Wipes Continue to Expand

By Karen McIntyre, Senior Editor | June 12, 2013

Consumers’ craving for convenience drives sales across many categories.

Wipes growth continues. Aided by overall improvements to the economy as well as consumer demand for easy-to-use, convenient products, the wipes market continues to witness new product introductions from both seasoned experts in the business and entrepreneurs looking to launch the next big thing in wipes.

“Over all the wipes market remains strong.  It appears that the consumer continues to live by the adage that they are willing to spend money to save time versus 30 years ago when they were spending time to save money,” says Will Green, vice president of contract manufacturing, Rockline Industries. “Convenience and increased product capabilities have allowed the consumer to see added benefits with the use of wipes.”

According to a study released earlier this year by the Freedonia Group, demand for wipes in the U.S. will rise 5.1% per year to $2.5 billion by 2016. This growth follows the 2007-2009 recession, which had an impact on buying habits. During that time, consumers economized by using private label wipes and shifting away from task-specific wipes to general purpose products. This slowed down the rapid-fire stream of new product introductions seen earlier in the decade but in more recent years, there has been an uptick in new product introductions.

“I believe that at the end of the development pipeline or the introduction of new products, there has been a leveling off of introductions to the market,” Green adds. “If you look at new product development (NPD) cycle times of 18–30 months, this makes sense given the economic environment in 2009–2011. Companies’ appetite during this time for R&D spending on NPD was severely curtailed.  NPD started just after that period are just now making it through the process and will be introduced in the next 12 months. It will be interesting to see the consumers’ reaction to these introductions.”

While a blockbuster wipe product has not hit store shelves in recent months, the proliferation of the wipes market into new uses and categories has continued, providing a constant stream of new product introductions across a number of categories.

Growth will continue

According to the Freedonia study, demand for substrates used in wipes is projected to increase 6% per year to $1.4 billion. Gains will decelerate from rates achieved during the 2006-2011 period as pricing is expected to moderate. In addition, a rebound in the U.S. manufacturing sector, large users of economical paper-based products will further limit growth. Nevertheless, wipes producers will continue to use higher cost nonwoven substrates in an effort to provide more advanced performance properties such as dual-sided textures, enhanced strength and extra absorbency.

Going forward, experts expect much of the growth in wipes will be driven by three major influences—convenience, consumer acceptance and innovation. Personal hygiene and general purpose household cleaning wipes will grow the most quickly. In personal hygiene, growth will be seen in wet bathroom tissue as these products become more a part of  standard bathroom routine. Additionally, developments in flushable products (see sidebar on page 44) will foster growth. Growth in general purpose disinfectant wipes will be propelled by the appeal of one-step cleaning.

Within the well-established baby wipes category, growth will be driven an increasing infant population but this growth will be slowed as many consumers who use less expensive baby wipes for non-diaper uses during leaner economic times will return to pricier, task-specific  products.

Spreading the word

As the world leader in supplying wipes manufacturers with nonwoven substrates  Suominen has recently stepped up efforts to help promote the entire wipes market globally through the launch of its We Love Wipes campaign. This online portal provides an opportunity for players from all levels of the wipes supply chain from the raw material provider right down to the consumer to discuss what they love about wipes.

“We see the wipes supply chain differently than a few years ago,” Suominen spokesman Alistair Brown says. “The public are more informed and more inquisitive about wipe products and each participant in the supply chain needs to understand better what the wipes users are looking for. We Love Wipes.com is one way in which we believe we can bring the right products to market, faster.”

The campaign represents an entirely novel way to have dialogue with consumers and other parties within the wipes value chain, Brown adds. The overall objective of the campaign is to further strengthen Suominen’s understanding for the need of consumers and consequently ensure that Suominen is better able to serve its customers and increase the share of the higher value added products in its portfolio.

The We Love Wipes campaign aims to raise the overall awareness of wipes and the wide range of the end use applications among consumers and to motivate virtual communication among wipes users. The campaign hub is the www.welovewipes.com website, containing an interesting array of content related to the daily situations where wipes are needed. Further, it incorporates a variety of social media activities including Facebook, Twitter and Google+. In addition to digital activities, the campaign includes face to face events with professionals in the wipes supply chain.

