Adult Incontinence Market Is Booming

By Tim Wright, Editor | March 8, 2013

It is estimated that 25 million Americans experience incontinence symptoms. Long associated with the elderly, the adult incontinence category is changing its perceptions both in terms of how it sees itself and how others see it looking in. Major companies like K-C and SCA have recognized the growing influence and power of the nation’s more than 70 million baby boomers that are driving category growth as they age.

So while aging is not something anyone looks forward to, the aging demographic of the population is good news for the bottom line of players in the incontinence market. According to data from INDA, by 2020 16% of the North American population will be over 65. By 2050 20% will be over 65.

In 2012, INDA says the adult incontinence market in North America sold 11 billion units worth $4.42 billion. By comparison, baby diapers sold 29.4 billion units worth $7.36 billion and fem hygiene was valued at $5.39 billion on 46.1 billion units. While smaller than these other hygiene sectors, INDA projects that by 2017 adult incontinence product sales will outpace both baby diapers and fem hygiene products, with an average annual growth (AAG) rate of 3.5% in terms of units sold, compared to an AAG of 1.5% for baby diapers and 2.1% for fem hygiene.

One of the key shape shifters in the incontinence market is the fact that attitudes among baby boomers are very different from older generations. That realization is driving marketing efforts as home use of incontinence products is accelerating. “Baby boomers are more apt to feel annoyed, or frustrated. They want to get up and go without the fear of feeling restricted,” says Nancy Muller, executive director of the National Association For Continence.

This is especially true of women, Muller says. And, women are more prone to experience incontinence due to pregnancy and childbirth. However, it’s a condition that’s been improperly stigmatized. "It affects a wide variety of individuals, both genders, all ages and for a wide variety of reasons," she says.

Major personal care brands Depend, Poise and Tena are on a mission to remove the social stigma of adult incontinence with ad campaigns and product launches targeting boomers.

And because boomers are restless and place a high premium on being able to ‘get up and go,’ it is well-designed, light incontinence products that are the main driver for category growth.

K-C has been the most aggressive with its line of disposable underwear products. The new products—Depend Silhouette for Women and Real Fit for Men Briefs—both have innovative new features that offer protection and, both look, fit and feel like real underwear.

In 2012 K-C, the No. 1 player in the U.S. adult incontinence category, spearheaded a new approach to its advertising strategy. Previous ads had featured elderly actors with the implication that incontinence did not prevent them from carrying out active lives. The new approach used younger celebrities who were not incontinent but agreed to model the Depend brief-style products for charity. Featured celebrities included actress Lisa Rinna, football player Clay Matthews, hockey player P. J. Stock, and figure skater Isabelle Brasseur.

The aim is to reduce some of the embarrassment experienced by consumers by approaching it from a “normal” light.

It will be interesting to see how this strategy plays out and while it is uncertain whether other market players will follow suit, one thing that is for sure is that Grammy and Gramps have some competition as it’s not just their market any more.

Tim Wright

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