A Clean Sweep: Is It Within Reach?

June 1, 2005

household wipes have registered off-the-chart growth in recent years, but now manufacturers will need to innovate even more to compete

The past five years in household wipes will go down in the history of nonwoven consumer products as years to remember. From 1998 through 2003, household segment growth was phenomenal�greater than 30% in some years�largely driven by the introduction of new categories of products, such as the Swiffer and Pledge floor wipes and antibacterial and automotive products. �The consumer wipe continues to evolve through the new millennium,� stated Kent Lynde, associate director household care R&D for Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. �New consumer needs continue to be unearthed and the nonwovens industry is readily coming to their rescue with new solutions every year,� he said.

Now that market penetration has been achieved, however, growth rates are expected to slow considerably. �This industry expansion was unique but unsustainable as many household wipe markets have now been satisfied,� explained Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC. INDA estimates that this segment will grow about 9% per year during the next several years.

�The nonwoven wet wipes market is in a �settling out� stage,� observed industry consultant Susan Stansbury, principal of Right Angle Concepts, Green Bay, WI. �There is an interesting mix of new market entries, consolidation and shake out of products. Manufacturers are seeing what works and where the demand is today.�

Some of this growth in household care has displaced sales of baby wipes, which were often used in general clean-up situations around the kitchen and elsewhere. As wipe producers developed products for specific household end uses, baby wipe volume declined.

Carmen Baker, senior category manager of converting specialist Rockline Industries, explained that while household cleaning wipes, make-up remover wipes and kid care wipes are all experiencing growth, the baby wipes category is down very slightly. �This isn�t surprising,� she said. �Years ago when these other types of wipes didn�t exist, many people were using baby wipes for alternate applications. Now that specific wipes for these needs exist, consumers purchase wipes designed for their applications.�

In the area of disinfecting wipes, household product giant Clorox credits its introduction of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes with the launch of the whole disinfecting wipe category in January 2000. �Consumers immediately responded, making Clorox Disinfecting Wipes the number one brand in a category that has grown to $200 million per year,� stated Bryan Clarke, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes brand manager.

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How Big? How Broad?
As for the size of the market, INDA estimates the size of the total North American (U.S. and Canadian) wipes business in 2003, at retail, was about $2.1 billion. Of that total, the household wipe segment totaled about $812 million, according to INDA, with the household segment in 2003 consuming about 24,000 tons of nonwoven material.

Market research specialist Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, IL, puts the U.S. household wipe market closer to the $1.8 billion level (see Table 1), with Clorox, Lysol and Mr. Clean wiping products holding tight to the top three spots, respectively. These retail sales were achieved in 2004 in food, drug and mass merchandise outlets, excluding Wal-Mart.

Household wipes is a broad segment including many products used within the home�from kitchen and bathroom to auto cleaning and maintenance, computer cleaning, waxing and polishing. INDA includes the following products (and representative brand names) in the household wiping category: hard surface disinfectant wipes (Clorox, Arm & Hammer, Lysol, Mr. Clean and others); electrostatic wipes (Swiffer, Pledge Grab It, Endust, Dust-Off and similar products); new floor washing systems (Swiffer, Pledge Grab It and others); mop heads (Vileda, Libman and others); glass wipes (Windex and others); polish wipes (Old English, Pledge, Murphy�s, Minwax and others); pet care; automotive after care (Armor All�leather, protective, auto glass and various cleaner wipes); miscellaneous wet, dry, dish and utility wipes (Palmolive dish wipes with detergent, Handiwipes, several Scotchbrite products, J-Cloth and many private label wipes).

Increasing consumer demand is certainly not going unnoticed by nonwovens suppliers and converters, many of whom are feeling capacity and continued raw material pricing pressures. �The rising price of raw materials, from pulp and fiber to additives, makes it challenging for producers who are constantly pressured to reduce costs. Competition is always fierce, especially in wet wipes where growth often outpaces other nonwovens markets,� said Ms. Stansbury. �Capacity is tighter now than it was two to four years ago. There have been some airlaid shutdowns, as well as new demand for wet wipe substrates, which makes a better balance of demand and capacity,� she added.

