young mothers, Liz Donohue often finds herself juggling myriad chores
day in and day out. Always pressed for time, she considers any consumer
product that can save her time a blessing. So its no surprise
that when a friend introduced disposable wipes to her, she quickly
incorporated them into her everyday routine.
|From babys bottom
to mascara-streaked eyes, wipes for all kinds of cleaning are
available in the market. From top: A Huggies Baby Wipe; Acuity
Brands Zep commercial wipe; Neutrogenas cleaning
cloth; Cloroxs Ready Mop.
I was at a friends house, and she pulled out a wipe,
Mrs. Donohue recalled of her first experience with Swiffer, the well-known
product from Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. I asked her
What is that, and she said You cant live without
And she hasnt since. A mother of three small children, Mrs.
Donohue has tried many household wipes to clean a variety of surfaces,
including the floors, kitchen counter and almost anything around the
house. She insists wipes not only save her time but also keep her
home cleaner because they are easy to store and use. Even though she
realizes wipes are more costly than cleaning chemicals and a rag,
she said theres no comparison. My house stays cleaner,
she added. The convenience is worth it.
Mrs. Donohue and consumers like her are the reason why the wipes market
continues to gain momentum. Whether its for convenience, space
savings or sanitary reasons, home wipe use is at an all-time high.
Driven by a deluge of new products in numerous categories, the market
is increasingly segmented, with novel applications cropping up all
the time. From leather cleaning to wood polishing to germ killing,
the uses are numerous. More wipes are sure to be released this year
as private label marketers try to cash in on the category dominated
by the likes of P&G and Clorox.
Consumer products may be the tip of the iceberg as many nonwovens
suppliers and converters predict an explosion of industrial wipes.
Aided by the success of consumer wipes, industrial applications will
surely follow the same acclivous path, some observers say. They point
to a host of reasons for strong growth, many of those driving household
wipe growth. The difference is with fewer products in the industrial
market, there may be more room for new players.
Consumer or industrialits all good for the nonwovens industry.
According to Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics
at INDA, Association of the Nonwovens Fabric Industry, Cary, NC, more
than 40 new wipe products have been introduced since 1999. In 2001,
the North American market produced 2.1 billion square meters of rolled
goods (worth more than $400 million) for wipes production, an increase
of more than 8% from the year before. Globally, Mr. Butler estimated
the market at 6 billion meters, while Lynda Kelly, a senior consultant
at John R. Starr, Inc., Naples, FL, estimates that the worldwide market
will grow to 7.7 billion square meters by 2006.
The global retail value of wipes is more than $3.9 billion, according
to market research firm Euromonitor. By 2006, it expects the market
to reach $5.3 billion.
In the U.S., consumer purchases of non-baby wipes rose, but baby wipes
sales fell, offsetting some of those gains. Information Resources
Inc., a Chicago, IL-based marketing research firm, reported that moist
towelette sales at supermarket, drug and mass merchandisers rose 16.6%
in the 52 weeks ended August 11, 2002 (data do not include results
at Wal-Mart stores or dry wipes). Unit sales were up 16%. At the same
time, baby wipes sales fell 5.8%.
In the floor cleaning category, Cloroxs ReadyMop is the top
seller, according to IRI, with $56 million in sales at supermarket
and drugstores for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 1, 2002. Swiffer products,
which include wet and dry versions, occupy the second, fourth and
eight spots, with $98 million in combined sales. IRIs data show
two clear trends: wipes sales as a whole continue to climb and the
market is becoming more segmented, with consumers switching from baby
wipes to products targeted for task-specific products.
I think whats happened is that in some of the cases as
(consumer product companies) have sensed the (baby wipes) business
maturing; theyre now putting their guns around the other markets,
said Mr. Butler, who pointed out that approximately 70% of the market
is consumer while the rest is industrial. In past years, baby wipes
were the catch-all for all wiping needs; today, as more sophisticated
products become available, consumers are opting for those, he said.
