Taekwang Industrial’ Entry Into the Synthetic Hair Market!
Modacrylic fiber ‘Modabon’ Release
Since its founding in 1950, South Korea’s Taekwang Industrial, which has built up solid technology and capital in the textile industry for more than 70 years, has recently entered the synthetic hair fiber industry. In November 2020, Taekwang Industrial completed a hair fiber production facility in its large-scale textile chemical plant complex in Ulsan, South Korea. Taekwang said that it had developed, produced and supplied fiber of ‘modacrylic’ material, which is said to have the most similar properties to human hair. The brand name of Taekwang’s Modacrylic fiber is “Modabon”.
Taekwang Group, which was founded as the parent company of Taekwang Industrial, has a variety of businesses such as textile, petrochemical, finance, media, infrastructure, leisure, land, and culture(art). Taekwang Industrial was founded in 1950 and has grown into a comprehensive textile manufacturer. They produce a variety of textile products such as acrylic, spandex, nylon, spun yarn, LMF, aramid and so on. Since 1990, it has entered the petrochemical field and was the first to complete vertical integration in Korea. As of 2021, Modacrylic fiber has been developed and produced and supplied under the brand name ‘Modabon’, which means Modacrylic Fiber + Bon(the best).
Modacrylic material is a type of acrylic fiber that has similar properties to wool fabric, and has many advantages such as being soft to the touch, light, having excellent volume, and safeness which does not burn well. Compared to other materials such as PP, PVC, PET, etc., it is also evaluated as having the most similar characteristics to the specific gravity and texture of human hair. With these advantages, Modacrylic braid products have been largely in the limelight as the number one choice for braiders. According to one hair industry expert official, “Modacrylic occupies about 40~45% of the market share in the entire braiding fiber market as of 2021.”
Until now, Japan’s Kaneka, the “dinosaur” of the synthetic fiber industry in the modacrylic market, has dominated production and market by 100% without any competitors, and have monopolized the profits. Kaneka has enjoyed an absolute position in this hair material, so much that the formula “Modacrylic = Kanekalon” has been established. Kanekalon’s ‘Afelle’ and ‘Tiara II’ fiber, which are popular on the market today, are fibers made from modacrylic materials.
However, a doyen to challenge Kanekalon’s solid castle has appeared, Taekwang’s Modabon. Modacrylic is complex in its manufacturing process, requiring large-scale facility investment. That was why it was a field where other companies besides Kanekalon had not been able to attempt. However, in 2021, Taekwang Industrial entered the competition and suddenly became the world’s second-largest company of this field. Taekwang’s Modabon, which is just taking its first step, is attracting attention in the hair industry, making them wonder whether this company will properly make its value on the braid fiber market in the future.
Opening Up New Markets Rather than Preempted Markets
“Competition within the industry for quality innovation, price optimization, and service improvement will be a great boost for the entire hair market in many ways,”said Park, Jae yong, CEO of Taekwang Industrial, who is launching the brand. Park pointed out that innovation and efforts to provide better customer service and better quality have been neglected due to market monopolization, and expressed his firm will, “In the future, Taekwang will not hesitate to compete with fierce efforts to innovate and improve services.”
However, for the time being, Taekwang seems to be working on a strategy to open up new markets rather than compete in markets that have already been pre-empted by starters. “The Modacrylic market is still very likely to expand,”said a Taekwang official, and said the current supplier-oriented market situation “has not kept up with the demand for its high popularity.” Taekwang also said, ”We will supply products based on companies that have been eager for modacrylic for a while, but have been underprivileged from supply.”
The Hair Industry is Generally Welcoming this Change
The fact that a leading South Korean textile chemical company has stepped up as a new modacrylic producer is stirring the beauty industry as a whole. Although it varies slightly from company to company, the U.S. hair wholesale industry as a whole seems to welcome this situation.
“Competition is essential for the development of the capitalist market,”said an executive in charge of R&D at a hair company, and expressed their expectations that “it will work positively to a certain extent for the entire hair industry.” “In the meantime, Kanekalon’s monopoly has resulted in the abuse of price determination,” a head of a hair wholesaler noted a little vehemently. “The quality and price level of the new Modabon will eventually determine success and failure in the market.” On the other hand, an official of a hair company that is currently being supplied fiber by Kaneka said, “In principle, competition is not bad for the entire hair market,” and expressed their thoughts cautiously that “We basically have an open mind when doing business, and if the quality is good and the price is appropriate, there is no reason to decline the product.”
