The Evolution of Adult Incontinence

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | March 18, 2010

Manufacturers launch new products to target a new kind of consumer in adult incontinence.

The global incontinence products market is predicted to have the highest growth rate of all disposable paper product markets to 2013, with total value forecast growth of 31%.
While the U.S. and Japan remain the world’s largest incontinence product markets, with healthy growth predicted to continue throughout the forecast period, incontinence products are unique within disposable paper products in that strong value growth is not limited to emerging markets or specific regions but can be seen around the globe. India, South Africa, Germany, Austria and Saudi Arabia, respectively, are predicted to register the strongest compound annual growth rates (CAGRs), illustrating the sector’s wide-ranging global strength—and it is this potential which is provoking major investment from manufacturers.

SCA Gains on Market Leader Kimberly-Clark

Kimberly-Clark leads the global incontinence products market, followed closely by SCA, which has narrowed the gap on the leading manufacturer year-on-year since the beginning of the decade. The two manufacturers are now separated by one percentage point, a gap that was 15 percentage points in 2001.

SCA has benefited not only from product innovations but also from an ongoing commitment to marketing its Tena brand in a way that is designed to break down the stigma attached to both the condition and the use of incontinence products. Kimberly-Clark has of late followed SCA’s lead, focusing on shifting its previously medically-oriented brand Depend into the mainstream. Efforts included the launch of Depend for Men and Women in January 2009, in place of a unisex product supported by new packaging and a substantial marketing campaign. While Kimberly-Clark’s recent endeavour to redefine its Depend brand is moving the product in the right direction, SCA’s Tena overtook Depend in 2008 to become the leading global incontinence brand, and for the short-term at least the gap only looks likely to widen.

A Focus on Geographic Expansion

While Kimberly-Clark was concentrating its efforts in 2009 on building the Depend brand’s relationship with consumers, SCA focused on expanding outside its core markets of Western Europe and North America, in particular into Russia and China—both markets predicted to register high levels of value growth. In June 2009, SCA launched its Tena brand in South China. Since then, in October 2009, the company launched its ‘Give the smile back’ campaign in the region, which included the distribution of free Tena products to care homes and aimed to raise public awareness of the role of China's caregivers. In Russia, SCA re-launched its Tena brand in early 2009, introducing Russian-language information leaflets about the condition and Tena products inside the product packaging. Following on from this re-launch, in December 2009 the company announced that it is investing in a new incontinence production plant in Russia, to be operational in 2011.

Uni-Charm concentrates its efforts at home

Japanese manufacturers Uni-Charm, Daio and Kao take third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the global market, generating almost all of their sales in their home market. Uni-Charm is by far the strongest of the three, and the company focused its domestic efforts in 2009 on its leading brand Lifree’s ‘Living is Rehabilitation’ campaign, which seeks to emphasize not only the practical benefits of Lifree products but also the brand’s contribution to “preserving human dignity.” In addition to this campaign, the company’s Charmin Nap incontinence product underwent a complete packaging redesign. While the Japanese market does offer healthy prospects, the manufacturer would do well to follow SCA’s example and further expand its distribution, particularly in Asian-Pacific countries with high growth prospects, such as Indonesia.
Innovation adds skin care properties

Incontinence products were once a case of one-size-fits-all, but with a range of sizes and absorbencies, as well as male and female variants now the norm for most major brands, recent product innovation has looked towards adding skin care properties. In July 2009, Tena pads with aloe vera were launched in North America, tapping into the wider health and wellness trend and increasing comfort for the user. In Japan, Kao’s Free Day Soft on Skin Liners for light protection also has a skin care positioning. It would be safe to assume that further launches in this vein will follow from the majority of major manufacturers.

The Japanese market, perhaps the world’s most advanced, also gives clues as to how the sector might further develop in the longer term. Here, washable incontinence pants are beginning to gain in popularity. The products resemble normal underwear, with the women’s variant featuring a lace trim and the men’s variant resembling ordinary button-up underpants.

Growing the Consumer Base is a Core Concern

Unlike many disposable paper product categories, incontinence products have demographics on its side. Due to improvements in medical care, diet and lifestyle the global population is aging, driving demand in the sector. However, rather than simply relying on growing sales in line with the natural demographic shift, manufacturers are focusing their efforts on diversifying the sector and expanding the consumer base by targeting men, caregivers and new mothers, with each group requiring specific product features and a unique marketing approach from manufacturers.

Men and Carers Attract the Attention of Marketers

Major manufacturers have targeted men through increased internet and marketing activity as well as through the development of gender-specific products. Gender-specific websites, such as Tena’s lockertalk.com, allow men to research their condition and the products available without the embarrassment of face-to-face communication. Depend, meanwhile, recruited male sports stars for a marketing campaign for its men’s variants.

A further recent marketing development in the sector has seen manufacturers targeting caregivers rather than sufferers themselves. In Japan, Daio launched a range of its Take Care products featuring instructions for caregivers to ensure that the products are fitted and used correctly. More recently, in November 2009, SCA picked up on the tactic and partnered with Caring.com, a resource and support network for people caring for elderly parents. As more families the world over opt to care for aging relatives at home, offering clear usage instructions as well as communicating and building brand loyalty with caregivers will become increasingly important for manufacturers looking to make gains in the sector, and those not already investing in building a relationship with this consumer group would do well to begin.

Light Products’ Prospects Attract Sanitary
Care Manufacturers

Finally, the expansion of the consumer base has seen most effort put into attracting younger women suffering from the problem as a result of childbirth. It is the light incontinence products preferred by this consumer group that are expected to drive global growth throughout the forecast period. The category is predicted to register the strongest growth of all disposable paper products through to 2013. Most recently, SCA has sponsored a pregnancy and baby event in Spain, aiming to raise awareness of bladder weakness among new mothers and pregnant women and again aiming to reduce the stigma attached to it through repositioning the problem as a natural part of the pregnancy process. Targeting younger women not only widens the consumer base but could also engender brand loyalty that may last a lifetime.

Procter & Gamble’s Always Envive launched an earlier campaign of a similar nature in the U.K. The company recruited television presenter Ulrika Jonsson to speak out about her post-childbirth incontinence problem. As is the case with Always Envive, the light products category presents a natural crossover point for sanitary towel manufacturers looking to enter the incontinence sector and dilute their reliance on sanitary products – particularly as many younger consumers may prefer a product with a brand name associated with a sanitary product rather than an incontinence product. In light of this, it is likely that more sanitary manufacturers will expand their ranges to include a light incontinence product targeted at new moms, and by virtue of their brand associations they may stand a chance of gaining ground on SCA and its Tena brand.

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