Consumer products represent attractive markets for nonwovens because of the huge size of the established categories, the sta- bility of disposable consumer products throughout economic cycles and the continuing growth prospects as emerg- ing new products rejuvenate the growth outlook in mature categories. The established nonwoven applica- tions in consumer products include:
• hygiene absorbent products
• pre-moistened and dry wipes
• bedding and home furnishing fabrics
• apparel interlinings
• components for residential carpets
• coated and laminated fabrics for wall coverings, upholstery, luggage, shoe components and table cloths
• fabric softener dryer sheets
• home air filters
• tea bags
Collectively, the 2000 sales of nonwoven fabrics for these consumer products exceeded $1.5 billion.
Although some durable consumer products that are nonwovens are cyclical, the largest disposable nonwoven applications exhibit steady demand throughout the economic cycles. Hygiene absorbent products have sta- ble consumption trends and growth driven by demographics and market presentation, not by economic cycles.
Expanding Functionality And Value Of Established Products
Many of the consumer products that already are highly penetrated in the mature markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan continue to generate growth for nonwovens by expanding their functionality. In the case of hygiene absorbent products, advanced design features increase the nonwoven usage per unit. In recent years, the penetration of cloth-like outer covers on disposable baby dia- pers and the growing volume of adult incontinence products have dramatically increased the demand for hygiene nonwovens. The functional performance and value of nonwoven components continue to progress. For example, the trends toward the use of elastic composites for stretchable tabs and upgraded fluid acquisition and distribution layers have driven the development of higher value nonwo- vens offering improved properties.
In the baby wipes category, the mature market regions are upgrad- ing to premium composite substrates for top-of-the-line wipes. Packaging innovations are facilitating increased usage beyond diaper changing. Consumers of all ages are developing wet wiping habits for hand and face cleaning needs ranging from sticky fingers in the home or car to germicidal hand wipes. Specialized pre- moistened wipes continue to develop to conveniently address these needs.
The functionality of fabric softener impregnated dryer sheets has expanded beyond static control and fabric softening to fabric refreshing and color protection. “Bounce Color Smart” from Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, is an excellent example of the addition of color pro- tection to the original functions of fabric softener sheets.
Emerging New Products In the recent past, we have seen an explosion of new consumer appli- cations for nonwovens. Examples include:
• Household cleaning wipes
• Floor cleaning cloths
• At-home dry cleaning kits
• Fabric refreshing kits
• Facial cleansing cloths
• Facial pore strips
• Pre-moistened roll wipes
• Body cleansing wipes
We are closely monitoring the progress of these new products and others still in development to evaluate whether they are candidates to become the next major new consumer category, strong product line exten- sions, niche specialties or, inevitably in a few cases, failures that are with- drawn from the market. John R. Starr has just published two profile comment letter reports, “Personal Care Nonwoven Products—North America” and “The Evolving Markets for Nonwoven Home Care Products,” covering these new markets and the out- look for several types of nonwovens.
Almost all of these new products are extending the life cycles of categories that are otherwise quite mature in the developed markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan. In many cases, the new nonwoven products are fueling growth in previously low-growth, reusable product categories by substituting reusable products with new disposable product concepts.
In the laundry and fabric care category, detergent products are now in the maturing or declining phases of their life cycles and fabric softeners are reaching maturity. This category is being rejuvenated by home dry cleaning and fabric refreshing products and stain removal wipes that are in the embryonic phase of the product life cycle. Home dry cleaning/garment refreshing products are new dispos- able product concepts that are more cost-effective and convenient than traditional dry cleaning. The major global leaders of this category that have introduced new products include P&G, Cincinnati, OH, Kao, Tokyo, Japan, Unilever, London, U.K., Clorox, Oakland, CA and a joint ven- ture between Dial, Scottsdale, AZ, and Henkel, Düsseldorf, Germany.