Such as the reaction across the hair industry, it is expected that in the future, the two companies will fiercely compete in good faith for technological innovation and service improvement in order to receive consumers’ choice. The final judgment on that competition eventually falls on the consumer. What will the consumers choose, Kaneka or Taekwang? The beauty industry as a whole is hoping that the two competitors will have a great bout of quality and service.
[Park, Jae Yong, Taekwang Industrial CEO]
Born in 1967, in Busan. Graduated from Seoul National University, the Department of Textile Engineering, Master’s degree, was appointed as the CEO of Taekwang Industrial Textile Business Headquarters in June 2020 after being the Director of Polyester Sales at Hyosung Co., Ltd., CEO of Nylon Business Division, and CEO of Global Safety Textile(GST). He worked at GTS’s U.S. factory for two years, and claimed “90% of the employees were black, so I understand the characteristics of black beauty in my own way.”
<Taekwang Industrial Park, Jae Yong CEO Q&A>
What is the background to Taekwang launching an unfamiliar hair fiber business?
Above all, we determined that the growth potential of the synthetic hair fiber market is large. In recent years, braid has become more and more popular and high-quality. This growth potential is expected to be very large not only in the U.S., but also in the African market, especially. Until now, Modacrylic yarn has been monopolized by Kaneka and I think they have done well, but there are no competitors, so there is not a lot of innovation in recent years. By competing side by side, each company will make every effort to improve quality and diversify products. In addition, we believe that our entry will be a breather for some hair companies that have been deprived in the supply chain of modacrylic products in the meantime.
What is the scale of production?
We have a production facility of 12,000 tons per year within Taekwang’s textile chemistry plant in Ulsan, South Korea. It will be supplied with raw materials through pipes connected with existing plant complexes. Because we have enough land there, we are ready to expand the facility at any time if necessary in the future.
Where is the quality level of Modabon?
Over the past five years, we have had numerous experiments and verification steps through hair distributors and consumers. Repeated blind tests also received objective recognition. Therefore, we are confident that the quality level of Modabon is already excellent. After the final verification of product development, the factory was completed last November and now began delivery to the African factory. However, diversification of color remains a challenge to solve. We are currently producing about 10 of the most basic colors, and we are trying to add more colors quickly as we can.
Could you introduce the products you currently produce?
There are two types of Modacryl currently held by Taekwang: Ga Type and Na Type.
‘Ga type’ is H-shaped on the cross-section of the fiber, is smooth textured and very light weight. This is suitable for pre-stretched braids as it has less tangles, as well as long length braids.
‘Na type’ has a cross section that is Y-shaped, and is suitable for jumbo braid as well as pre-stretched braid with a unique rough and voluminous touch. It is good to mix with other fibers, which means it is good for making hair pieces.
In addition, we are planning to develop more diverse products in the future.
What is the competitiveness of Taekwang?
Taekwang Industrial has been producing acrylic fibers for a long time as a comprehensive fiber manufacturer, and with the accumulated fiber technology for the main raw material AN(acrylonitrile), it already has the ability to produce modacrylic. It can be said that our company has built more than 60 years of know-how in the textile industry. In this regard, I think we have enough momentum to move forward as a leading manufacturer of modacrylic fiber market, not just as a latecomer.
Another advantage of Taekwang has is that it produces a variety of fibers. We produce fibers such as modacrylic, acrylic, polyester, nylon, LMF, aramid and so on. The diversity of textile products we produce is about the best in the world. Therefore, we now plan to gradually diversify the hair fiber material, although we are only starting with modacrylic. In the hair fiber industry, various materials such as PVC, flame retardant polyester, and nylon are used, so I think Taekwang is a good fit for this field.
What are your future plans and visions?
With Taekwang Industrial’s entry, we will try to get owners who need modacryl but are having trouble getting supplies to use Modabon. I hope they will receive Taekwang’s Modabon supplies with ease and thus help their business. Using the fiber production technology currently produced by Taekwang, we want to make the leap into a professional manufacturer of hair fiber leading fashion brands through the advancement of existing materials such as nylon and PET, as well as the development of differentiated new materials that reflect consumer needs.
Is there anything else you want to say?
First, we will pursue diversification of materials in the future. After stabilizing the business as soon as possible, we will expand our breadth with products of various textures and colors. In addition, we will develop various inter-material fusion fibers. We will realize developmental ideas while communicating with the market.
Second, we plan to create a partnership with the hair industry. Several companies have already expressed their intentions to use the Modabon I know that our business can grow only through close collaboration with them. This is the most important company policy we are currently pursuing.