thunder Bay, Ontario. “You’ll see the same brightener as the blue dots in Tide detergent.”

Goguen has used the theme of blue, and the successful niche that the Cascades group has carved out for high-end paper, to create a clever marketing campaign. The unit has built a Web site featuring blues music and musicians in various poses to help promote its high-end Jenson line of paper products. The group is even looking at promoting itself at blues festivals and the House of Blues restaurant in Chicago.

Continuous improvement
But behind the marketing efforts is a non-stop effort to improve quality. “We continuously need to do – like the Web site says – increase the blueness so that the color is brighter and the paper is more glossy,” Goguen said, noting the competitive nature of the paper industry. “We’re continuously face-lifting, like any other company, to justify our capital plan.”

The division of the Cascades Fine Papers Group based in Thunder Bay manufactures coated fine papers, specialty products, and coated papers made from mechanical pulp for magazines and catalogues. Its numerous successful trademarks include Jenson; Beta; Gamma; Lakecard; North 49 Matte; Eco Return Card; Papiers Provincial; Provincial Papers; Q-Gloss; Semi West-Strength; and Wet Strength.

In addition to its high-end papers for magazines and the like, the Cascades Fine Papers Group makes specialty, niche products such as check paper, 100 percent recycled Enviro paper and postal reply cards – those small mailers that drop out of magazines. Goguen noted that the mills location in central Canada, roughly three hours north of Duluth, Minn., places it in a good position to ship product to North America’s leading magazine printers, many of whom are located in the American Midwest.

The company sells largely to merchants and brokers. “Quebecor and Transcontinental Printing are two of our largest customers based in Canada,” Goguen said.

The Thunder Bay unit has thrived in recent years with the power of Cascades Inc., the global paper giant that employs more than 15,000 people and operates some 150 modern and versatile operating units located in Canada, the United States, France, England, Germany and Sweden. The parent company, which was founded in 1964, specializes in all types of paper, from folding cardboard cartons to tissue paper and also recycles more than two million tons of paper and board annually. The giant mill in Thunder Bay prints some 166,000 short tons per year, and thanks to some productivity measures in recent years, employs a current workforce of about 600 people. Goguen called it “a specialty mill, a niche mill – we partake in different markets.”

The northern Ontario paper mill has an even longer history, dating back to 1918. For many years, the facility was owned by a company called Provincial Papers. It was briefly owned by a rival firm and then by its employees until the mill was purchased by Cascades Inc. some eight years ago.

Although Cascades came late to fine paper products, it grew during the 1990s through a string of acquisitions, with a unit in the distribution of printer paper called Cascade Resources as well as a large mill in the Canadian community of St. Jerome that manufactures Rolland Paper.

Keeping checks secure
“We make offset paper for North America,” Goguen said. “We make a fully recyclable grade called Eco-Return. Recycling is huge for us, along with security paper that is sold throughout the world.” This segment, he said, includes passport paper.

The flagship brand is the Jenson grade, which Goguen jokingly called “fancy schmancy” and is named for a type of font from the days of typesetting by hand that is recognized for its quality.

“We do a whole host of annual reports, magazines, and trade journals and we sell to a lot of book publishers in the United States and Canada, as well as to all the major printers in the USA and the large merchandisers,” he said. “We’re in a very competitive area. Europe and Asia are importing grades at the same price, so we need to differentiate ourselves with quality and printability and service.”

Goguen noted that because of the specialty nature of the grades that it produces, the overall output of the Thunder Bay mill is not huge; in fact, he noted, there are some individual machines that can produce as many tons per year as the entire Cascades facility.

“Our mill is known for its quality,” he said. “Something that they manufacture in Europe or Asia might take six weeks to deliver. We can ship anywhere in North America in five working days – that’s a definite advantage.”

Goguen explained that the emphasis on the quality, and especially the brightness, of the paper is important because many key customers will decide large purchases based upon a swatch book, which means that a sample really needs to jump off of the page. “If you don’t do it right,” he explained, “it can look gray or pink. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

With the unit’s focus on continuous improvement on high-end customers, future prospects for the Cascades Fine Papers Group is as bright as its paper products. Its specialty in Thunder Bay may be “the blues,” but right now the division is singing a happy tune.