Visonary Awards Showcase Entrepreneurship

By Karen McIntyre, Senior Editor | January 6, 2014

Five products compete for this coveted prize.

INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, announced five new consumer products that have been selected as finalists for the 2014 Visionary Award. This award will be presented during the annual Vision Consumer Products Conference, January 27-30, 2014 at The Westin Galleria, Dallas, TX. Finalists for the award will make their presentations Wednesday morning during the conference and attendees will place their votes for the recipient.

“The Visionary Award recognizes new consumer products that expand the use of nonwovens and demonstrate uniqueness, novelty and technical sophistication,” says Dave Rousse, INDA president. “The many nominees for 2014 encompass these qualities and we are pleased to have such a wide variety of consumer products from which we chose these finalists. The Visionary Award Finalist presentations are one of the highlights at Vision and attendees will be treated to some interesting, unique information on these five products.”

In 2013, a group of entrepreneurs took home the Visionary Award for Dude Wipes, personal cleaning wipes designed specifically for younger men. Other past winners include Swiffer, Bissel stain lifting pads, Ahlstrom’s Disruptor media and a regenerated cotton wipe from Rockline.

This year’s finalists, selected from dozens of entries by INDA’s Technical Advisory Board (TAB), represent the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in the nonwovens industry, encompassing a number of small start-up companies as well as larger companies with brand new ideas for nonwovens. The finalists include...

Laundry-free Linens
Beantown Bedding; Hingham, MA

Searching for an environmentally friendly, disposable bed sheet for their college-age children led two moms, Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert, to create Beantown Bedding, a manufacturer of cellulose-based, single-use bedsheets. These linens can be used for two weeks or even a little longer before being disposed. At the end of its life, the product is compostable meaning it will have no lasting impact on the environment.

“Creating a biodegradable or compostable product was always a goal,” Lambert says. “We didn’t think we could create a disposable product that did not have a environmentally friendly pathway for disposable because being green is such a hot button for people today.”

In addition to being biodegradable and made of a renewable resource, these linens reduce the strain that laundering bed sheets has on the environment. Eliminating just one load of laundry saves 40 gallons of water and enough energy to burn a 60-watt light bulb for 2.5 days. The linens are chemical-free and dye-free.

The linens are made of Tencel fibers, which are USDA Certified as 100% biobased, made from cellulose fibers through a closed-loop process that conserves energy and water. Lambert credits the company’s collaboration with Lenzing, the maker of Tencel, with much of its success. “After we found out about Tencel, we started learning about the different processes. Many of the people we spoke to recommended using a nonwoven process,” she says.

The final result, made through a hydroentangled process, is a bedsheet that feels very much like a traditional woven product. These linens retail for $19.99-$29.99 per set, depending on the size, but much of Beantown Bedding’s business is done through the wholesale chain to universities, camps and scout organizations.

Lambert says the product quickly took off. Just two weeks after product testing, the company was invited to a conference for university conference directors, where the linens were well received. Not long after, the Beantown Bedding story found its way to the front page of USA Today in a story about marketing to college students.

“What really has been at the root of the publicity on the industry side is it is creating a new category for nonwovens—disposable home textiles is not something you see in this category,” Lambert says.  “We really see this like disposable diapers were back in the 1950s. It’s just as radical but it’s good for the planet.”

Beyond creating a product that was comfortable and Earth-friendly, the partners wanted a social component to their business. To achieve this, they are donating the disposable linens to Camp Sunshine, a one-of-a-kind, year-round retreat that provides support to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths
Pacon Manufacturing; Somerset, NJ

Converter Pacon Manufacturing has helped Minwax, a Sherwin Williams company, create a tool for helping consumers stain and finish wood in their homes. The companies together developed Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths, billed as an entirely new way to stain and finish wood.

According to Michael Norboge of Pacon Manufacturing, the real challenge was applying high viscosity stain to the substrate rather than the more traditional, low viscosity water-based actives in most wet wipe products. “The typical wet wipe saturation is 100-300% and with this product  we  are  loading  at over 1000%,” he says.”It is super saturated so we had some flow wrap and sealing issues that we needed to solve.”

By achieving this saturation level, Pacon and Minwax have created opportunities in other areas of paint-based wipes, Norboge adds.

“This is a great concept on the part of Minwax,” he says. “It’s another example of pushing the boundaries of what is possible with wet wipes. Of course the nonwoven makes this whole thing possible. It’s the combination of price, performance and processability  that has allowed so many great wipes products.”

Minwax Wood Finishing Cloths come in convenient packs of eight  wipes and each package covers up to 50 square feet, enough to complete smaller projects like a set of wood serving trays or bigger projects like a coffee table or nightstand. Each package also contains a pair of disposable gloves to wear during application. After sanding the wood smooth and removing any sanding dust, the user  simply has to wipe on the stain and wipe the excess off with a clean cloth. The wipes are available in five popular color choices.

“If you have ever used a pre-moistened cloth—a household cleaning cloth for instance—you already know enough to stain and finish wood using the new Wood Finishing Cloths,” says Jacquelyn Ferrara, director of marketing, Minwax. “They are a terrific solution for time-pressed DIYers, offering beautiful staining results in a fast, easy, convenient application.”

The product was launched in May  2013.

Butterfly Body Liners
Butterfly Health Inc.; Los Gatos, CA

Responding to the need for more effective solutions for sufferers of accidental bowel leakage (ABL), a group of personal hygiene industry veterans have developed Butterfly Body Liners. Targeting a population segment that is 15 million strong among women alone and a market that is one of the fastest growing in the personal hygiene market, Butterfly Body Liners adhere comfortably and discreetly in the buttocks, offering a totally new kind of absorbent protection for sufferers of ABL. 
“If you read the literature, it points to a clear unmet need in the ABL space,” says spokesperson Kelly Lewis Brezoczky. “There have been multiple studies showing the prevalence of accidental bowel leakage in women above 40 at 20%.”

And, because 90% of these sufferers report light to moderate leakage, many treat the problem with ‘make do’ solutions, using products designed for feminine hygiene needs and tissue paper or more frequent underwear changes. The company hopes to change this by providing user-friendly, discrete products that provide a more effective solution for ABL in the marketplace.

“We started thinking about the problem as a personal hygiene product,” Brezoczky says. “You can’t stop the leakage but there is something we can do to provide a more hygienic solution. We were amazed how many women told us how Butterfly made them feel confident and protected. Very early on we even had women telling us that Butterfly reminded them of the invention of tampons.”

The ‘body liners’ were initially targeted primarily at women who are more used to absorbent pads, but market research has found that men are just as satisfied with the product.

“The important insight to have is that people with ABL are not sick,” Brezoczky says. “But ABL has high quality of life impact and sufferers deserve a better solution. We have been amazed at the outpouring of gratitude we have received since launching our product.” 

Brezoczky says she and her partners first attended Vision two years ago with a handmade Butterfly prototype. Since then the company has worked with over 1,000 women to develop its product, which comprises an absorbent core, odor shield, and stay-fast wings which gently adhere in the buttocks. It was at Vision where they teamed up with KleenTest Products, who became Butterfly’s production partner.

“One of the biggest barriers to innovation from a small company’s perspective is that this is a very capital intensive industry,” says Brezoczky, who formerly worked at Procter & Gamble on the Always brand. “There are not a lot of small companies because the cost of equipment is prohibitive. If it were not for the true partnerships we developed with KleenTest and Joa,  it would have been a lot harder for us and we would not be where we are today.”

Butterfly Body Liners were launched in select Target stores successfully in fall 2012 and are currently rolling out to Target stores nationwide.

“There is a high unmet need in this category and this has really contributed to Target’s decision to expand us nationally,” says Brezoczky. “When we think about this brand three or four years from now, Butterfly will be in ABL what Poise is in urinary incontinence. It is very rewarding to be launching a product that addresses such an important unmet need.”

The Upshot Solution Filter
LBP Manufacturing; Cicero, IL

Unique to the UpShot Solution filter is LBP’s innovative sidewall mesh design which is made from 100% polypropylene, making it 100% recyclable with other #5 plastics. The company’s nonwoven mesh technology allows for the optimal coffee-to-water ratio. Adding surface ratio and more coffee equals more full bodied flavor.

Developed using proprietary nonwovens technology following the exploding popularity of single-serve coffee pods, the UpShot Solution brings ecofriendly nonwoven materials into a category dominated by paper and other non-recyclable materials, according the company. Instead of using a solid plastic cup, LBP opened up the design to include four panels of nonwoven mesh, completely changing the design of the single-serve brew cycle and allowing water to flow through the filter, surrounding the coffee and flowing out the side walls.

Originally made to deliver a better tasting cup of coffee, the UpShot filter allows for greater control over beverage quality and consistently meets the desired flavor profile of a roaster’s beans. It is already being used by several coffee brands including Melitte USA, Red Diamond, Saxbys Coffee, Death Wish Coffee, Woodshed Roasting Company and more.

The UpShot filter is compatible with Keurig and other single-serve brewers. The proprietary mesh design allows consumers to see and smell their coffee or tea from the moment they open the seal, ensuring control over the integrity and consistency of the roast.

Based in Chicago, IL, LBP has its roots in the specialty coffee and hot beverage markets and has combined innovation and performance to develop consumer-preferred sustainable, on-the-go packaging. It introduced UpShot in September 2012.

Air Allergy Advance Nasal Filter
Airware Corp.; Scottsdale, AZ

Air Allergy Advanced Nasal Filter was developed by Airware Corp., Scottsdale, AZ, using 3M filter media technology. This discreet personal filter helps protect the wearer from irritating airborne allergens by fitting just inside the nose to stop allergens before they enter or are injested. Air Allergy is lightly infused with a blend of premium essential oils that also help reduce allergy systems. Airware manufactures a number of products that optimize breathing to maximize health. The personal nasal filter traps allergens without reducing airflow. The wearer just inserts one oval section into each nostril and can wear them for up to 12 hours.