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25 January 2024
Market Commentary

Wool increasingly the natural choice in US

Article written by Annette Scott for Farmers Weekly.

New research shows fibre is gaining in popularity, and for more uses than clothing and carpets.

New Zealand strong wool is on the rise as it resonates with discerning Americans.   

New research shows United States consumers are falling in love with Kiwi wool with at least three in four purchasers stating they would buy woollen products again.

The results are particularly positive for consumers choosing woollen insulation, with 88% of those who have installed insulation in their homes anticipating a repeat purchase should they need insulation in the future.

Wool bedding, soft furnishings and flooring have also won the hearts of the US market, according to Campaign for Wool NZ, which commissioned the research.

Campaign for Wool chair Ryan Cosgrove said the research is a strong message of confidence.

“This is excellent news for our strong wool growers, woollen product manufacturers and their US-based retail partners.

“The research tells us that NZ strong wool is having a real impact on discerning Americans, that its durability, natural beauty and sustainability credentials are really starting to stack up for buyers in this key market,” Cosgrove said.

The Campaign for Wool NZ is a charity mandated to promote and advocate for wool, with the goal of delivering value through the supply chain and to the farm gate.

The survey was conducted in October 2023, with research business Fresh Perspective surveying more than 1000 consumers in the top 60% on the US household affluence index. 

“We dug into the various ways wool is used in the US, how it’s perceived, how and when it is purchased, what drives that purchase and any barriers to buying wool over other products on the market.”

The research, which is shared with Campaign for Wool NZ’s partners operating across a number of sectors such as growing, handling, trading, manufacturing and retailing wool, highlights an improvement in the perception of wool performance since research was last conducted in 2021.

“There’s an increase in the awareness of the incredible attributes of wool, its ability to promote warmth, regulate temperature and biodegrade,” Cosgrove said.

“Consumers are also more appreciative of how it looks and feels than ever before and their understanding of how wool absorbs sound has doubled from only 20% mentioning sound absorbency as an attribute, to 40%.”

Apparel, crafting supplies and pet accessories are among the most recognised uses of wool, although in the home, building and renovation sector, those making an investment into woollen products are overwhelmingly converted to the fibre.

“Over three-quarters of purchasers would choose woollen bedding or soft furnishings again and a similar number would select woollen carpets and rugs.

“The fact that conscious consumers are increasingly prioritising sheep over synthetics can only be a good thing for hardworking NZ farmers and for the environment as a whole.” 

But Cosgrove said there is work to do as consumers become increasingly price sensitive. 

“Affordability was the No 1 barrier to purchase, which is no change from the last time we undertook the research. 

“With our support, our partners can also do better at communicating how and where to purchase NZ strong wool products in the USA market and how to clean and care for wool, according to the figures. 

“On a positive note, our reputation for producing the best wool in the world continues to rise. 

“The stats show that, when compared to other wool growing nations like Australia, the UK and even the USA, home turf for these consumers, our wool ranks as being better quality, more luxurious, more sustainable and even more natural than other countries’ wool.”

Meanwhile strong bidding, full participation from all the trade and minimal passings has seen the second new year wool sale in Napier result in another market indicator increase. 

PGG Wrightson North Island auctioneer Steve Fussell said while there were a few holes in the prices for shorter higher coloured wools, all other wool types sold extremely well. 

“There has been some good interest from overseas and with sales being made the market has reacted accordingly.

“Preparation has let some lambs’ wool down with the result of not achieving maximum prices and at the other end of the scale well-sorted lambs with minimal vegetable matter readings saw another increase in value this week.”

Good-style crossbred fleece lifted to $3.50 while second shear topped at $3.30 and the best lambs’ wool 27-29 micron reached up to $3.58.

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