SmartFiber Touts "New Generation of Skin-Friendly Fibers"

Rudolfstadt-based East German fiber producer SmartFiber AG was showcasing its "new generation of skin-friendly fibers" before international buyers at the Heimtextil 2013 show in Frankfurt, pointing out that its SeaCell fiber combines cellulose with seaweed that is embedded into the fiber.

"This way, SeaCell brings the power of nature back to the people … in an ecological, environment-friendly, and contemporary way," says Michael Kohne, chief executive of SmartFiber AG.

Indeed, Kohne went on to claim that seaweed's skin-protective and anti-inflammatory properties have long been employed for humans' well-being.

According to SmartFiber's chief executive, the SeaCell fiber was developed to care for and protect human skin, with its most important building blocks being the nutrients contained in the knotted wrack of Icelandic fjords.  "Its nutrient attributes are preserved because it is harvested and processed in a gentle, sustainable manner to promote its renewal and maintain its biological value," Kohne said, adding that brown algae offer a large quantity of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and calcium as well as fucoidan.  The use of SeaCell enhances the textile's attractiveness, giving it a desirable softness.

Capitalizing on the the wellness mantra, SmartFiber is planning to tap the global markets. "Our seaweed comes from Iceland which has the best quality to offer.  Seaweed from other regions are contaminated with heavy metal concentration but Iceland's water is cold which is conducive for slow and natural growth of seaweed.  Warm-water seaweed grow and die faster," Kohne explained, adding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had certified his company's products as being of good quality. 

The geothermal water in which the seaweed grows is part of this unique ecosystem, its source lying some 2,000 meters deep where the temperature is 240 degrees C, and the pressure is 36 times greater than on the earth's surface. The seawater comes in contact with the cooling magma, absorbing in the process large quantities of minerals which are to be found in the SeaCell brown algae. These minerals, enriched with vital materials, have a healthy impact on the skin. The algae, rich in antioxidants, provide a natural protection against free radicals and reduce the harmful environmental effects on the skin.

SmartFiber has been selling the SeaCell fiber worldwide, including the world's two biggest emerging markets, China and India.

Seaweed, Kohne said, contain enzymes which, according to the Dermatology Clinic of Jena University, simply "devour" carbon dioxide.  "[Enzymes] are the cleaning crew of the environment," he added.

SmartFiber, which has contracted production to Austria-based Lenzing, produced some 180 tons (sales turnover: 3.6 million Euros) in 2012 but production, in keeping with rising demand, is expected to surge to 500 tons and turnover to 8.5 million Euros in 2013.  In five years, Kohne predicted, the company's production is expected to rise between 250,000 and 300,000 tons. "Indeed, our business has grown exponentially despite the crisis in Europe," Kohne said, when asked if his business had suffered as a result of the ongoing economic downturn.

However, for Kohne, the "markets of the future" are located in Asia where consumers increasingly have more money.  While he sounded upbeat about China, India, Japan and South Korea, he said that the U.S. was the biggest market in terms of quantity exported.

SmartFiber products such as smartcell are used not only in home textile products but also for bath robes, sportswear, casual clothing, socks and stockings, and work wear.

A number of leading manufacturers of textiles and apparel have been using the fiber in their products.  Indo Count Industries Limited, based in India, produces bed linen and other products from cotton and cotton synthetics. The bed linens with smartcell, according to Indo Count, which launched its new technology at New York's Fabric Show, are skin-care sensitive and provide protection against bacteria and unpleasant odours. The Trident Group, also based in India, has also been marketing towel products using smartcell. 

"We are seeing a rising demand for these fiber-based products in India, with the middle class steadily increasing its spending power," a representative of Indo Count Industries Limited said.

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