The Boom Continues
If the hype over wipes seems overblown, take a look at the number
of products introduced in recent years. Although wipes have been
in the market for more than a decade, its only during the
past several years that growth has accelerated. Why? According to
nonwovens manufacturers, much of the success can be credited to
marketers such as P&G, Clorox and Kimberly-Clark. Products such
as Swiffer, ReadyMop and Armor All wipes are household names that
buyers associate with convenience. At a time when time is an important
commodity for consumers, these marketers have tapped into an effective
selling point. And with sizable marketing budgets, theyve
managed to win over many new customers.
The consumer is much more looking for time savings. These
nonwovens offer value and convenience, said Ms. Kelly. I
think the current economic climate helps to foster the development
and the continuing positive revenues.
But consumers might not have realized the benefits of wipes if not
for companies such as P&G, said Kelly. She noted that even though
the first wipe was introduced by Tokyo, Japan-based Kao Corporation
in 1989, it wasnt until P&G made a major push into the
category that it really blossomed. Since then, many other companies
have devoted millions of dollars to educate their customers and
develop the best cleaning tools to meet their needs.
The success of consumer wipes isnt a surprise to Karl Ronn,
research and development manager for home care products at Procter
& Gamble. To Mr. Ronn, the proliferation of wipes is another
step in evolution of disposable products, a trend he said started
in the 1960s.
Everybody today multitasks, said Mr. Ronn. For
people with time scarcity, it (the wipe) is of high value.
He pointed out that as the need for disposable items has evolved,
so too have the products. Swiffer, for instance, first appeared
as a dry cloth but was soon followed by a wet version. Now there
is a Wet Jet version, in which a solution dispenser is added. He
said its an example of how an entire cleaning tool can be
built around a nonwoven.
If there is any doubt about the impact that nonwoven wipes have
had on the household cleaning market, just look at IRIs sales
data for cleaning tools, mops and brooms. During the past year,
the category has grown 15.7% to $486 milliona large part of
that increase due to Cloroxs ReadyMop, which had $56 million
in sales in the first year of its launch.
Similarly, the cleaning cloth category grew at a similar rate. For
the same period, sales were up 17.5% to $124 million, with Cloroxs
disinfectant wipes the leader at $72 million. Reckitt Benckiser
and Armor All, at the second and third spots, respectively, grew
28.1% and 32.6%.
|Household cleaning and
personal care are two of the consumer segments that have been
infiltrated by wipe introductions.
While household wipes seem to draw all the attention
these days, a laundry list of other applications help fuel the market.
Marketers of personal care productsfrom face cleansers to
wet toilet papers to antiperspirantsare all looking to wipes
to be the next big thing. Why? In two words: value added. Per-application
costs for a wipe compared with the cost of using the personal care
product itself are significantly higher, but consumers who value
the convenience are willing to accept the premium. As long as they
realize value, theyre likely to dole out more.
Hyo-Young Kim, marketing manager for Jacob Holm Industries, Jyderup,
Denmark, said she expects the adult wipes segment to strengthen
not only in the U.S. but globally. A number of cosmetics companies
are in the early product development stages, and as more consumers
catch on to the ease with which wipes remove cosmetics, clean and
refresh, theyll spur additional new uses.
Although Western Europe and the U.S. offer the greatest growth potential,
other regions may embrace the wipe down the road. Asian countries
with high disposable income such as Taiwan, Korea and Singapore
could experience greater wipe usage. Even Eastern Europe could potentially
offer new customers to wipes manufacturers as markets develop.
An Industrial Revolution?
Just as consumer markets open up in other regions, the U.S. industrial
market appears ready to catch on to the wipes craze. Encouraged
by improved products that are more competitively priced, many businesses
today are evaluating wipes for their cleaning needs. Enhanced durability,
cloth-like feel, easy disposal and no laundering are catalysts behind
the move. Many nonwovens producers say its just a matter of
time before large flocks of companies go from rags to wipes.
As the consumer companies create these markets, we can then
follow, said Mark Arcaro, president of Phoenixville, PA-based
Disposable Products, an industrial wipes converter. By getting more
customers to use wipes, consumer product companies help change the
mindset of business managers.
