Changing the LooK Of Hygiene Products

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | August 12, 2010

disposable goods manufacturers and the machinery suppliers who serve them respond to the need for less is more packaging, cutting edge designs and a brand new day for hygiene.

You go to the store to select your hygiene product—whether it’s a diaper, a feminine hygiene product or an adult incontinence item. The choice is simple. You know what you want and you can make your decision quickly, right? Wrong. Between package counts and the different product sizes, not to mention the scores of choices in each category, deciding what to buy can be challenging. Whether you’re a new mom not sure which diaper pack to purchase for your infant or a baby boomer trying to choose the best incontinence product for your ailing parent, you want to make sure you get the product that fits your needs . . . and your budget and makers of hygiene products and their suppliers are working hard to make sure you succeed.

“The shopping environment is as complex as ever. We have been working to make the shopping experience easier for our shoppers,” said Stefanie Christmann, vice president of communications for Swedish hygiene products manufacturer SCA. “We have been working with our customers to ensure that the secondary packaging makes the process in store as efficient as possible. At the same time, we continue to work to ensure that our packaging minimizes the impact on the environment.”

In April, SCA’s French feminine hygiene brand, Nana, expanded its fashion tin collection into stylish containers for liners. “Our tins meet a real need for women to be able to carry sanitary protection in their handbags with cleanliness, discretion and femininity; without the frustration of having these products become dirty or lost in their bags,” said Aude Robin, SCA product manager for Nana towels in France. “In France, these designer tins have become a strong promotional concept that consumers regard as definitively belonging to SCA’s Nana brand. In local consumer research and also at a European level, the tin concept always tops the list of consumer preferences.”

Last year’s Nana tin collection was created by famous Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.

The Nana tins collection for 2010 comprises 10 designs, catering to the different styles that women might prefer to express themselves with. To strengthen this year’s collection, the tins are also complemented by five stylish choices of purses for liners.

According to Dr. Christmann, this limited edition package, and other efforts like it, was designed to add value to the consumer usage experience and has subsequently driven new users to the brand.

“We are driven by consumer understanding and constantly look for ways of improving the usage experience; we will only roll out the concept if it meets an unmet consumer need,” she added.
Kimberly-Clark also incorporated discrete tin containers (see photo above) into its new U by Kotex brand. Geared toward younger users of feminine hygiene products, these tins allow young women to discretely carry their pads, liners and tampons.

These tin packaging concepts are among the more radical departures from the traditional pastel film packaging typical in the feminine hygiene aisle. They signify a shift away from typical packaging concepts. More typical upgrades include sharper graphics and brighter colors designed to breath new life into a category that has not seen much packaging innovation in recent decades.

“In recent years, the attention to the package of disposable paper products has become  more and more close to the heart of the business,” said Barbara De Dominicis, marketing & business development department at Fameccanica. “Always busy mums and dads wanted to buy ‘more-days-solution’  bags, easy to carry; young ladies were interested in nice bags easy to use, with not too many products inside and manufacturers wanted to satisfy these needs looking for new solutions in terms of innovation, performances and cost effectiveness.”

Fameccanica and packaging equipment supplier Optima have been able to satisfy this increasing demand for new packaging concepts through the alliance they formed in September 2004, sharing their experience and knowledge to find the best solution to meet customers’ needs.
So far, the alliance has formed two different model machines—Paksis D7 and Paksis A6. The former is an integrated counting-stacking-packaging machine for baby diapers, performing at an input speed of 1000 ppm with a production speed of 65 bpm; the latter is an integrated counting-stacking-packaging machine for adult incontinence products, performing at an input speed of 650 ppm with a production speed of 55 bpm, Ms. De Dominicis explained hinting that a third model could soon be in the works.

U Got It

Packaging plays a huge role in Kimberly-Clark’s message for its new feminine hygiene brand—U by Kotex—an innovative feminine care solution that offers bold new packaging and feminine product design and empowers women to take a new stand on women's health.

The new U by Kotex line includes tampons, pads and liners available in brightly colored and eye-catching designs and serves as the Kotex brand’s first step in redefining the category by encouraging women to change the conversation surrounding feminine care from one of shame and embarrassment to one of open, honest dialogue.

“For the past 50 years, advertisers—Kotex included—have been perpetuating this cultural stigma by emphasizing that the best menstrual period is one that is ignored,” said Andrew Meurer, vice president, North American Group Brands Feminine/Adult/Senior Care at Kimberly-Clark. “The way the Kotex brand will be positioned in the future will be very different. We are changing our brand equity to stand for truth, transparency and progressive vagina care. Moving forward, the tone of the Kotex brand’s marketing message will adhere to its new tagline—Break the Cycle.”
In developing the new line, K-C polled its target audience, women in their teens and 20s, on what they want in their feminine hygiene products and it so became apparent that the category was sorely out of touch. “People want truth and honesty,” said Jennifer Westemeyer, brand design manager. “They want energy and products that reflect their style. They don’t want pastel packaging.  Young women want style and substance and we weren’t delivering.”

