International Paper Blanches -- Rest of Paper Industry to Follow Suit

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ATLANTA -- Whitening doesn't just make teeth look better. According to the paper mills International Paper and Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc., the paper used for direct mail, commercial envelopes and billing statements also would be more appealing to consumers if it were significantly whiter.

International Paper, Memphis, TN, said at DMA·05 yesterday that it began the process of switching to a brighter, whiter grade of uncoated, freesheet paper Sept. 1. This is the commercial paper used by direct mailers for campaign pieces, to make commercial envelopes and for billing statements.

Given International Paper's size as one of the country's largest mills, smaller mills such as Blue Ridge Paper have introduced their own whiter paper stock and expect every paper supplier to quickly follow suit.

There hasn't been a large, sweeping change in the paper industry like this in awhile, said Jeffrey G. Fox, International Paper market manager printing and bristols.

"In the past, we always talked about paper in terms of brightness, but in other parts of the world they talk about whiteness," Fox said.

Until now, paper's brightness level on the GE has been the standard level of measure. Generally, all commercial uncoated, freesheet paper measured 84 on the GE scale. International Paper's new paper has a GE of 92. However, in addition, the whiteness has been increased to 145 on the CIE scale.

Thanks to a new proprietary technology, this paper will not cost more or require paper presses to be recalibrated. There also isn't a greater impact on the environment when making the new paper compared with the old, Fox said.

The change is purely aesthetic, but one that Fox thinks will benefit direct marketers. According to International Paper's consumer research, 62 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be more apt to read or investigate further an offer made on the whiter paper versus the old standard paper. This is because images and type really pop against the whiter paper.

Blue Ridge Paper starts shipping its new paper in two weeks, senior sales representative John C. Walsh said. Though the paper makes a strong impact visually, Blue Ridge's process for making it does require the use of more bleach, he continued. As to whether suppliers will be able to produce the paper without charging customers more, Walsh said "I don't know."

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