No one knows this better than Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, the market
leader in business wipes and the largest producer of premoistened
wipes. Company officials said they believe consumer trends lead
the business-to-business market by two to three years. Even when
the household segment plateaus, the industrial side keeps expanding.
Furthermore, many sectors within the industrial side are ripe for
growthsupermarkets and healthcare and hospitality institutions,
to name a few. For instance, the recent problem of cruise ship illnesses
highlights opportunities for anti-bacterial wipes in the travel
Andy Clement, the category manager for business-to- business wipes
at Kimberly-Clark, said the outlook is strong for dry wipes but
uncertain for wet wipes. In many instances, the companys dry
wipes are replacing rental towels that are laundered after each
use. Its a growing business, he said, because customers find
wipes convenient, consistent and cheaper.
To profit from this trend, the company is strongly pushing its Wipeall
X80 premium dry wipes, which are manufactured with the companys
spunlace and pulp technology. Boasting the products strength
and absorbency, K-C is guaranteeing customers who switch for 60
days a 10% savings. In 70-80% of the cases, those customers stick
to the wipes, Mr. Clement said.
But when it comes to the future of wet wipes, he said the picture
is muddied. The reason? Costs. While home wipe premiums are indeed
hefty, at most they are a few dollars more at the checkout line.
On the industrial side, where purchases are made in bulk, the difference
is glaring. People are more conscious (of price) when it comes
to the B2B side just because the purchases are higher volume,
Mr. Clement noted.
However, premoistened wipes offer value perfect for settings such
as hospitals and food service. Still, he said the growth potential
of these wipes remains to be seen.
One converter betting heavily on commercial wet wipes is Tufco Technologies.
It has gone as far as hiring an on-site microbiologist to work with
customers. Michelle Corrigan, vice president of sales and marketing,
said many companies are developing products that will be available
in one or two years. Some new applications such as paint wipes are
just starting to emerge.
Ms. Corrigan said one convenience of wet wipes is minimizing training.
Learning the proper chemical dilution or cleaning methods isnt
required of workers who use wet wipes. Instead, they can spend more
time cleaning. JohnsonDiversey, the industrial cleaning giant, estimated
that labor accounts for 50% of the costs associated with cleaning
a typical European hotel. As the single largest cost, labor could
be reduced dramatically with greater use of wipes.
Still, Ms. Corrigan said shes not sure how readily companies
will accept the premium of wet wipes. The convenience factor
is there, but whether the price point is there remains to be seen.
As the rate of product introductions continues, nonwovens suppliers
are left asking: when will the boom slow and how can they make wipes
a value-added product of their own? Like any immature market, wipes
will expand with new products and sales. Even the most optimistic
marketing manager will concede that a plateau is in sight. Some
industry observers say consumer wipe growth may slow within a year,
while others expect the current growth trend to last longer. In
any event, there is consensus that to push sales along, nonwovens
suppliers can help by offering unique roll goodsairlaid or
spunlacedthat can be converted into unique household products.
P&Gs Mr. Ronn said the industry needs more innovation.
Much in the way that some wipes have evolved from a single-material
product to multi-constructed pads, roll goods will also have to
push the envelope, he added. A pitfall to avoid, he cautioned, is
investing in the wrong technology, which has caused some companies
products to become irrelevant and forced them out of
The question is what is the next big
thing, he posed, adding that much of the development work
he oversees involves composites. Swiffer, for instance, is composed
of three different materials. Composites give chemical manufacturers
formulation flexibility, he added.
Whats the answer to Mr. Ronns question? Whats
the next big thing? Dont look for revolutionary
changes; most likely, improvements will be incremental. Subtle shifts
in market trends will drive new technology. After all, no one is
willing to risk substantial investments on a hunch.
Many nonwovens executives are looking for spunlaced nonwovens to
make a stronger push into the North American market. Although airlaid
pricing remains low and is the dominant technology here, some wipes
marketers believe hydroentangled products give them more flexibility
design and manufacturing. For instance, the wide pattern choices
of spunlaced substrates enable converters to achieve more bulk or
a feel simulating cloth. Others may choose it for strength or softness.
In any case, spunlaced nonwovens are likely to gain a better foothold
in North America.
