For the past several years, US consumers have been tightening their purse strings and cutting back on spending. Especially hard hit have been discretionary items and life’s little indulgences. And, while not every homeowner was on the brink of foreclosure, the recession shook up many routines. Dinner and a movie became homemade pizza and a Redbox video and that annual stay at the Atlantis in the Bahamas was downgraded to a week at the lake upstate.
Household and personal care products were also subject to the budget microscope—and wipes, unfortunately, were sometimes flagged.
“During the recession, consumers had difficulties in making ends meet, and [wipes] were one of the first things that consumers struck off their shopping list,” says Euromonitor International Analyst Ian Bell, who is based in London and heads the firm’s home care, tissue and hygiene research.
The US wipes market has had a tough go of it since 2008, with sales trending downward as consumers looked to cut spending and opted to reduce inventory or return to spray cleaners and cloths/towels or liquid personal cleanser products (like facial washes) instead of nonwoven wipes that would do same thing, but cost a bit more.
“A problem manufacturers have had is to make wipes relevant to consumers in their everyday routines. It has been hard to crystalize with consumers that these products are more effective or better,” says Bell.
Up to the Task?
But dry those tears, wipes marketers, as there are signs that this once fast-moving category could be growing again.
For starters, there’s encouraging general economic news in the US as retail sales posted their largest gain in five months, up 1.1% in February after a 0.6% gain in January, according to data from the Commerce Department. Consumer product goods (CPG) companies—including those that sell wipes—are holding their breath to see if consumers will continue to spend even as gasoline prices continue to tick upward.
Data from SymphonyIRI Group shows signs of life in the household wipes area. The Chicago-based market research firm reports that for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 19, 2012, sales of household cleaner cloths in FDM outlets (excluding Walmart) rose 2.01% to $265.3 million and unit sales were up 1.76%—small, yet welcome gains in a category that’s taken a hit during the past several years.
Drilling down through the household sector data shows that consumers are coming back to general purpose wipes rather than task-specific products. Aside from metal cleaner cloths—which rose 4.14% to $6.05 million, with market-leader Weiman metal cleaner cloth posting a 9.15% gain in sales—other household wipe categories reported declines. Specifically, cloth furniture polish/cleaner sales fell 10.87% to $13.3 million with a 10.94% drop in units and glass cleaner cloths sales plummeted 26.44% to just $2.1 million with a 20.93% drop off in unit sales.
Yet marketers continue to bet on wipes, especially when they seem to offer a distinct advantage in select cleaning situations. For example, Bissel Homecare in October 2011 rolled out the Stomp ‘N Go Stain Lifting Pad, which is designed to remove carpet stains. The user places one of the pre-moistened pads on a spot, gives it a “good stomp,” and the oxy-based formula lifts and removes most spots and stains within 30 minutes—without scrubbing or using any other tool, according to the company.
According to Sue Potter, associate marketing director for Bissell Homecare, the idea for the Stomp ‘N Go came from observing consumer behaviors while they are cleaning stains in their homes. “We combined this observation with our consumer research showing that 77% of consumers rank ‘easy to use’ as important in a spot cleaner,” she tells HPCW.
In fact, Bissell has even gone as far as describing the product as “fun” to use. Maybe that’s pushing it, but the Stomp ‘N Go Stain Lifting Pad did win INDA’s 2012 Visionary Award, and Potter says the product has gained wide trade acceptance with placement at nearly all major retailers since its debut.
If the task is cleaning up one’s own face or body, consumers have a bevy of wipes that offer ease of use and caring ingredients that work wonders on skin rather than carpet fibers.
One of the biggest personal care wipe rollouts of the year was from Burt’s Bees. Users can cleanse and tone naturally in one step with Burt’s Bees facial cleansing towelettes with white tea extract. Infused with antioxidant rich white tea extract and other botanicals like cucumber and aloe, these FSC-certified cloth wipes are made from wood cellulose and are 99.1% natural, according to the company. The product also features flexible packaging with #7 plastic and a molded fitment with #5 plastic.
Also in mass, Lotta Luv, a manufacturer of beauty products such as candy-flavored lip balms and Disney gift sets, and reality television star Bethenny Frankel collaborated for the Skinnygirl Face & Body Collection. Sold at Walmart stores nationwide, the range includes Cleansing Facial Cloths made from aloe and cucumber.
“I wanted to develop a line that accomplishes what every woman wants for every day and night—smooth, moisturized skin with a healthy glow...affordability, convenience, effectiveness and consistency is what’s most important and what Skinnygirl Face & Body is all about,” says Frankel in a press statement.
In the prestige marketplace, an increasing amount of marketers are branching out into beauty wipes. The Soap & Glory collection at Sephora now includes Off Your Face Wipes Cleansing Cloths, a set of 25 pre-moistened cloths said to cleanse, tone and smooth skin. These beauty wipes come in a portable, resealable patch package, according to the company. Formulated with a mix of skin-softening glycerin, a quick cleansing agent and Poreshrink-RS, the wipes are suitable for all skin types.