�From a converting standpoint, competition has intensified due to the increased number of wipes manufacturers,� opined Joseph Wahlquist, Rockline�s vice president of product development. �Simply put, there are more of us competing for business. From a nonwovens standpoint, certain categories of substrates (like airlaid or spunlace in Europe) have intensified. In some cases, existing capacity has been redesigned to produce materials used in consumer products such as wipes,� he said.

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Left: New Fantastik Multi-Surface Wipes from SC Johnson are designed to clean multiple surfaces without leaving a smeary residue. Right: Travel-size Clorox Disinfecting Wipes hit store shelves this summer. Available in resealable nine-count packs, the wipes are said to kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria.

And The Survey Says�
Underpinning such dramatic market figures in the household wiping category are clear consumer preferences, many of which have been tracked by a new U.S. cleaning survey from Washington, DC-based Soap and Detergent Association (SDA). Completed in December 2004, the survey indicates that cleaning countertops, disinfecting surfaces and personal hygiene are among consumers� favorite uses for wipe products, at 23% each. Rounding out the top five uses were cleaning hands/face/skin, at 17%; cleaning bathroom fixtures, at 11%; and dusting/cleaning furniture, at 6%.

�With a variety of wipe products on the market, manufacturers are continuing to meet consumers� demand for products that make all kinds of cleaning tasks easier and faster. From killing germs on surfaces, to dusting and polishing furniture, to dishwashing, wipes make everyday cleaning a breeze,� said Brian Sansoni, SDA vice president of communication.

�Two-thirds of Americans have used a wipe product,� he continued. �When asked if they�ve ever used any type of cleaning, disinfectant, or antibacterial wipe, 66% of those surveyed said yes.� Among those consumers who have used wipes, 80% say they use a wipe at least once a week. �More than one-third (36%) use a wipe at home at least once a day.�

The most common factor among wipe users in selecting a cleaning wipe is, not surprisingly, cleaning effectiveness (41%). Shoppers also reported good value (23%) and the brand name (15%) as important factors in choosing a cleaning product. Durability (10%) and package size (4%) were also cited.

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Mostly Maturing Market
U.K.-based market tracker Euromonitor International has also been keeping a sharp eye on changes in the maturing household wiping sector. In a study of the 1998-2003 U.S. consumer market, Euromonitor found that household cleaning wipes, a market that was virtually non-existent at the start of the review period, maintained its value in 2003, and showed signs of maturing. Overall, household wipes realized $583 million in U.S. sales in 2003 (from $3.1 million in 1998), a 0.2% increase in value from 2002, and a meteoric 185% CAGR since 1998.

Following a period of rapid growth, household cleaning wipes faced a considerably higher degree of maturity in 2003 than in 1998. This was particularly true of electrostatic cleaning cloths, such as Swiffer, which were introduced in 1999 and quickly achieved a high level of market penetration, given their premium nature. Maturity and slowing rates of growth followed soon after, and are expected to continue, making electrostatic wipes the only wipe subsector forecast to suffer a real value decline between 2003 and 2008.

As a category, household wipes in the U.S. market will see an increase of 1.1% constant value growth between 2003 and 2008, according to Euromonitor. As shown in Table 2, U.S. retail sales for household wipes are expected to grow from $583 million in 2003 to $614 million in 2008.

Globally speaking, the household wipe market was estimated by Euromonitor to be $0.3 billion in 1998, growing to $1.9 billion by 2003. Global retail sales of household cleaning wipes are shown in Table 3, while wipes sales by geographic region are outlined in Table 4.

Even though all-purpose wipes have been present in the market for a longer time, they have been able to achieve broader market penetration, as their uses are more varied, and perhaps more appealing to U.S. consumers, who have shown considerable enthusiasm for all things antibacterial. As these products are integrated into established consumer cleaning patterns, moderate growth should result, with value sales reaching $158.4 million at constant 2003 prices in 2008, an increase of 10.3% from 2003.

