Personal care sales and profits increased at Swedish hygiene giant SCA in 2009 as gains in incontinence offset troubles in the diaper market and feminine hygiene products demand continued to grow. Describing the hygiene market as stable in mature markets with the opportunity for continued growth in emerging markets, CEO and president Jan Johsansson presented SCA's entire 2009 results to investors last month.
Despite mounting competition, the company's Tena adult incontinence brand retained its position while awareness of the brand increased in the U.S. In 2009, SCA began market tests in China for incontinence products.
Meanwhile, in Europe competition in the market for baby diapers intensified, which for SCA translated into lower volumes or products sold under retailers' private labels. According to Mr. Johansson, private labelers account for about 50% of SCA's baby care business and in this segment margins are currently not far from zero. Therefore, nearly all earnings in this category come from the branded side of the business.
In total, baby diaper sales fell 7%, despite double digit growth in several emerging markets.
Within the Nordic countries, SCA has been able to increase the market share for baby diapers with its Libero brand, which saw several successful product introductions throughout the year.
Demand for feminine hygiene products sold under the Libress brand rose in all of the Nordic markets. During the second quarter of 2009, a line of tampons was launched in Norway and was able to achiee a strong market position within a short period of time. In Mexico, SCA's Saba brand is growing considerably faster than the market. Through its Colombia joint venture company, SCA acquired Algodonera Aconcagua, one of the largest players in feminine care in Argentina.