When model Josie Maran founded her organic, natural cosmetics line (also sold at Sephora), she sought to develop eco-friendly products and biodegradable packaging that were safe and healthy for the body and the earth. In creating her Bear Naked Wipes, Maran took her dedication to the environment to a new level by pledging to donate 1% of proceeds to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) Polar Bear SOS initiative, a campaign committed to saving polar bears and their habitats, according to the company. Created with all-natural ingredients, Bear Naked Wipes are biodegradable and feature a blend of aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber and vitamin E.
At Ulta stores, H2O Plus is changing the face of its Aqualibrium line— a best-selling collection of daily, marine-based skin therapies—with the introduction of Aqualibrium Cleansing Face Wipes, marine-powered cleansing in a portable delivery system. Gentle, oil-and alcohol-free, the dermatologist-tested cloths are said to smooth and soothe with marine-based botanicals that effectively transform skin from lackluster to lovely while removing makeup, according to the company.
The pre-moistened wipes use a triple-powered synthesis of marine botanicals (a hydrating blend of wakame, sea lettuce and fennel to optimize skin’s moisture and maintain balance) as well as allantoin to help alleviate and prevent dry skin. Also infused with marine algae, lavender extract and pro-vitamin B, the Aqualibrium Cleansing Wipes are re-sealable for on-the-go usage.
“We wanted to offer a cleanser with a convenient, tried and true delivery system while simultaneously creating a new cleansing option that is currently not offered in the H2O Plus lineup,” says Anna Kaplan, H2O Plus’ VP of product development, Chicago, about the launch.
For those with sensitive skin, nutrient-rich Atopalm Wipes purify skin without a hassle, leaving your face soft, supple and hydrated. The brand is sold at Skinstore.com and its website Atopalm.com. Each dermatologist-approved wipe features a blend of protective vitamin E, calming allantoin, soothing *portulaca oleracea extract and olive, grape seed and jojoba seed oils for deep hydration.
Formulated specifically for dry, sensitive and sun damaged skin, Atopalm wipes feature paraben-free, plant-derived ingredients that mimic the structure of natural skin lipids to restore the skin’s protective moisture barrier system. This US-patented MLE (Multi-Lamellar Emulsion) technology contained in Atopalm wipes is the same MLE technology used in the entire Atopalm line, according to the company.
“We believe that there was a need for a wipe that had multiple functions in one wipe. Atopalm could deliver our U.S. patented MLE Skin Barrier Repair Technology in a wipe for superior moisturizing, plus refresh and cleanse at the same time,” says Jim Plaza, president, Atopalm, Neopharm USA, Rumson, NJ. “Atopalm started out as a baby moisturizer and wipe in Korea, so we know it is gentle enough for everyday use.”
Several companies revamped their skin care wipe collections this year. For example, Biore revamped its Daily Cleansing Cloths (60 count). According to the company, these pre-moistened wipes are infused with grapefruit and pomegranate. Each cloth is double-sided, featuring a textured side for mild exfoliation and a smooth side to wipe skin clean.
Reformulated and renamed, Proactiv Makeup cleansing wipes are pre-moistened with a nourishing soap-free cleanser to remove makeup completely, without water or rinsing. One cloth is large enough to use for the entire face, while and an infusion of allantoin and lavender soothe and condition the skin. Each soft pack has a re-closable pull-tab that keeps cloths moist, said the company.
While the adage in show business is for stars to avoid working with kids and animals, this isn’t the case in the wipes market.
Baby care is the biggest segment in the wipes marketplace, tallying sales of $512.1 million last year, according to SymphonyIRI. And while the proliferation of facial care wipes has impacted sales of baby care wipes in previous years, this sector grew 1.05% in 2011.
This month, Pampers, P&G’s billion-dollar baby care brand, is rolling out a limited edition collection of diapers and wipes to support the US Olympic team. The Pampers Limited Edition USA wipes, which will be sold through the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games, feature packaging that pays tribute to team USA.
Bell of Euromonitor points to one possible reason why baby wipes are growing again—and it isn’t necessarily a rise in births or special packaging. With consumers trimming spending, some could very well be trading sideways from facial care wipes to baby wipes as the latter touts gentle cleansing and natural ingredients, key attributes for products designed for skin that’s north of the equator, so to speak.
While newborns and toddlers represent a steady stream of customers, there’s potential in serving the needs of others who can’t form words—pets. Dog and cat owners spend big money caring for their furry family members, and there are pet wipe SKUs stocked at leading retailers like Petco that help keep Fido and Fifi looking best in show.
New to the pet care scene is All American Pet Company, which recently rolled out Pawtizer, an antibacterial paw wipe because “there are as many germs on paws as on human hands.”
