As Procter & Gamble continues to test market light incontinence products in the U.K., the global hygiene industry is eager to hear what the hygiene giant’s plans are for this rapidly growing market. So far, the only thing P&G has said on the subject is it plans to enter a new market, one that requires a significant investment but could heavily influence sales.
Since this announcement, made by CFO Jon Moeller at the Duetsche Bank global consumer conference in Paris in June, industry watchdogs have all but decided that the category to which Moeller is referring is adult incontinence. This assumption has been fueled by the test marketing of a light incontinence product, under the Always brand, in the U.K., as well as recent patent filings by the company related to the incontinence market.
Industry watchers expect Procter to expand this launch both in the U.K. and the U.S. by the end of the year, and many think the company will announce more details on a 24-SKU brand launch at its earnings conference call August 1.
“I think P&G has more than just a shot at success in this market,” says Tom Wilson, founder and president of The CareGiver Partnership, a direct to consumer retailer of incontinence and other healthcare products. “By using the Always brand, they are starting with a huge brand recognition that is known around the world. This is a brand that women start using when they are 12 years old and with this extension, they are extending the life of the brand--maybe until they die.”
The initial launch, an absorbent pad that is described as being 40% more absorbent than pads used for feminine hygiene purposes, is being marketed under the Always Discreet moniker. It began rolling out to stores in June. Ad industry sources say a $150 million marketing push will support the U.S. roll out.
According to Wilson, 40% of Always pad users are already using them as incontinence aids. If P&G can get them to convert to the new products, which tend to be priced 50% to two times more than feminine hygiene pads, the product will immediately be successful.
“I think in the U.S., P&G will try to get 25 share points in the next couple of years,” says Wilson, who served as global sector president of Kimberly-Clarks feminine care and adult care businesses before founding The CareGiver Partnership 10 years ago.
These share points could, of course, come at the expense of market leader Kimberly-Clark, whose brands Depend and Poise are both market leaders, and SCA, a European powerhouse who has been trying to penetrate the North American market recently.
At the company’s second quarter earnings announcement investor presentation last week, Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk fielded several analyst questions about P&G’s potential impact on the market.
“We’ve been going hard to drive growth in the Poise and Depend brands for the past couple years and we believe that innovation is the best defense in any category,” Falk told analysts.
During the past 12 months, K-C has made several launches in both the Poise and Depend brands—for both men and women—that have helped it gain marketshare in the category. These include an updated adult underwear with improved fit, more absorbent, odor-absorbing microliners for adult incontinence and male guards
Falk added that P&G’s entry into the light incontinence market should mean a good thing for the segment, which has a low penetration level as many women tend to solve the problem with less effective feminine hygiene products. "This is a very under-penetrated category. Having another competitor could expand the size of the market and mean good things for the category,” he says.
John Williams, CEO of Domtar, owner of the Attends brand, which was once owned by P&G, agreed that a new player in adult incontinence could mean good things for everyone. "Someone coming in and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the category could lead to more interest in the category," he said, noting that about 85% of his company's adult inco sales are in the institutional market.
"P&G, for now, is focusing on a narrow part of the adult incontinence market and it is largely going up against K-C's Poise business," he says.
Meanwhile, CEO of European leader SCA, Jan Johansson, told investors this month that it is too soon to assess P&G’s impact on this market. Noting that this is not the first time Procter has entered the adult incontinence market, Johansson said, “We have the highest respect for P&G, but we are going to defend our position.”
With brand names like Tena and Libresse, SCA continues to launch products in adult incontinence and continues to grow its share in the market.
Of the new competitor, Johansson notes that he would rather take on Procter & Gamble than a new private label producer because the branded items will not drive prices down. “They are on the same level as us,” he says.
P&G exited the adult incontinence market in 1998 when it sold its Attends brand as part of an effort to focus on bigger brands, but the strong growth potential for the category, amidst a rapidly greying population, has made it an attractive one for most hygiene-minded companies. During the last 15 years—roughly the same time P&G has been absent from the market—U.S. adult incontinence sales have tripled to reach $1.5 billion, according to experts. Global sales, now at $7 billion, are growing about 8.4% annually, faster than any other paper-based household products.