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New Products Make Impact In Market
Product development has been strong during recent years in the newer categories of household cleaning wipes, with a large number of offerings from the various household cleaning giants, and significant leadership from Reckitt Benckiser, which extended a number of its cleaning brands into the wipe arena.

The increasing diversity of products is sure to attract new consumers to the category, although for every hit product, there are likely to be one or more misfires. These categories, including glass, toilet and furniture wipes are forecast to achieve strong performance between 2003 and 2008, ranging from 9% to 14.9%.
A large part of household cleaning wipes� success is attributable to Procter & Gamble�s Swiffer, which created the dry electrostatic wipe category with a convenient alternative to the much-hated and often-ignored chore of mopping. The product met with immediate acceptance. Imitation soon followed, with the introduction of SC Johnson�s Pledge Grab-It electrostatic sweepers in 1999. Soon after, private labels were offering competing products.

In 2000, Procter & Gamble exploited the success of the brand with the introduction of Swiffer Wet, a line extension that created a new wet floor wipe category. Swiffer remains the largest brand among electrostatic wipes, with 52.1% of the subsector�s $290 million value. In addition, Swiffer accounts for 32.2% of all household wipe sales.

Since the success of electrostatic wipes, product offerings have been diversifying. The next category to see strong growth was all-purpose cleaning wipes. Late 1999 saw the launch of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, a pioneering product in this category, which accounted for approximately $66 million in sales during its first year. Targeting general surface cleaning rather than floor cleaning, the antibacterial benefit of this product helped to assure its acceptance.

Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups, a pre-moistened wipe for use on household surfaces, especially those in the bathroom or kitchen, followed in 2000, but was met with limited market acceptance. The brand may have alienated consumers by being too chore-specific, with sub-brands for different rooms of the house.

Lysol, another well known cleaning brand, was also launched as an all-purpose wipe in that year. Despite strong competition in the subsector, Clorox has remained the leader in all-purpose wipes, with $83.9 million in sales in 2003, and accounting for 14.4% of value sales of all household cleaning wipes.

Although all-purpose wipes, an undeniable luxury item when compared to the cost of a rag and cleanser, continued to grow in the face of recession in 2002, the delayed effects of maturing market penetration and economic realities were seen in 2003. After growing from $2.2 million in sales in 1997 to $153.8 million in 2002, the subsector saw a 6.6% decline in 2003 to stand at $143.6 million, as all-purpose cleaning wipes fought against an increasing array of niche wipes for consumer spending.

Electrostatic Entries Energize
In response to the high level of interest in electrostatic and all-purpose cleaning wipes, manufacturers have rushed to develop new niches for the wipe format. Among the offerings in recent years were wipe versions of Pledge and Old English (furniture polishes) and Windex and Glass Plus (window/glass wipes). Other recent innovations were Easy-Off, an oven-cleaning wipe designed to be heated and used in the microwave, and Scrubbing Bubbles, a flushable toilet cleaning wipe.

In 2003, the performance of many of these newer subsectors indicated a maturing industry. Although these new categories all saw significant growth in value sales, ranging from 4.8% to 6.1%, these rates were considerably lower than the doubling and tripling in sales seen between 2001 and 2002. The realities of a market flooded with wipe options is beginning to affect growth rates as discerning consumers have to decide how many of these products they really need. Despite this slowdown, it is too early to determine the winners and losers in the niche markets.

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Private Label Steps In
For their part, private labels accounted for 15.4% of the U.S. wipes sector value in 2003, an increase of 1.8 percentage points from 2002, according to Euromonitor estimates. This share is due largely to a strong position in baby wipes, where price, the traditional strength of private labels, is a powerful motivator of consumer choice. This traditional incentive became more compelling in 2003, as consumers adjusted their behavior to new economic conditions, and were more receptive to the lower priced alternatives that private labels usually provide.

