no doubt about it. The consumer wipes market continues to thrive.
Despite mass entry, extreme product proliferation and not a few skeptics
over the markets long-term viability, new products continue
to emerge and consumers seem eager to buy them.
When the first non-baby wipes began emerging about five years ago,
the nonwovens industry watched with bated breath. Similar introductions
a decade ago were not met with success and subsequently taken quietly
off the market. This time, however, the string of disinfectant all-purpose
household cleaning wipes introduced by Clorox and Procter & Gamble
caused an explosion in the consumer market. They were followed not
only by a string of use-specific wipesglass cleaners, floor
mops and auto care productsbut also heralded a string of wipes
for personal care applications, pet care products and a large range
of other wipe products. According to market tracker Euromonitor, the
global market for disposable consumer-oriented wipes is valued at
about $4.5 billion and has seen double-digit growth every year since
Consumer Wipes Sales By Retail Outlet
While baby wipes, the segment that started it all, continues to represent
the largest portion of sales with $1.9 billion, new applications like
facial cleansing, deodorant wipes and electrostatic wipes are growing
the most rapidly as consumers who once used baby wipes for a range
of non-baby cleansing needs now use these new styles of wipes to wash
their faces, freshen up or whatever the task may be.
Consumer wipes are still growing at a significantly more rapid
pace than industrial wiping products; however, in each case, its
the niche areas that comprise most of the growth, explained
Susan Stansbury of the Arketype Group, Green Bay, WI, In consumer
wipes products, cosmetics and household cleaning, wet wipes are still
growing at a pace beyond 4%.
Many credit consumers active lifestyles with the recent success
of the wipes category. The combinations of job pressures, increased
children activities and overall, have left many pressed for time and
these products allow them to perform daily tasks in substantially
less time. This saved time makes up for the extra cost per application
of an impregnated wipe in the eyes of many consumers and industry
sources are claiming that more consumers will make the switch to wipes.
That said, growth in consumer wipes is expected to continue as manufacturers
look to fill new niches in both the consumer goods market.
Lets Talk Numbers
Globally, the wipes market has enjoyed unprecedented growth in the
past six years with sales increasing from $1.8 billion in 1997 to
$4.5 billion in 2002. According to figures supplied by Euromonitor,
Western Europe consumes a large amount of wipes with sales to this
region, reaching $1.8 billion in 2002, compared to $578 million in
1997. Euromonitor put North American wipes sales slightly below Western
Europe at $1.7 billion in 2002, while INDA, the Association of the
Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, estimates the size of the North
American market at $2.2 billion (see figure 2), making it uncertain
which region is actually consuming the most wipes. Either way, these
two developed regions are still posting strong growth in wipes, which
is a different story than other nonwovens market areas like diapers
and feminine hygiene items where maturity has meant slow growth.
The North American Household Wipes Market
Meanwhile, developing regions have been slower to embrace wipeslargely
due to limited disposable incomes for such productsbut in recent
years, these world regions have begun buying them too. After hovering
in the $13-15 million range in the late 1990s, the wipes market of
Eastern Europe took off in 2000 and is now valued around $24 million.
A similar story can be told in the Asia-Pacific where sales started
their upward climb in 1999 and are now at about $694 million. Even
Africa and the Middle East and Australasia, while smaller regions,
are estimating their wipes sales at $75 million a piece. Only Latin
America seems to be having trouble in the wipes segment. Sales, typically
in the $130 million range peaked at $155 million in 2001 and then
experienced a drop to $136 million in 2002, thanks to economic problems
in this region.
By category, the past six years have seen a tremendous shift in wipe
products. In 1997, the largest segment by far was baby wipes, which
comprised more than 80% of global wipes sales at $1.3 billion. Over
the years, while the size of this market has tripled, baby wipe sales,
while still robust by most industries standards, have been more
modest, making it a somewhat smaller portion of the market. While
still the wipes markets largest segment, baby wipes now represent
only about one-third of the market. This shift can be attributed to
the aforementioned explosion in new product introductions in the past
six years. The market for household cleaning wipes has growing from
a paltry $220 million in 1997 to nearly $1.5 billion in 2002. If this
growth continues, certainly household wipes have a good chance of
unseating baby wipes as the largest segment of the wipes category.
Notable increases within household wipes include electrostatic wipes,
which have grown from $111 million to $709 million during the six-year
period, and antibacterial wipes, which have increased from $26 million
to $334 million.
The nonwovens industry has welcomed the growth of this segment. Not
only has it increased sales, it has brought nonwovens closer to the
end user. Trade associations in both North America and Europe have
dedicated annual conferences to the role of nonwovens in consumer
products, and this awareness has led to new product introductions
outside of the wipes category.
A Word About Baby
Still the largest market for wipes worldwide, baby wipes are also
the most well-known application for the substrates. While growth
in this segment has slowed, thanks largely to maturity as well as
market proliferation, sales in this market continue to climb in
the slow single digits each year. Much of this growth is underway
in developed regions where consumer spending is rising in general.
In developed regions, sales are declining as consumers who once
used baby wipes for non-baby tasks, are switching to new products
like deodorant and personal cleansing cloths and moist towelettes.
In the U.S., baby wipes sales dropped 5% to $412 million last year
in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart,
according to market tracker Information Resources Inc., Chicago,
|Recent wipe introduction have focused
on niche areas, according to industry observers.
