Although few consumers understand the engineering behind their favorite products, most have come to depend—unwittingly or not—on the nonwoven fabrics behind their “must-have” brands. This is certainly the case with the finalists for the 2011 Visionary Awards, an annual competition spotlighting innovation in consumer products using nonwovens. Past winners of the award, which has been presented for the last decade, include floor cleaning cloths, a regenerated cotton wipe, an at-home spa treatment and a carbon filter. This year’s finalists include products that touch on multiple, integral areas of everyday life, ranging from diaper innovations to lubricating wipes to safety masks to toilet tissue.
All of the finalists will make presentations during the Vision 2011 Consumer Products Conference, running from January 10-12 at the Park Hyatt in Carlsbad, CA. Winners will be selected by attendee vote on the final day of the conference.
Improving on Toilet Tissue
“Wipes offer consumers convenience while also providing added benefits,” said Paula Hanek, product manager—personal care, for Rockline Industries, explaining drivers influencing the current market growth in both the moist toilet tissue and body wipe categories.
While the market news is good, the company proves that good things can get even better.
Capitalizing on this increased consumer interest, Rockline Industries set its sights on introducing a moist toilet tissue product that would raise the bar on customer satisfaction. Launched in October 2010, the Flushable Moist Toilet Tissue offers durability, enhanced thickness and softness, while adhering to the flushability guidelines set by INDA/EDANA.
“Consumers are very sensitive to wipe strength, softness and moistness. The product was tested through a consumer panel and received very high satisfaction and usage scores,” said Ms. Hanek. “We are always striving to improve the consumer experience and the improvements made definitely accomplished that.”
In order to accomplish the objective, Rockline Industries, in partnership with Ahlstrom, focused on modifying the specification of the wipe as well as adding an engineered, geometrical quilted thermal embossed design.
Despite the modifications, the company still maintained its commitment to using biodegradable, renewable resources. Comprised of 95% cellulosic fibers, the product utilizes a high percentage of wood pulp with a small percentage of regenerated cellulose. The preservation of these features, said Ms. Hanek, is another nod to consumers as well as the environment.
It isn’t often a diaper brand spurs a fashion trend, but Huggies Little Movers limited edition jeans diapers did just that in the summer of 2010.
Intended for moms of active babies looking for “great leakage protection” and a “comfortable product that brings fashion and fun to the diapering routine,” said Scott Lange, personal care research and engineering manager, the diapers provided a fashionable way to lose an extra layer of clothing during warmer months.
The diaper’s completely integrated product design and faux jean look were made possible by tapping into internal nonwovens laminate capabilities, high speed surface printing technology and proprietary registered graphics, according to Kimberly-Clark. Colors in the laminated backsheet coordinate with surface-printed details and other product components to successfully execute the high-style diaper design. Its market impact was further strengthened by a national marketing program to grab consumers’ attention.
“Jeans are fun, fashionable and add an emotional element to the experience. Moms love to see their babies in jeans,” added Keegan Coulter, Huggies brand manager.
Sales numbers reinforce the product’s success. Nielsen research estimates that the jeans diaper achieved an estimated 2.5% dollar share in the first six weeks of the program, said Mr. Lange. More telling, two-thirds of that volume was generated from new users of the Huggies Little Movers line, captured from lower-priced and competitive product.
Better Safe than Sorry
The Readi Mask is a product you buy but hope you never have to use.
Offered by Global Safety First, LLC, the Readi Mask has been endorsed by professionals as an effective, easy-to-use tool to ward off dangerous airborne particulates including viruses, bacteria, dry spores, allergens, smoke particles and radioactive particle matter. It is manufactured as a full mask with integrated eye protection or as a half mask for the bottom portion of the face. The company also offers a child-size mask.
What makes the particle mask unique is its patented sealing system, completely sealing the face without the need for straps. This extra measure prevents contaminants from entering through the perimeter of the mask, which can account for up to 50% of contaminate leakage in other respirators, according to the company. A one-size-fits-all solution, the mask has been demonstrated effective on “nearly all facial sizes and shapes,” said John Schwind, CEO of Global Safety First, LLC.