Tenotexs marketing and sales manager Marina Nova said as the
performance bar rises, wipes manufacturers will have no choice but
turn to spunlace for its absorbency, stability and durability, especially
when it comes to home cleaning needs. Some added value is
required, she stressed. Tenotex began producing spunlaced
nonwovens for the wipes market in early 2002.
Thats not to say airlaid will be replaced. With baby wipes
the largest subsegment, airlaid will still be a significant portion
of the wipes market for years to come. Furthermore, with advancements
such as airlaced (hydroentangled airlaid) now available globally,
the technology has the potential to surpass spunlaced nonwovens
in value, according to Ms. Kelly. Although it costs more than airlaid,
it also offers more strength, less linting and myriad other benefits.
While each of the three technologies may eventually find its own
niche, spunlaced is clearly the technology of choice in Europe and
Japan, also key wipes markets. In Europe, even baby wipes are manufactured
with spunlace. In Japanperhaps the most sophisticated wipes
market in the worldspunlace wipes are used extensively throughout
Which technology will wipes marketers favor in the near future?
Many roll goods suppliers and converters say customers dont
care; they want the best performance for the lowest cost. A changing
market has altered the relationship between wipes marketers and
Today, consumer product companies are talking directly to
the nonwovens producers, instead of the converters, to decide on
what benefits a special tailor-made nonwoven can bring them,
said Katharina Rath, director of wipes for Europe, BBA Nonwovens.
A good partnership from the beginning of the development of
a new product between the consumer product company, the nonwoven
supplier and the converter will be beneficial to all.
Figuring out how to sell value while ratcheting up margins will
be a challenge for nonwovens suppliers in the expanding wipes market.
But, with new applications still unearthed and many others just
blossoming, roll goods producers will have ample room to explore.
Despite the plethora of introductions, the market will eventually
sift out the winners from the losers, cautioned Tom Marth, vice
president of sales at Green Bay Nonwovens.
Maybe not all of those are going to survive, Mr. Marth
said. Its going to take a while to see who the people
are left standing.
So even though the wipes market continues to be a bright spot for
the nonwovens industry, consumer product companies and their suppliers
cant approach the market casually. It will take diligent research
and development to come up with products that provide real value.
At the same time, manufacturers have to invest heavily in marketing
and consumer education to nurture fledgling applications. Nonwovens
suppliers must do their part by constantly improving materials so
their customers goods dont become static. If executed
correctly, the partnering will pay off in the form of a pipeline
of successful new wipes.
Wipes Introduced from 1999-2001
|Lever 2000 Soap Wipes
||Swiffer Wet (P&G)
||Healthcare Wipes (NicePak)
||Swiffer Wet Jet
|Medical Wet Wipes
and Moist Wipes (GP)
Cloth Wipes (3M)
Cleaning Cloths (3M)
Pre-Wash Boom Wipe (American
|Daily Face Wash
(P&G Oil of Olay)
|Various Scented Electrostatic
|Hot Stick Cleaner Wipe
|Biore Face Wash (Biore)
|Mr. Clean Wipes-Ups
in 3 Varieties (P&G)
|Clean and Wax Wipes
|Nice n Clean Baby Wipes
|Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
|Wiping Cloths and Reinforced
|Pudgies Baby Wipes (NicePak)
|Armor All Leather Wipes
|Klear Screen Computer Wipes
|Huggies Supreme Care Baby
|Armor All Protectant Wipes
|Sontara Industrial Wipes
|Huggies Natural Care Baby
|Cleaning Wipes (Clorox)
|Sontara Print Clean Wipes
|Bibster Disposable Bibs (P&G)
|Armor all Glass Wipes
|Sontara Pro Clean Wipes
|Sontara Baby Wipes (DuPont)
|Endust Electronic Wipes
|Sontara Car Clean Wipes
|Moist Toilet Tissue (Rockline
||Micropure Cleanroom Wipes
|Dove Facial Cleansing
nonwovens Wipes (Gross Kubrick
|Ponds Facial Cleansing Cloths
||Burnishing Industrial Wipes