It's Getting Personal

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | June 14, 2006

personal care wipes makers look for the next blockbuster product


It started with baby wipes but has since fanned into a number of new directions including cosmetic removal, exfoliating, bathing, adult care, sun protection, feminine care and more. In fact, there are so many subcategories of the personal care wipes market, it seems there is a wipe to perform nearly every part of one's personal hygiene regime.

Despite this massive proliferation, the personal care wipes segment has lagged behind the household cleaning segment, according to recent statistics uncovered by INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. In its recent analysis of the North American wipes market, valued at $3.8 billion, the association reports that personal care wipes represent about $600 million while household cleaning wipes represent $1.3 billion in sales and baby wipes account for the remainder.

Of course, the personal care wipes market, while extremely diverse in terms of product offerings, has not yet produced the blockbusters seen in the household category such as electrostatic floor cleaning cloths or antibacterial wipes, which are found in nearly all homes. Also, many of the subsegments don’t cater to the mass consumer base as does household wipes. As one industry pundit put it, everybody cleans their houses but not everyone removes makeup or exfoliates their skin.

Still, personal care wipes continue to be a strong category, growing an estimated 6-7% in North America, according to INDA. Furthermore, these wipes tend to fetch higher price points and subsequently more attractive profit margins than many other types of wipes.

“One category that is growing is the feminine facial cosmetic re-mover wipe,” said Ian Butler, director of research and statistics for INDA.  “There are not a lot of units but what is being sold is getting big dollars. These wipes go for 20-25 cents a piece compared to baby wipes, which are about three cents each.”

The personal care market has seen many other success stories including bath wipes, large pads originally intended to clean patients in their homes, which have been more recently sent to the Middle East in droves where soldiers heat them atop their trucks to clean themselves in the field. And, all of the key manufacturers of baby wipes have diversified into kids’ flushable wipes. This has encouraged parents to keep using wipes after toilet training and opened the door for these companies to introduce full-blown kids’ toiletries brands—Kandoo for Procter & Gamble and Huggies Clean Team for Kimberly-Clark.

What it comes down to is that wipes manufacturers are working feverishly to develop new product introductions, hoping that one will become the consumer’s next “must-have” product.

“Personally we are seeing more people looking for the new sliced bread,” said Jeff Slosman, president of National Wiper Alliance. “Everyone is trying to come out with the new niche wipe. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.”

History In Babies

L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze self-tanning towelettes are a good example of diversification in the personal care wipes market.
For a long time, the wipes market was all about baby care, and while industry data show that the household wipes market has exceeded the size of this market in dollar sales, it remains a major area of interest for wipes manufacturers. However, according to a report published by market tracker  Euromonitor International, baby wipes continue to grow globally, caused by an increasing demand for convenient products among busy parents as well as intense promotional activities including new niche products such as natural and sensitive care wipes.

However, the emergence of new personal wipes has negatively affected baby wipes, which were used often for alternative purposes in both household care and personal applications. For instance, the emergence of the adult care wipes market has lessened the need for baby wipes among these users who once used them for refreshing and cleaning up on the go. For instance, the introduction of new Wet Ones products by Playtex a few years ago gave adults a variety of features not found in general baby wipes including flushability and antibacterials benefits.

It’s All Cosmetic

The cosmetic market, targeted largely at adult  females, has been the category attracting the most attention in recent years—not only because of its growth prospects but also due to this segment’s potential for higher profit margins. And, after suffering from a lack of new product developments for a short time around 2004, the category has more recently seen a number of interesting new product introductions across a range of subsegments.

This spring, Neutrogena, a Johnson & Johnson company, added to its personal care wipes offerings Neutrogena PureGlow Daily Cleansing cushions, dual-sided cleansing cushions containing two formulas to create the revitalizing glow of a facial at home. The textured side of these cushions contain micro-fine exfoliators that polish away dulling skin cells for a smooth complexion while the velvety soft corduroy stripes on the other side gently massage skin with a conditioning formula for a silky soft after-feel. This two-sided pad works with  two formulas, a gentle cleansing formula with rich lather to remove impurities deep down to the pores and a conditioner to replenish and soften the complexion. Manufacturers are billing the product as an at-home spa facial.

Susan Everett Stansbury of Right Angle Concepts said that the move toward dual sided wipes is a clear trend in the wipes segment, brought on by the need for multipurpose products.

“The segment is being impacted by people who are into a lot of spa and skin care treatments,” she explained. “There is a growing number of one-person households and this gives people more time to pamper themselves. These products cater to that.”

And, their higher price levels make them a boon for the wipes market. A package of 24 cushions retail for $7.99, meaning each pad costs 33 cents, significantly higher than wipes in the more mature commodity markets.

Self-tanning is another “pampering” area being targeted by wipes manufacturers. L'Oreal Paris Dermo-Expertise has introduced Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes for the Face, pre-moistened non-comedogenic, single-use, self-tanning wipes designed for delicate facial skin. Able to provide exactly the right amount of self-tanner, these wipes offer a streak-free, mess-free application. And, the small size of these towelettes, which retail for $9.99, are designed for facial features.