A full mask also prevents the eyes from becoming a pathway to transmission. An anti-fog feature additionally enables a user to see in hazardous conditions.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends eye protection for a variety of potential exposure settings where workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure,” said Mr. Schwind. He adds that viruses and bacteria can be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the eye.
Made in the U.S., the portable, lightweight product uses DelStar’s electrostatically charged DelPore meltblown media and a medical-grade adhesive around the mask perimeter. It is a multi-purpose product for multiple settings and applications, ranging from the home to construction sites to airplanes.
Efficacy against various particles has been significant. Laboratory tests reveal the product filtered between 97-99% of smoke particles after 20 minutes and 99.9% of bacterial agents, viral agents and dry spores after three hours.
Tough Wipes with a Big Heart
Shiny tools at a hardware trade show inspired Cathy Horton to invent Nutek’s Simply Soy Biodegradable Wipes. A farmer’s daughter, she was struck by the difference between new tools and the heavily used instruments she saw at her father’s farm.
“I thought what if you had a wipe with a lubricant on them, could you take care of the tools better? I called my lawyer right from the show and asked if anyone had ever patented a lubricant on a wipe,” said Ms. Horton, founder of Nutek. “It amazed me, with all the problems in applying an oily spray that no one had put a lube on a wipe material before.”
While producing a tough, durable wipe capable of handling industrial applications was of utmost concern, Ms. Horton decided to marry this requirement with an unlikely partner: sustainability. The final result is the Simply Soy Biodegradable wipe, a strong cloth wipe impregnated with food-safe, soy-based lubricant. The wipe is 100% biodegradable and the cradle-to-grave process was carefully considered in production. For example, the packaging is recyclable and the soy beans utilized to make the wipe are procured from farmers within the Mercer Landmarks cooperative, who are committed to producing beans with environmentally safe growing practices.
The target audience for Simply Soy Biodegradable Wipes is “anyone who applies a lubricant to any surface,” said Ms. Horton, citing applications in industrial machinery, food production, automotive industries and even the home.
Although its usage is wide-ranging, Ms. Horton especially sees opportunities within the auto market. “My goal in the auto world is for this invention to completely wipe out the usage of the toxic and polluting blue cloth,” she said. “The auto mechanic’s rags are loaded with toxic chemicals and are a huge problem for the environment. We need something safe, and this is the truly authentic, safe answer. In addition, the Simply Soy wipe wins when tested against the competition, hands down.”
Smart to the Core
Touted as the brand’s biggest innovation in the last 25 years, Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers with Dry Max feature newsworthy enhancements to the diaper core. The Dry Max technology with an improved AGM super absorber allows the diaper’s core to be as or more absorbent without the use of the airfelt paper pulp found in previous diaper designs, resulting in a diaper that is 20% thinner and two times drier than the previous generation, meaning it helps lock wetness in, said Liza Sanchez, Pampers global research and development director.
“After years of research, Pampers found a way to improve the engine, or core, of the diaper by inventing Dry Max—making it our new high performance diaper,” said Ms. Sanchez. “It has game changing benefits for mom and baby and is one step better for the world.”
Among the listed benefits, Dry Max technology locks in wetness for up to 12 hours and its thinner design takes up less drawer space. The product can also reduce environmental impact. “If every Pampers mom switches to Pampers with Dry Max, together they could save approximately 20 million pounds of trash every year. That’s the weight of approximately 60 Statues of Liberty,” added Ms. Sanchez, comparing previous Swaddler/Cruiser designs and basing her data upon 2008-2009 sales volume.
In the case of this innovation, an extra hand to the environment won’t cost an arm and a leg. Ms. Sanchez noted that Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers with Dry Max are sold to retailers for the same price as the previous design, although pricing is at the sole discretion of the retailer.