“Innovation at Suominen is not just about products but about changing the way business is done and challenging traditional long-held views. The market is very dynamic and it is clearly in our interest to become faster to market with the right products. This is one aspect we aim to further improve, with the support from the consumers, the genuine experts of wipes”, says Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president of Suominen Nonwovens.

Product overload

More than a decade ago, Procter & Gamble set the wipes world on fire with the launch of its Swiffer floor cleaning wipes, creating a billion dollar brand out of nowhere seemingly overnight. This product line started with dry wipes, expanded into wet wipes and has since grown to include sweeper vacs, cleaning polish and dusters. Most recently, Procter & Gamble added its Gain scent to its Swiffer products, in a move that followed Gain’s extension from laundry to dish detergent in 2010.

And, a new Swiffer product is reportedly on the horizon. In March, the brand’s Facebook page held a drawing for 175 free new Swiffer products to consumers willing to complete a product review before launch. While the company has been mum on the scope of this new product, online reports are placing the value of it at $49.95 meaning the brand’s sales could jump significantly if this new product is a winner.

Another established brand looking to expand its sales in wipes is Playtex, owned by Energizer Personal Care, which recently launched Fresh & Sexy wipes, featuring a lightly scented, hypoallergenic formula and soft cloth texture to be used before and after intimacy.

“This product was designed to address an important consumer need,” says Erik Rahner, group marketing director.

The company hired rocker Andrew W.K., whose hits include Party Hard and I Get Wet, to help promote the new product.

Meanwhile, well-known beauty brands L’Oreal and Stila are both offering new products in the makeup removing wipes category. The L’Oreal Paris Ideal Clean Collection is designed with back-to-the-basics approach for clean, hydrated and healthy skin. Ideal Clean offers two gentle formulas for removing dirt, oil and even waterproof eye makeup. They are said to be non-drying and safe to sensitive skin.

Stila, meanwhile has debuted Ready for Take Off moisturizing cleansing cloth, which are portable, 100% biodegradable wipes infused with lavender and chamomile to soothe and calm skin. The premoistened, multitasking wipes treat and protect skin with antioxidant-rich Alpine rose stem cell technology, aloe vera, essential oils and natural beta-glucen.

Meanwhile, in the household cleaning category, O-Cedar has introduced the O-Duster, billed as the first affordable robotic floor cleaner. It uses exclusive disposable electrostatic cleaning cloths to attract and retain dust, dirt and hair. Users can attach the cloth to a flexible mesh base on the device, select either a 30-minute or 120-minute cleaning program and dispose the cloth after use. O-Duster can work on hard floor surfaces including wood, tile, laminate, marble and linoleum.

New dude on the block

As consumer product veterans continue to roll out new wipes products so do young, entrepreneurial companies hoping to be the next blockbuster product that consumers find themselves not able to live without. At this year’s Vision consumer products conference, a group of young men, or dudes as they call themselves, were awarded with an innovation award for their new wipe product aimed specifically at men.

Billed as the product the adult moist tissue market has been waiting for, Dude Wipes incorporate social packaging and humorous niche driven branding to change male hygiene routines and behavior, says chief exec Sean Riley. Dude Wipes are wallet-sized and perfect for guys to use when they want to stay fresh, wherever or whenever nature calls. With uses ranging from bathroom, pre- or post-workout or during social interactions, Dude Wipes are flushable, biodegradable and contain vitamin E.

“We found that once people start using wipes, they quickly become a part of their routine,” Riley says.

One of the major upsides of the products, at least from a market perspective, is that it falls outside the traditional wipes products, which are geared toward babies, women or cleaning applications and can attract a whole new consumer to the market—men. The attraction of new consumers to the market—coupled with the introduction of new products for both new and existing users—is the key force driving wipes sales upward.

“This product is really creating a new customer for wipes,” Riley explains. “We are introducing so many people to the wipes market. Probably 80% of guys using this product have not used wipes before.”

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