According to “Break the Cycle: A Study on Vaginal Health” a study conducted online in August 2009 by Harris Interactive on behalf of U by Kotex among more than 1600 North American women aged 14-35, seven in 10 women believe it's time for society to change how it talks about vaginal health, yet less than half (45%) feel empowered to make a difference. Based on that research, U by Kotex aims to help women understand and be comfortable with their femininity and bodies.

“U by Kotex empowers women and young girls to challenge euphemisms that hide the truth,” said Aida Flick, brand director, Kotex. “As the brand that created the feminine care category more than 90 years ago, it is only appropriate that the Kotex brand is once again taking the lead in empowering women to change the conversation around the importance of women's health.”

U by Kotex includes pads, liners and tampons, cleverly labeled by flow types, in bright primary colors against a black background, described a  ‘little black dress with colored accessories.’  Instead of noisy film-based outer packaging, K-C chose to house these products in cardboard cartons containing myths and facts about menstruation. “We have found that customers love the new look,” Ms. Westemeyer said. “It really changes the perception of the fem hy aisle and gives a fashion derivative approach.”

Launched in March 2010, U by Kotex has more than succeeded goals, exceeding forecast and sales by 20% and has already reached its annual share goal and speed to shelf in three months, Ms. Westemeyer added.

On The Line

While the packaging designers make it their business to know how to get the product to speak to the customer, they can only take their product as far as the packaging machinery allows and machinery companies are keeping their eye on trends in the market to make sure they can give their customers what they want.

“We want to make things very simple,” said Alex Herzog, of Herzog Services. “Like the iphone, you don’t need an operator’s manual to work your iphone and we want to make it easy for the operator of the packaging line. When an operator is happy, the machine runs efficiently.”
After working with Gevas for 10 years, Mr. Herzog joined forces with MBS, a maker of stackers and baggers for all types of hygiene products, to provide a new option in packaging machinery suppliers.

According to Mr. Herzog, there are a number of demands shaping efforts in packaging machines. “Customers don’t want to see the packaging lines as the end of the line,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a bottleneck, it should run 100% without downtime because the converting line is complicated enough, they don’t want to face any obstacles in packaging.”

Additionally, hygiene companies are using less and less packaging material. On the consumer end of things, there is a move away from insert bags in multipacks while on the shipment side, there is a growing movement away from carton shipping containers. Instead, the products are designed to be palletized and shrink-wrapped for shipment.

“We are getting a huge amount of inquiries and there is a big shift toward getting rid of the cardboard boxes,” said Mark Steinbrecher, sales manager for  Optima Machinery Packaging. “It looks like it will be a reality soon for one of our customers. They have been supplying product already to test market areas and have proven favorable.”

According to Mr. Steinbrecher, converting to this shipping means is not as simple as just stacking up bags of products and shrink-wrapping them. “This effort probably took two years of working together, testing trials, working with film suppliers and doing a lot of different tests with distribution centers and equipment,” he added.

Eliminating the carton, in addition to streamlining operations, saves the hygiene manufacturer costs but also plays into the need for greener packaging options. Besides reducing materials, being greener has meant thinner films as well as material made of alternative raw materials and the machinery suppliers have been charged with making sure their lines can handle these changes.

“People are definitely trying to sneak in different film samples for seal testing and filling, and we run them on our equipment to see if they will handle the filling and sealing process,” Mr. Steinbrecher said. “There’s no sense in them making these bags unless you are sure you can fill it and seal it. The equipment has to be able to handle it.”

Even with just a a downgrade from 2.5 mm to 2.0 mm film—a 20% savings—the machinery needs to be suitable, he added.

According to Erik Knight, manager of sales and marketing, North America, at packaging specialist Focke, reducing packaging materials has always been an issue in the consumer markets but the ever-fluctuating price of oil has added to this. In addition to cutting costs and reducing materials, these efforts make it easier on the retail level. “When customers film wrap equipment, it makes it easier to get the product to the shelf,” he said. “There is not as much unloading to do.”
A few years ago, in search of expansion, Focke formed a relationship with a maker of stackers and baggers for feminine hygiene items and more recently took over the intellectual property for the equipment. The company is now ready to put its face to the equipment. “We know what the standards are for our customers, who are top leading companies that are manufacturing those products, and we are ready to let people know who we are,” he said.

Mr. Knight added that the packaging equipment marketplace is benefitting from the increased competition that comes with the welcoming of a new player. “The market been controlled by a smaller group of people, and this gives the customer no control. More competition allows the marketplace to have more ideas, not to mention more competitive pricing.”