In the household cleaning category, new floor cleaning systems with dis- posable nonwoven cloths are trans- forming the reusable mop segment. The long term objectives of the mar- keters of these new floor cleaning sys- tems are to generate high sales turnover from refill packs of the high performance nonwoven cloths. The repeat buying of disposable products substantially increases the value of the category compared to traditional reusable mops. In addition to floor cleaners, disposable nonwoven cloths impregnated with cleaning ingredi- ents of all sorts are replacing reusable textiles traditionally used for house- hold dusting, cleaning, disinfecting and polishing. Thus, the household cleaning category is being rejuvenated and substantially enlarged by new nonwoven products that are more con- venient and effective. The major global marketers that have prioritized new nonwoven products in this category include P&G, Kao, Unilever, Clorox, Oakland, CA, SC Johnson, Racine, WI, Reckitt Benckiser, London, U.K., and Freudenberg, Weinheim, Germany.
In the beauty care category, a glam- orous array of new facial cleansing clothes extend their functionality beyond removing dirt and makeup to provide spa-type facial hydration for home use. Cloth-like nonwovens impregnated with facial cleaning and moisturizing ingredients offer highly effective facial cleaning and the con- venience of disposability replacing laundered washcloths. Procter & Gamble, Kao, Unilever and Beiersdorf, Hamburg, Germany, are leading mar- keters with new nonwoven applica- tions in beauty care products.
Even in the mature soap and body wash category, the marketing leaders are finding new growth opportunities with body cleansing wet wipes. These nonwoven products provide the con- venience of disposability and can be used for effective washing when water is not available. Unilever is an example of a global leader in this category that has introduced a nonwoven body cleansing wipe.
In the bathroom tissue category, we have seen significant growth in flushable nonwoven wet wipes for feminine hygiene, adult incontinence care, hemorrhoid treatment and wet wiping. Now these wipe applications are expanding from folded products to water dispersible rollwipes that are as accessible and as safe for flushing as toilet paper rolls. Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX, is currently rolling out its new “Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes,” a product that—although not techni- cally classified as a nonwoven—the company claims is covered by more than 30 patents and is the result of an investment of more than $100 million in research and development and manufacturing facilities. Kimberly-Clark anticipates that re- tail sales in this new product seg- ment will be very significant in the not-too-distant future.
New Nonwoven Consumer Products
An inventory of the new nonwo- ven products launched in recent years by the major global marketers in these consumer categories yields an impressive list of products from leading companies such as P&G, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark, Unilever, Kao, S.C. Johnson,and others.
P&G’s array of new consumer products based on nonwovens include:
• “Swiffer,” “Swiffer Wet” and “Swiffer WetJet” floor cleaners
• “Dryel” home dry cleaning kits
• “Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups” in the U.S. and “Flash Wipes” and “Mr. Proper Wipes” for household cleaning in Europe
• “Olay Daily Facials” and, very recently, “Noxzema H2Foam Cleansing Cloths”
• “Always Feminine Wipes”
Clorox is aggressively competing with Procter & Gamble with:
• “Clorox Disinfecting Wipes”
• “Clorox FreshCare Fabric Refresher”
• “Armor All Wipes”
K-C’s new products in these cate- gories are:
• “Just for Me” flushable moist wipes
• “Splash ’n’ Go” hand and face wipes
• “Depend Cleansing Cloths” for adult incontinence care
Unilever ’s Chesebrough-Ponds business has launched:
• “Ponds Cleansing Make Up Towelettes”
• “Dove Hydrating Cleansing Cloths”
Unilever has also introduced:
• “Lever 2000 Moisturizing Wipes”
• “Glorix” and “Domestos” house hold cleaning wipes in Europe
• “Persil Revive” dry cleaning kit in Europe
Kao’s Andrew Jergens business in North America has introduced new nonwoven-based products based on its personal care product innovations in Japan. Kao has partnership arrangements around the world. In Japan, Kao also initiated the “Quickle Wiper,” “Quickle Hand Wiper” and “Wiping Quickle” house- hold cleaning products. S.C. Johnson markets and distributes the “Pledge Grab-It” floor cleaner system licensed from Kao. S.C. Johnson has also introduced a nonwoven exten- sion to its “Shout Stain Remover” brand called “Shout Instant Stain Remover Wipes.” Beiersdorf has sev- eral new nonwoven products in the personal care category.