Cosmetics is not the only area witnessing new product development. In the feminine care arena, Vagisil now offers its anti-itch product in wipes form. Maximum Strength Vagisil anti-itch medicated wipes contain Vagisil’s odor-blocking technology and the maximum strength anti-itch active ingredient, pramoxine hydrochloride, to relieve intense, burning feminine itch. These individually, packaged wipes can also be used for freshening and cleansing to stop feminine itch or odor before it starts.

“Vagisil has been alleviating feminine itch for more than three decades,” said Suzanna Keith, director of feminine care marketing at Combe Incorporated, the maker of Vagisil.  “The wipes are for women of all ages who are looking for relief from annoying  feminine concerns, such as itch, odor and discharge, in easy-to-use solutions that fit into their  busy lives. The wipes can be discreetly carried in a pocket, purse, gym bag or cosmetic case and can be safely flushed.”

Flush It

One obstacle facing the personal care wipes segment is flushability. As the nonwovens industry continues to grapple with exactly what constitutes flushability, manufacturers have been working hard to meet consumers’ demands for such a product. Four years ago, Kimberly-Clark launched a wet  toilet paper under its Cottonelle brand that was reportedly flushable. While evidence has not refuted this claim, the product has not created the dymanic new market segment K-C originally expected. In fact, the product was originally launched on a roll but has since been repackaged in a tub and has since enjoyed steady sales.

Vagisil has introduced medicated wipes containing its anti-itch formulation in the feminine hygiene market.
Just this spring, K-C rolled out a child-friendly line under its Cottonelle toilet paper line, which includes a moist flushable wipe, also packaged in a tub. This catering to children has also been a strategy taken by  K-C rival Procter & Gamble, which has enjoyed considerable success with its Kandoo flushable wipes for kids line.

The problem with creating a flushable product, however, is finding the right combination of strength for use and dispersibility. Some say, a lot of this has to do with the size of a wipe, meaning that a smaller wipe might flush down a toilet but not disperse at its next destination, creating the potential for problems down the road. In fact, already some municipalities have been levying fines to residents flushing these wipes.

To remedy this, a number of nonwovens industry stakeholders have been working on developing a wipe that will flush and disperse. Roll goods producer Ahlstrom FiberComposites has been promoting its Hydrospun line of flushable spunlace and several makers of binders and additives, including Celanese and Air Products, have been creating binders to provide temporary wet strength that is diluted in the toilet. The problems here, however are that this technology can be expensive or hard to practice.

And, with no hard and fast standard set for flushability, some manufacturers are not really sure what they can market as flushable. With this in mind, INDA and its European counterpart EDANA have formed a joint task force committee to develop technical guidelines assessing the flushability of solid products including developing an agreed-to definition of flushability. (For more on flushability standards in the nonwovens industry, see our special supplement Household and Personal Wipes, Spring 2006.)

Marketing a product with flushability attributes, whether real or perceived, is just one of the many bells and whistles wipes manufacturers are adding to their products to garner sales. Consumer wipes marketers are looking for substrate enhancements, raw material improvements and increased functionality when developing new products, and nonwovens manufacturers have been eager to grant their wishes.

“The markets and demographics in personal wipes are getting more and more specific, meaning that manufacturers have to respond to a number of demands from consumers,” Ms. Stansbury explained.

Another area seeing a great deal of interest in personal care is cotton. With Cotton Incorporated’s new cotton-enhanced seal, which signifies a product contains at least 15% cotton, manufacturers are appealing to consumers’ positive association with cotton while differentiating their products from the competition.

Kirkland baby wipes, sold at Costco, contain 15% cotton. Experts expect more personal care wipes to contain cotton in the future.
The first collaboration yielding a new product was among PGI, Nice-Pak and Costco, which together created a cotton enhanced private label baby wipe to be sold under Costco's Kirkland private label brand. At the time of launch, Nice-Pak executives said the initiative was in line with its strategy of developing innovative, premium wipes and offering products that are comparable to or superior to national brand competition.

Industry executives interviewed by Nonwovens Industry indicated that cotton containing wipes show great promise in the facial care and cosmetic categories where not only are consumers drawn to the inherent purity of cotton but products can also benefit from cotton's attributes including environmental friendliness, absorbency, natural feel, wet strength, softness and flexibility. Furthermore, cost constraints are not as much of an issue in these categories.

Beyond ingredients, finishing techniques, such as printing or embossing are becoming popular means of product diversification in personal wipes. In the kids’ wipes category, P&G and K-C, as well as their private label rivals, have relied on cartoon graphics to woo youngsters, while in the cosmetics segment, embossing and other patterning have improved the efficacy of products such as Neutrogena's PureGlow cushions, which have two different sides for two different functions.

These multiple functions, finishing features, new raw materials and many other means of product differentiation will keep the personal care wipes market humming for years to come and make it a difficult one to predict

“It's really hard to forecast these wipes markets because you never know when a new product is going to come in like Swiffer did in the household market,” INDA's Mr. Butler  said. “Personal care has not yet seen anything with that kind of growth rate but the companies are really focusing their energies on finding the next big thing.”

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