By Susan Stansbury, Contributing Editor | January 14, 2010

Widens Its Scope

Nonwovens, wipes, viruses and bacteria, Oh My! Hands, face, and so many other locations to cleanse. Many products with these elements made their mark at the PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers Association) show in late November. This is where store brand bigwigs come to browse and buy the latest product ideas.

The nonwovens community held its own again this year at the Chicago show with organizers touting increased innovation in product design, packaging and promotions. A new Innovation Hall highlighted companies with breaking news and the latest developments.  Exhibitors in the Hall included store brands, testing services, packaging, marketing experts and others.
The show featured more than 2000 booths and about 4500 visitors reflecting their interest in retail sales, which have reached nearly $86 billion, with annual gains as high as 10%, according to PLMA. Sales results come from supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers.
Manufacturers of nonwovens products continued their assault on germs, dirt, grime, skin treatments and everywhere wiping convenience meets task needs. While many exhibits had a similar look to last year, positioning examples show the current focus, such as:

• DPL Inc. featured the four key areas of Hygienic, Medicated, Cosmetic & Natural Wipes
• Nice Pack promoted: “My skin is so important to me. Who thought I could get such a great quality, leading edge facial wipe at such a smart price?”
• Rockline Industries reinforced its image as a “low-cost, high-volume business that gives its customers the quality product they deserve at a price they can afford.”
• U.S. Cotton, LLC.: “Our family of Exfoliating Pads will be a great addition to your cosmetic product offerings! Choose your shape we've got it all.”

Looking at categories where nonwovens appear, the show guide (where producers are often listed in several categories) exemplified exhibitors focus:

Diapers, wipes: 27 exhibitors
Incontinence products: 17 exhibitors
Medicated wipes: eight exhibitors
Moist towelettes & sanitizers: 30 listings

Beyond this, a number of companies located in the skin care and cosmetics category and the household products category were selling nonwovens as part of their total product line.
The expansion of the PLMA Show includes a more robust presence in wipes and personal care products. For example, Indelpa of Mexico returned after an absence showing wet wipes, diapers, underpads and even puppy pads. Supplying companies like Walmart Mexico, Indelpa also produces brands like Suabebe Kids Wipes.

Expansion of offerings was exemplified again by line extensions and niche product rollouts. In addition, new wipes market entrants were seen. One such company is Northern Labs, Inc., mostly known for liquid formulations used to manufacture wet wipes. The company appeared to be moving into production of finished wipe products. Albaad is a nonwovens producer, also offering adult moist toilet tissue and other wipes, which are “national brand equivalent.”
Companies serving niche markets, ranging from pet products to automotive specialties, are adding line extensions into wiping products. One benefit of taking a closer look at the full range of product categories occurs when you realize that many new nonwovens product developments are coming from companies formerly known for other kinds of private label items including the following areas that make a natural transition to adding nonwovens wipes and pads.

Cleaning devices
Scrubbing sponges
Lotions & gels
Cosmetic preparations
Medicated skin treatments
Tissue products

Companies marketing cotton- and cellulose-based and paper products have also been expanding their presence in typical nonwovens markets. Either they are adding nonwovens to their lineup or they are competing with what they call more “Earth- friendly,” recyclable, biodegradable items. Bay Converting’s Biodegradable Dryer Sheet is an example of samples handed out at PLMA.
Packaging diversity also played a key role in product variations. From wipes with new flat pack opening mechanisms, to cosmetic “jars” with exfoliating pads—aesthetic appeal, convenience and reliably-sealed products are taking center stage.

Among the most interesting aspects of the show is finding different applications for nonwovens. Avery Dennison, usually recognized for labels, tapes, lidding, industrial and busi­ness-to-business products, was on hand with a new twist. The company was promoting its “Air Valve Systems” with valves and vents that eliminate air entrapment in packaging. Designed for venting items ranging from pet food packages to storage bags for food freezing, benefits include moisture control. This unique system includes a nonwoven layer as part of the patented label-like package component.
Answering the need to validate those germ killing, antibacterial and sanitizing products that make a variety of performance claims were several service and testing suppliers. The resources displayed include NSF, a public health & safety group; Quality Assurance Association; SGS Consumer Testing Services; Specialized Technology Resources  and Wallace Church for packaging support.

Speaking to consumer concerns about microbes and contamination, exhibitors stepped up with the latest products offering a comfort level in today's public and home environments. Then, considering the new niche products and packaging appeal, nonwovens products at PLMA continue to forecast the year to come.

Upcoming PLMA events include a Roundtable Conference scheduled for February 24-25, 2010 at the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, an Annual Meeting and Leadership Conference, which will be held March 25-28, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, FL. Additionally, PLMA holds trade shows each year in Amsterdam (spring) and Chicago (fall). More information: www.plma.org.

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