Berkshire, U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser’s “Lysol Sanitizing Wipes” are successfully extending its “Lysol” cleaning production. Freudenberg Nonwovens, Weinheim, Germany,has introduced its “Vileda ExStatic” and “Vileda ExStatic Wet” floor clean- ers. Additionally, there are a number of smaller companies that have intro- duced new nonwoven consumer prod- ucts. For example, Springfield, OH- based O-Cedar Brands’ “Static Sweeper” and “Light & Thirsty Cloth Mop” contain nonwovens. Private label wipe and fabric softener con- verters are also preparing to supply major retailers with private label imi- tations of the most successful new products in these categories.
We note that the major global marketers clearly consider these new nonwoven consumer products to be crucial to corporate growth. P&G has positioned Swiffer for significant growth. Clorox has indicated that Clorox Disinfecting Wipes were one of the company’s most successful new product launches in history. Unilever stated that its Domestos household cleaning wipes are very successful.
The major marketers that have introduced these new products have the benefit of building on established brand and category franchises. Many of the new products use brand names that have wide consumer recognition within their categories such as “Clorox,” “Pledge,” Lysol, “Mr. Clean” and “Olay.”
In other cases, major marketers created completely new brand names because their new products involved completely novel concepts. P&G’s Swiffer and Dryel products are exam- ples of new product concepts with new brand names. These marketers made substantial investments in market- ing, advertising and promotional pro- grams. They appreciated the need to fully fund new product launches in order to cultivate new product usage habits. These major new product introduction programs included direct mail sampling, significant in-store
Evidences Of Success To Date
Several new products turned in rapid rates of sales increases shortly after launch. The most important objective of a new product introduction is to drive the formation of usage habits so consumers will make repeat purchases without major promotional incentives and several of these prod- ucts have met this criteria. An indica- tion of enduring success is competitive imitation of new products, initially by other branded product leaders and ultimately by major retailers with pri- vate label offerings. Decisions by the new product marketers to introduce product line extensions to build on the progress achieved by the initial new product are also key signs of new prod- uct success. In the case of Swiffer, for example, P&G has launched Swiffer Wet and Swiffer WetJet.
Opportunities For Nonwoven Manufacturers
These new consumer products employ a wide range of nonwoven technologies. Figure 1 shows the pri- mary types of nonwovens used in new home care and personal care products which have stimulated the demand for spunlaced fabrics. In the new floor cleaning and wipes products, spun- laced, spunbonded, carded and other technologies such as air laid are used. Spunlaced, carded and other nonwo- vens are used for facial cleansing cloths, acne pads and towelettes, Spunbonded polyester fabrics continue their dominance in fabric softener sub- strates. Flushable and dispersible air laid nonwovens are providing materi- als for new wipes for body washing and moist cleansing after toileting.
These new consumer products require distinctive nonwovens with advanced functionality and attractive aesthetics. “APEX” technology spun- laced fabrics from Polymer Group Inc. (PGI), Dayton, NJ, are examples of materials that have unique features for facial cleansing wipes. Bicomponent spunbonded nonwovens and flushable, dispersible air laid materials are also examples of advanced technology non- wovens that offer distinctive properties for new consumer products.
Advanced composite and convert- ing processes are also contributing unique capabilities for new consumer products. “Ultramesh” carded thermal bonded composites from BBA Non- wovens, London, U.K., are examples. Kennett Square, PA-based Versa- Core’s three-dimensional forming technology offers interesting potential for new durable nonwoven applica- tions based on honeycomb structures. VersaCore 3-D nonwoven structures are being developed for applications in floor coverings, structural components for furniture and bedding and sound absorbing material for wall insulation.
The nonwovens companies that successfully invest in research and development partnerships with key customers reap the rewards of advan- taged incumbency positions for the nonwoven compositions of new con- sumer products. By developing and protecting sources of enduring differ- entiation in nonwoven performance and aesthetic properties, nonwoven manufacturers earn and hold value in the emerging value chains for these significant new consumer products.
Conclusion For The Nonwovens Industry
Opportunities for new nonwoven applications abound in consumer product categories. These new products are not based on commodity materials so producers should be motivated to develop truly differentiated materials to exploit these opportunities. To achieve enduring success, nonwoven manufacturers must strive to build a diversified portfolio of new product applications to minimize exposure to failure of any individual new products. This diversified innovation is not easy to achieve but the rewards in volume growth prospects and higher value products are clearly worth the effort.