Swiffer Dusters from P&G offer the trapping power of Swiffer in a fluffy, go-anywhere form. Available in 10-count refill packages, Swiffer Dusters feature thousands of soft, fluffy fibers that can change shape as well as an extendable handle that extends and pivots. The sturdy handle extends to three feet, and the pivoting head can be adjusted and locked into four different positions to clean angled surfaces, such as ceiling fans, cabinet corners, and baseboards. �Swiffer Dusters continues to be quite a phenomenon in the industry,� commented P&G�s Mr. Lynde. �What started as a great North American initiative is now showing phenomenal success in Europe as well.�

�Increased private label products have provided consumers with more choices at better prices,� offered Ms. Stansbury of Right Angle Concepts. �In addition, the private label products often rival branded wet wipes in terms of packaging appeal and functionality.�

P&G�s Mr. Lynde pointed to private labels� success on the European front. �Private labels have had limited impact in North America. However, the European market has seen a significant impact by the presence of private labels. These private label products are of a surprisingly high quality versus the historical paradigm of no-name labels,� he said.

Private label programs have definitely improved during the past couple of years,� concurred Ms. Baker of Rockline Industries. �Private label suppliers participate more in the design of private label programs, and the expectation from retail is that the private label retailers have insights into the categories in which they compete,� she said. �Baby wipes continue to be a huge category for Rockline, but some of the newer categories like household cleaning wipes are really growing quickly in private label. Now that the consumers are familiar with the various household cleaning wipe products, many are looking for less expensive, high quality offerings.�

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Killing Germs On The Go
The most appealing characteristic named by consumers in the SDA survey were convenience and the fact that wipes are perceived as an easy way to get rid of dirt/germs. In fact, an equal amount (26%) like wipes� portability and how easily they can dispose of dirt or germs. �People with on-the-go lifestyles benefit from the �take anywhere� characteristics of wipes. And they love the built-in elbow grease that gets the job done,� commented SDA�s Mr. Sansoni.

Ease-of-use is indeed a key trend, with the fastest growing products still responding to the convenience factor for consumers. �The quick clean-up and application by pre-wetted wipes is a big plus for busy families and the take-along convenience of many packages is another feature. Consumers are even willing to pay for packages within packages. For example, a golfer takes out the individually packaged sunscreen wipe, not having to mess with larger packs or messy bottles,� said Susan Stansbury.

�The consumer need that household cleaning wipes are meeting is the need of convenience,� agreed Rockline�s Ms. Baker. �People are busy and want to spend their free time with family or friends doing things they enjoy�not cleaning their houses. Household cleaning wipes are easy to use and reduce cleaning time involved in many household chores,� she remarked.

Evidence of this trend is Clorox�s July 2004 introduction of new travel-size Clorox Disinfecting Wipes in a new on-the-go-size pack designed for on-the-spot disinfecting. �Ever since we introduced Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, people have been asking us to create a travel-size pack for on-the-go,� said the company�s Mr. Clarke. Clorox expects the new product to make errands easier for parents, who have reportedly been pulling wipes from canisters and packing them up in baggies when they leave the house.

Available in fresh scent, the new resealable nine-wipe packs are small enough for purses, backpacks or to keep in the glove-box of a car. Safe to use on most hard, non-porous surfaces, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are pre-moistened and ready to use. �Even though they might be tempted to, people are not going to lug around a spray cleaner just in case they need to use the diaper-changing table at the mall,� said Mr. Clarke.

According to Clorox, using a disinfecting wipe on high-touch areas can help eliminate illness-causing germs and bacteria. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes kill 99.9% of the germs (Influenza A2 virus and Rotavirus) that cause flu symptoms, as well as the bacteria (Staph and Salmonella) commonly found in kitchens and bathrooms.

New Clorox Disinfecting Wipes travel-packs are available nationwide at leading grocery, drug and mass merchandise stores. The suggested retail price is .99 cents. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are also available nationwide in two pop-up styles�a 35-wipe canister and a 30-wipe tub. Tub refills are also available. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are available in four scents.

For more information on Euromonitor and its studies, The Market for Disposable Paper Products in the USA and The World Market for Disposable Paper Products, visit www.euromonitor.com.

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