Sanitary Protection In The US.

By Nonwovens Staff, Nonwovens Staff | November 8, 2006

advances in technology and design help drive growth

Chicago, ILConsumer usage of sanitary pads and pantyliners for light to moderate incontinence needs has softened the blow of adverse demographic changes in the U.S. As of 2005, it was estimated that 20-30% of sanitary protection products were purchased for incontinence needs.

Tampon volumes grew in 2005 as consumers continued to switch from sanitary pads. In 2005 value grew as volumes rose and improved technologies resulted in higher unit prices. Nearly all value growth can be attributed to the Tampax Pearl brand, which, though launched in 2002, continues to do well. It grew a further 18% in value terms in 2005. The product emphasizes increased efficacy through an absorbent braided string for leakage protection as well as increased absorbency levels. With a price point more than 25% higher than the standard Tampax brand, its success illustrates consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for technologically advanced tampons.

Sanitary pads and pantyliners, meanwhile, saw falling prices in 2005. Increased consumer preference for tampons has slowed sanitary pad sales in recent years and manufacturers attempted to increase purchasing occasions in 2005 with lower prices. Pantyliners fell in popularity as they continued to be viewed as a non-necessity, especially with improved tampon technologies reducing leakage concerns. A 3% price decline occurred in pantyliners, aimed at stimulating demand and following strong 6.5% discounting by Kotex Lightdays. This discount was aimed at increasing   volume sales in the pantyliner market, where Kotex Lightdays is the leader, to soften the blow from the poor performance of Kotex in sanitary pads.

In 2005, value sales of ultrathin pads grew nearly 2% compared to well under 1% for standard pads. The stronger growth of ultrathin over standard is the result of  manufacturers promoting the efficacy of ultrathin products. Procter & Gamble has particularly pushed the ultrathin products of its market-leading Always brand by highlighting the various technologies that allow Always ultrathins to provide a greater level of absorption in a thinner pad. Such efforts resulted in increased consumer confidence in ultrathin pads over the review period. That said, manufacturers have no strong preference for pushing ultrathins over standard products, as prices are relatively comparable.

Applicator tampons continue to be preferred over digital options, accounting for 91% of tampon value sales in 2005. Applicator tampons are perceived as easier to use, while digital tampons, which require the use of a finger for insertion, are seen by some consumers as potentially unhygienic. The primary benefit of digital tampons is discretion; they are small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. However, with the more compact applicator options available, such as Tampax Compak and Playtex Portables, digital tampons are unlikely to experience any resurgence for the foreseeable future.

Competitive Landscape
Procter & Gamble saw the largest share gain in 2005, rising more than three percentage points on the strength of the Always and Tampax Pearl brands. Always, which includes both sanitary pads and pantyliners, grew more than two percentage points in 2005, further solidifying its number one position. This growth stemmed from a successful advertising campaign, launched in 2005, that told women to “have a happy period.” Also contributing to the brand’s share gain was a strong performance from the sub-brand Always Fresh, which consists of lightly scented maxi-pads, a relatively new value-added addition to sanitary pads.

Tampax Pearl’s success in gaining marketshare since its 2002 launch has been quite remarkable given the brand-loyal nature of this product area. However, Pearl had the benefit of being tied in name to Tampax  and was supported by an extensive advertising campaign. 2005 included a particularly memorable commercial in which a female plugs a sinking rowboat with a Tampax Pearl tampon. The brand has also been very successful in attracting younger consumers through print advertisements in, and promotions associated with, teenager magazines such as Cosmo Girl and Seventeen.


In the 2005-2010 forecast period, sanitary protection is expected to decline in value and volume terms. These declines are expected to result from significant demographic changes in the years ahead, when more women of the baby boom generation pass through menopause and the number of consumers entering the market is too few to make up for these losses.

While pads and liners will be affected by demographic changes and the increasing trend toward tampons, losses will be slowed somewhat, as an increasing number of consumers over 70 means greater demand for incontinence products. Some female consumers among this group will look to sanitary pads for moderate incontinence needs and pantyliners for very light incontinence needs, as sanitary protection items are considered less embarrassing to purchase.

Tampons are expected to decline the least, by less than 3% in value terms, as an increasing number of consumers choose tampons above sanitary pads. Younger consumers who are becoming more dominant in the market are more knowledgeable about tampons and less fearful of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

Competition is likely to intensify as the consumer population shrinks. Despite falling volume sales, innovative products and increased advertising can be expected as the four leaders fight for marketshare. New products may incorporate new materials that allow for thinner but more absorbent products or assure more leakage protection. Better odor absorbers are also possible innovations, as are products, such as Always Fresh, that are lightly scented. Expect manufacturers to push for teenage consumers through television and print advertisements, promotional partnerships with companies popular with teenagers and packaging intended to draw a female teenager’s eye.      

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