To offset some of these declines, baby care marketers are specializing
their wipes lines by offering added benefits to wow mothers. Procter
& Gamble, for example, introduced Pampers Sensitive Touch Baby
Wipes two years ago. This product, designed for sensitive baby skin,
is hypoallergenic and alcohol free, and these features were well
received by caregivers. The product has already achieved estimated
sales of $16 million, according to industry sources.
Not to be outdone, P&G rival Kimberly-Clark now offers Newborn
Ultra-Gentle baby wipes as well as a natural-based and an original
wipe product under its Huggies brand. Additionally, K-C has recently
entered the burgeoning baby bath business with the launch of disposable
wash cloths and baby wash. The dry, disposable cloths are available
in a lavender and chamomile-scented version as well as in a no-soap
version that can be used with Huggies baby wash. These products
use the same proprietary Co-form Technology used in K-Cs wipes
Despite these efforts by the branded manufacturers, the largest
segment of the baby wipes market is private label with a 28% marketshare,
according to IRI. This shows that mothers are not as brand loyal
when it comes to wipes as they with diapers. In fact, some executives
have pointed to a trend where mothers are filling branded tubs with
private label products. Therefore brands have had to rely on promotional
spending, couponing and other discounting efforts to grab marketshare.
The threat of private label products extends beyond baby care in
the wipes market. Looking to cash in on the explosive growth of
this segment, private label manufactures have been one step behind
brands when it comes to offering new wipe products in virtually
any consumer category. Private label gives consumers an incentive
to try a type of product that could otherwise be cost prohibitive
when offered by a national brand, explained Carmen Baker,
project manager for private label wipe manufacturer Rockline Industries,
Sheboygan, WI. This has allowed us to experience incredible
growth in the past several years.
Flush With Ideas
Now that wipe products are fully immersed into consumers lives,
the next step for manufacturers is to continuously improve them.
Research and development teams are trying to improve the overall
quality of their wipes without raising costs. One area that has
emerged as a hot topic is flushability and achieving this goal has
been difficult as there is some debate over the definition of flushability
on the consumer market.
Some believe that a wipe is flushable if it fits down the commode,
not taking into consideration what happens to the wipe after it
enters the septic system; others equate flushability with a products
ability to disperse like toilet tissue and still others will only
deem a product flushable if it completely biodegrades in water.
Either way, many consumers are interested in the flushability or
biodegradability of a wipe only if it doesnt drive up the
overall price of the product, according to wipes industry consultant
Phil Mango. Basically they are not willing to pay more for
the product or sacrifice overall quality, he said.
While there are several types of flushable wipes on the marketfor
toilet cleaning, kids care and personal hygienemost wipe products
are not fully dispersible. This has challenged wipes manufacturers
to convey the risks associated with flushing unflushable wipes.
While consumer ignorance regarding the failure of most wipes to
biodegrade has not yet posed too much of a problem, as the use of
wipes broaden so will the threat to municipal septic and sewer systems
nationally. In fact, the city of Raleigh is already making it illegal
to flush a wipe down the toilet, an action that can be punishable
with up to a $25,000 fine. Additionally, wipe products (together
with tree roots) have been blamed for clogging a section of a sewer
system in Grand Rapids, MI.
Government officials are concerned that wipe manufacturers are not
doing enough to warn consumers against flushing wipes. While some
non-flushable disinfectant wipes, bear large warning insignias against
flushing, others have this information in small type that the consumer
is unlikely to read. This has led INDA, Association of the Nonwoven
Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, and the European Disposable and Nonwovens
Association, Brussels, Belgium, to kick off efforts to increase
education on this matter. The efforts are intended to fend off the
threat of additional legislation that could diminish wipe popularity.
In addition to flushability, flexibility is also an interest among
consumer products manufacturers. All of the major companies
are trying to develop a flexible, stronger wipe, Mr. Mango
said. This is more of a defensive move than an offensive measure.
They are all afraid that the competition will come up with some
sort of superwipe before them.
Nonwoven wipes, either dry or wet, have typically been made from
two types of nonwovens technologiesairlaid or spunlace. Traditionally,
the North American market has favored the thickness of airlaid,
due largely to the fact that most baby wipes made in the region
uses airlaid substrates. Meanwhile, Europeans have favored the slickness
and tactile feel of spunlaced wipes, which dominate abroad.
This market dynamic has begun to shift in recent years and spunlace
is becoming preferred over airlaid in many wipe applications. This
has partly been caused by P&Gs rumored switch from airlaid
to spunlaced materials in its U.S. baby wipes business. According
to reports, P&G had been using spunlaced nonwovens in European
applications for some time but has only recently incorporated the
material into its North American business.
The rise of spunlace can also be attributed to advancements in manufacturing
processes. Decorative options such as embossing as well as more
consistent quality and varieties of weights have been developed
by the many nonwovens producers looking to make a buck off of wipe
manufacturers in search of variety. Also, unlike airlaid, spunlaced
wipes can be offered in both canister or tub form whereas airlaids
thickness makes packagingin pull-through canisters difficult.
Manufacturers of airlaid just arent keeping up,
said Mr. Mango. Overcapacity and other market conditions have
really squeezed research and development efforts in airlaid and
the market has felt the result.
Despite these problems, airlaid has continued to be strong in special
performance wipes where toughness is important. These include scrubbers
for a variety of uses and automotive cleaners.
With so many potential areas for wipes to penetrate, certainly consumer
goods manufacturers will continue to consider them important aspects
of their business. Eager to save time through revolutionary new
products, consumers will continue to enthusiastically choose wipe
products for their daily activities.