Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc., which produces and markets Crailar, a natural fiber made from flax, has entered a joint development agreement with the Lenzing Group, a leading manufacturer of cellulosic fibers, to evaluate the blending of Crailar flax fibers with Lenzing’s Tencel and modal fibers.

Lenzing’s cellulosic fibers are primarily used in the textile industry, including women’s outerwear and sportswear, as well as the nonwovens industry, such as hygiene products.

“This is an important development for Crailar flax in that, to-date, both of our commercial and exploratory partnership agreements have been focused on how Crailar can blend at varying levels with natural fibers for apparel, home and industrial applications,” said Ken Barker, chief executive officer of Naturally Advanced Technologies. “With Lenzing, we can now evaluate the opportunity to expand the host fibers with which Crailar can blend to identify new performance attributes, applications and industries. This partnership will have applications in industry sectors where polyester fibers have been the norm, in addition to our existing applications as a sustainable complement to cotton.”

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Lenzing’s raw material for fibers is beech wood, which is the basis for producing dissolving pulp subsequently processed into cellulose fibers. Its commitment to the principles of sustainability has led Lenzing to be recognized for setting some of the highest environmental standards in the industry.

“With Crailar flax and the applications that we have discussed to date, we look forward to taking advantage of its unique attributes and to extending the range of products we can introduce with Crailar flax to our global brand partners,” said Peter Bartsch, head of marketing apparel for Crailar.

The intent of the agreement is to create a range of yarns suitable for the fashion and sport performance industries that prominently feature Tencel, modal and Crailar’s sustainability platforms to leverage each company’s water absorption and wicking properties, and to create a blended yarn using Crailar and Lenzing’s cellulosic fibers.

Lenzing said it looked forward to working with NAT on product development to bring innovative product to its customers. The company saw sales rise 21.2 percent to 2.14 billion euros, or $2.82 billion, in 2011, as earnings increased 45.3 percent to 480.3 million euros, or $633.29 million, from the previous year.

Naturally Advanced Technologies supplies its Crailar flax to HanesBrands, Georgia-Pacific and Brilliant Global Knitwear for commercial use, and to Levi Strauss & Co., Cintas, Carhartt, Ashland, Westex, Target and PVH Corp. for evaluation and development. The company is in construction on its first full-scale production facility in Pamplico, S.C., and anticipates it will be delivering fiber from the facility in the third quarter, partnering with Tintoria Piana and Barnhardt Mfg. on the processing of that fiber. The company’s current fiber is being produced at a pilot facility in nearby Kingstree, S.C.

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