Adult Incontinence: Catering To A New Crowd

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | March 17, 2009

new products help sufferers enjoy active lifestyles

Experts estimate that as many as 33 million men and women suffer from an overactive bladder and 12.2 million of these people have urniary incontinence problems. With the aging population growing, it is expected the the number of incontinence suffers will continue to grow, making adult incontinence one of the brightest spots of the disposable hygiene markets, posting growth considerably above disposable baby diapers or feminine hygiene products.

    According to experts, the growth of incontinence—both in the U.S. and globally—is being driven by changing demographics. “Due to improvements in medical care, diet and lifestyle, people are living much longer and are expecting to enjoy a good quality of life to a much older age,” said Magdalena Kondej, reserach manager for Euromonitor International. “Average life expectancy in the U.s., although not the highest globally, recently reached a record high of 78 years.”

    With the baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, heading toward retirement age, the U.S. population over 60 is expected to grow by 30% in the next few years, making it undeniably the largest segment of the U.S. population.”

    This continuing rise in life ex­pectancy will prolong the use of incontinence products, so engaging consumers and promoting brand loyalty should yield lengthy rewards. As the population ages, the stigma surrounding adult incontinence products is lessening. “This normalization should encourage consumers to enter the category and will be aided by products becoming increasingly available through supermarkets as well as pharmacies,” Ms. Kondej said.

Depend Ahead of the Game

Globally, but particularly in the U.S., the adult incontinence market is largely dominated by Kimberly-Clark with its Depend and Poise brands. In the U.S. this company’s share is about 55% compared to 33% for private label brands; globally the company has a 23% share and its main competitor’s is 21% for SCA’s Tena brand.

    This month, Kimberly-Clark is rolling out gender-specific Depend absorbent underwear. The new male and female designs are tailored to fit the unique body shapes of men and women, offering superior fit and protection to help users suffering from incontinence enjoy a full and active life.

    Debuting an exclusive, patent-pending design that looks and fits like regular underwear, the gender-specifc products will replace Depend unisex underwear. This new line features customized leg openings contoured to better fit men and women and new positioning of the gender-specific absorbent to provide protection where men and women need it most. As a result, users of the new product will experience enhancements comfort, discretion and performance.

    “Kimberly-Clark and the Depend brand understand the emotional impact incontinence can have on those who suffer from this medical condition,” said Andrew Meurer, vice president of Kimberly-Clark North American feminine and adult care. “As the creator of the adult retail incontinence category and the market leader for more than two decades, we remain committed to delivering innovative product solutions that provide users the confidence and dignity to overcome the withdrawal and other emotionally dehabilitating systems that can so often result from this condition as well as help them maintain a normal and active life.”

    To accompany the line’s debut, the Depend brand will also unveil more intuitive packaging for its entire product lineup. With distinctive color coding, a new absorbency scale and a more simplified sizing structure, the new packaging will help make choosing the right product faster and easier for shoppers.”

    “Our consumer research has found that users and caregivers can be uncomfortable shopping for adult incontinence products, said Marc Cammarota, Depend brand director. “Quickly finding the right product remains a vital step in living with incontinence and with a variety of options on store shelves, our new packaging designs will offer a simpler selection experience at stores.”

    Industry experts said this launch illustrates a trend toward new product development in the incontinence market. “It is highly evident from K-C’s launch that innovation and diversification into more specialized products will be the driving factor behind future growth and will be crucial for established players in retaining their marketshare,” Ms. Kondej said. “As well as gender specific products, other recent developments include products that offer light levels of protection. Associated products, such as incontinence wipes, also offer plenty of potential for manufacturers.”

    While the aging boomers and increased size of the aged population offers opportunities for growth, adult incontinence manufactures are also targeting a younger consumer—like young mothers—as light incontinence item customers. European leader SCA exemplifies this trend with its latest campaign, “Laugh Out Loud,” in the U.K. The commercial features young women laughing hysterically without fear of bladder leakage, presumably because they are wearing Tena Lady incontinence pads which protect agains bladder leakage. Tena also targets a younger consumer with its Tena Lady Night pads.

    “Incontinence manufacturers increasingly aim their products at women aged only 35 and over with light bladder control problems,” Ms. Kondej said. “By targeting the demand for discretion and providing strong marketing support, manufacturers are aiming to encourage consumers to perceive incontinence products as an everyday item dealing with a common problem. As such, it is set to play an important part in the wider acceptance of incontinence products amongst female consumers and in the extension of incontinence products’ customer base to young women.”