According to the company, dogs carry germs and bacteria and can transfer them to their humans. The alcohol-free Pawtizer wipe, made of spunlace polyester, can kill 99.9% germs and relies on benzalkonium chloride, which eliminates E.coli, salmonella and staph on paws, face and coat. The Century City, CA company showcased the wipe at the 2012 Global Pet Expo in March, and as this issue went to press, company executives said they were filling orders from retailers and Pawtizer would soon be stocked at the “world's largest online retailer.”
Consumers are in love with their pets, but they are obsessed with their gadgets too—yet another area that offers opportunity for wipes marketers, according to industry observers.
Smartphones and tablet computers are growing in popularity—and prone to smudges and streaks. Still, the majority of users simply wipe their screens with their clothing, tissues or just their fingers—none of which are designed to remove the fingerprints, smudges, grease and dust that can spoil the device experience and even scratch the screen surface, according to Euromonitor’s Bell.
There are already a few electronic wipe SKUs from big players, such as SC Johnson’s Windex electronics wipes and more recently, the Kimtech Touchscreen Cleaning Wipe, a dry, reusable microfiber wipe from Kimberly-Clark that hit the US market at the end of 2011.
This growing gaggle of gadgets appears to be a prime target for specialized cleaners that are convenient to carry and enable users to clean their screens on the move.
Seems like a perfect fit for wipes. But again, marketers must effectively communicate the benefits these products offer, according to Bell. Otherwise it’s the same old story: users will stick with what they currently use for the cleaning task at hand—in this case, their shirtsleeves—rather than a wipe.
The secret to a wipe’s success might be how it solves a specific problem better than anything else out in the marketplace. Executives at MD Americas, LLC insist they have just that. The Skaneateles, NY-based firm sells a tool and wipe combo that helps sanitize and deodorize skin wrapped in an orthopedic cast.
Last year more than seven million bones were cast in the U.S. alone. And as those bone owners will tell you, not long after the cast is set, itching and odor appear, making the healing process even more annoying. Often the patient will resort to some kind of household object to deal with the itching caused by bacteria—think coat hangers, rulers and pencils—all of which can break the skin, and won’t do anything to reduce the odor either.
Nobody knows that tale better than John Malandruccolo, president of MD Americas.
In 1990, Malandruccolo broke his leg. Living in Phoenix— a place where perspiration is persistent— at the time, he devised a home version of Sani-Cast that seemed to do the trick.
“I still remember the response from the physician's assistant who took my cast off. It was so clean and it did not smell. A few years later I broke my foot on the same leg and again created this apparatus that allowed me to clean under my cast. Again I got that look from the cast technician.”
After yet another broken bone in 2005—this time an arm—Malandruccolo met up with a man at a tradeshow who worked with a large company that cut and packaged all types of wetted pads and wipes.
“I told him of my idea and he ended up calling me a couple of weeks later to discuss the potential of bringing this product to market. He saw the potential in an under cast cleanser and offered to assist with his team of chemists and designers,” Malandruccolo said.
According to the company, the patent-pending Sani-Cast makes wearing a cast more bearable and removes some of the health hazards involved as it offers a gentle cleansing alternative to powder, sprays and perfumes which only mask odor.
The Sani-Cast kit includes a reusable medical-grade 21-inch applicator and pre-moistened disposable cleansing pads. The nonwoven pads are attached to the end of the applicator via “skin-friendly” Velcro and the users slowly work the pad up and down the skin underneath the cast, providing sanitizing and deodorizing in hard to reach places. The pad contains skin sanitizers, shea butter and a powder fresh deodorant that is specifically designed to combat the environment under an orthopedic cast, according to Malandruccolo.
The Sani-Cast Kit sells for approximately $15 and is available at Kinney Drugs and Discount Drug Mart and is also sold online at www.sani-cast.com.
La Fresh Group, pioneer of on-the-go personal care wipes, named actress Virginia Williams as its spokesperson and the “face” of all La Fresh brands, including the new Eco-Beauty line. As brand spokesperson for La Fresh, Williams will star in the 2012 commercial and video promotional campaign as well as participate in social media and public relations activities.
“Virginia’s inner radiance, natural beauty and eco-sensibility are the embodiment of La Fresh,” says Eve Yen, founder of La Fresh Group and Diamond Wipes International. “Her vibrant personality and commitment to the environment make her the perfect fit for the brand, and we are delighted to have her representing La Fresh.”
In May, the brand is set to release its new Mother’s Day Kit, which includes an Eco-Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover Pouch + Yuzu Oil-Free Face Cleanser Pouch + Cosmetic Bag for $14.99.
Back in Business?
After a temporary slow-down, the wipes market continues to live in the fast lane.
By Christine Esposito and Melissa Meisel, Associate Editors