Personal Care Wipes Continue to Offer Potential Despite the Economic Downturn

By Magdalena Kondej , Research Manager | June 10, 2009

Globally, the personal wipes market stood at $5.8 billion in 2008, growing by a healthy 8% on 2007 despite the difficult economic conditions.

    Eastern Europe and Latin America, in particular, performed well in 2008, with Eastern Europe registering a 22% increase according to Euromonitor International figures.  Growth was driven primarily by strong growth in Russia and Poland, and both regions are predicted to continue to see strong growth throughout the forecast period to 2013. The two largest and most mature markets, Western Europe and North America, were also the worst hit by the global economic downturn and saw private label products capitalize on consumers reigning in their spending, slowing value growth in both regions. Despite this, both regions still registered positive growth, with North America the lowest at 3%.

Demographics Impact Japan While Russia Sees Strong Growth

On a country level, Japan continued to see the lowest growth of all 15 major markets in personal wipes, at less than 1% in 2008, dragged down by slowing sales of baby wipes due to the declining birth rate in the country. Despite this, Japan remains the second biggest market globally behind the U.S. Russia put in by far the best performance in 2008, registering 22% to take the personal wipes category to $63 million. This growth, although slower than in previous years, takes the country into the top 15 for the first time and is being driven by rising purchasing power and greater product availability. Turkey saw the second strongest growth of 13%, continuing its strong performance from last year as rising birth rates drove baby wipe sales, while emerging markets Poland and China followed closely behind, driven by rising disposable incomes and increasing awareness of health and hygiene issues.

Baby Wipes Continue to Boom

Baby wipes dominate the personal wipes category and stood at $3.8 billion in 2008. Unlike the majority of personal wipes, they offer a convenience that consumers are willing to pay a premium for and there are very few substitute products that can rival them in terms of effectiveness. Thanks to this, they have become a staple feature in baby care and, despite being the largest category by far, still achieved strong global value growth of 8% in 2008, according to Euromonitor International. While sales continue to be strong in developed markets, em­erging markets, where baby wipes are in general the first personal wipe to gain a foothold, witnessed strong growth, with Eastern Europe leading the way on 22%, resulting in sustainable global growth and highlighting the strength of the product.

    The manufacturers that continue to perform best in baby wipes are those with an established link to a baby care brand. Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark lead global sales and drive innovation in the category, with wipes tied to their Pampers and Huggies brands. In early 2009, Kimberly-Clark launched its latest addition to the Huggies wipes range, a wipe impregnated with shea butter, while Procter & Gamble has focused on similar innovations, launching Pampers Sensitive wipes in 2008. More products in this vein are likely to follow with the aim of adding further value to the sector. Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark have also recently both been innovative in child-specific moist toilet wipes with the Pampers Kandoo and Andrex Kids brands.

Feminine Hygiene Wipes Promise Fresh Growth

Feminine hygiene wipes are predicted to see the highest average annual growth globally to 2013, offering plenty of potential for manufacturers. Latin America and the Middle East are predicted to post 28% and 24% average annual growth respectively, albeit from a relatively small base. However, the largest region for feminine hygiene wipes, Western Europe, is also predicted to continue to grow at a strong 5% CAGR, benefiting from increased acceptance of the product.

    Manufacturers of sanitary protection products have been increasingly expanding their ranges to include wipes; for example, Procter & Gamble added the Always Freshelle wipe to its Always range of sanitary products and Lil-Lets included a wipe in its Harmony range of products during 2008. Furthermore, OTC manufacturers have also begun to extend into feminine hygiene wipes and Canesten Care and Vagisil both have wipes in their ranges targeted at daily use. Due to the intimate nature of the product, it is likely that private label alternatives will be slow to gain ground as consumers are expected to stick to brands they trust that have an established link with either the sanitary or feminine hygiene sectors, offering plenty of potential for major manufacturers.

Deodorant Wipes Stall While Facial Cleansing Makes Gains In Western Europe

Cosmetic wipes have also developed into a sizeable market, although facial cleansing remains much bigger than deodorant wipes. Deodorant wipes remain popular in Japan because of the products’ appeal to busy consumers who can use them on the go and recorded 23% growth in Eastern Europe where they are relatively new to the market. However, they are fast falling out of favor in the rest of the world as consumers return to traditional deodorizing products.

    Cosmetic wipes are most popular in Western Europe, with the category reaching $677 million in 2008, the largest wipes category in any region after baby wipes. Facial cleansing wipes, like feminine hygiene wipes, tend to be bought off the back of established cosmetics brands, softening the threat of private label. However, as with deodorant wipes, they suffer from direct competition from products in more traditional formats. In order to drive further growth, manufacturers must offer value-added products; for example, varying the surface of the wipes to provide exfoliating properties.

Green Products

Look Ready To Grow

While innovation in personal wipes in emerging markets largely focuses on basic features such as packaging size, innovation in the mature markets of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan has recently focused largely on niche, task-specific products of which feminine hygiene wipes are to date the most successful example. However, green credentials may well soon come to the fore as an innovation driver. Because of the disposable nature of the category, environmental concerns have yet to make a big impact on personal wipes, but as technology develops momentum is gathering and more products touting environmentally friendly qualities are beginning to ar­rive on shelves.

    Kimberly-Clark recently rolled out its environmentally friendly Scott Naturals brand nationwide in the U.S., which includes a flushable personal wipe, while in cosmetic wipes L’Oréal launched Derma Genesis Anti-Ageing Cleansing Cloths at the end of 2008, a biodegradable wipe offering anti-ageing and cleansing properties. In baby wipes, niche manufacturer Clearly Herbal has recently launched an organic, flushable baby wipe and with Kimberly-Clark recently an­nouncing the launch of Huggies Pure and Natural organic diapers in the U.S., it looks likely a wipe will soon follow. With green products showing a surprising resilience to the effects of the economic downturn, it is likely that more major manufacturers will market personal care wipes with green credentials and the trend will no longer remain the preserve of niche manufacturers.

Medicated Wipes

Offer Healthy Potential

Further opportunities to drive value growth in mature markets can be found by adding healthcare properties to wipes. The beginnings of this trend are evident in the soothing and moisturizing ingredients added to baby wipes and antibacterial properties in general purpose wipes, such as Energizer and PZ Cussons’ recent expansion of their Wet Ones and Carex ranges to include an antibacterial wipe. This medicated trend can further be expanded to include, for example, baby wipes impregnated with nappy rash prevention creams, which opens up cross-branding potential with OTC healthcare products. Other opportunities in this area could in­clude impregnating wipes with topical antifungal or antiseptic products. Early examples include U.S. manufacturer Defense Soap’s antibacterial and anti-fungal body wipe, marketed at sports people unable to take a shower after exercising, and Johnson & Johnson’s Cortaid wipe, which aims to tackle itching caused by poison ivy.

Outlook Remains Positive for Personal Care Wipes

Although growth across all categories is predicted to slow to 2013 as the effects of the economic downturn continue to be felt, not all will suffer to the same extent and the outlook for the category as a whole remains positive. Despite slower sales, both feminine hygiene wipes and baby wipes will continue to register rates above the 2.5% CAGR predicted for the personal wipes sector as a whole and provide opportunities for major manufacturers. On a global level, personal wipes are also proving fairly resistant to the challenge of private label, with the growth of private label in developed markets counterbalanced by strong sales of branded products in the emerging markets. In developed markets major manufacturers must continue to focus on adding value to their products, driving convenience and effectiveness to retain marketshare              

Related Application:

Related Market: