The aging populations of America, Europe and Japan are driving today’s adult incontinence market. By 2020 estimates say 16% of the North American population will be over 65 and by 2050 this number will jump to 20%. People are living longer and healthier lives, however, with increased longevity comes problems associated with aging—like incontinence. Right now it is estimated that 25 million Americans experience incontinence symptoms.
The National Association for Continence (NAFC) says incontinence, or loss of bladder or bowel control, is a symptom—not a disease in itself. A broad range of conditions and disorders can cause incontinence, including birth defects, pelvic surgery, injuries to the pelvic region or to the spinal cord, neurological diseases, multiple sclerosis, infection and degenerative changes associated with aging.
A growing market
The global hygiene market, which is the single largest market for nonwovens and associated raw materials, will grow to $78.9 billion representing over 551 billion units by 2018 says research firm Smithers Apex. According to the firm diapers and training pants represent 53.8% of the global hygiene market sales in value terms, but only 30.3% of the total global hygiene market sales in units. This is due to the fact that diapers are more expensive than feminine hygiene pads and tampons on a per unit basis. Feminine hygiene products represent 31.5% of the global hygiene market sales in value terms, and 61.9% of the total global hygiene market sales in units. Finally, adult incontinence products are the most expensive per unit, due to their complicated structures combined with larger sizes, and raw material needs. They account for 14.7% of the global hygiene market sales in value terms, but only 7.9% of the total global hygiene market sales in units.
While smaller than the other hygiene sectors, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, 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.
Overseas, Japan’s rapidly aging population is producing a booming market for adult diapers. Two Japanese paper companies—Daio and Nippon Paper—have expanded their manufacturing facilities for incontinence products due to an expected surge in demand. Adult diapers are expected to outsell baby diapers in Japan by 2020, but according to Unicharm, Japan’s biggest diaper maker, the tipping point was in 2011.
The adult diaper market is growing at 6-10% a year, and already pulls in $1.4 billion by catering to Japan’s elderly population. Japan has the highest percentage of over-65s in the world, making up more than 20% of the population.
Demographics aside, adult diapers are an attractive business in their own right—they sell for as much as 2.5 times more than infant diapers, resulting in higher profit margins, and there’s also a lucrative sales channel to institutions like hospitals and nursing homes. Institutional care and homecare account for roughly 60% of the global market for incontinence products while the retail market accounts for approximately 40% of the global market.
Catering to consumers
Marketing to consumers is still a challenge, but diaper manufacturers are confident that the embarrassment factor can be overcome and are pushing forward.
For example, Kimberly-Clark this year enlisted former NFL player Tony Siragusa to pitch its Depends Guards and Shields adult diapers for men. Depends has been going hard after the NFL demographic. Last April, the company had Wes Welker, DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews pitch its products. Part of the reason behind this marketing effort is the fact that just 20% of men who suffer from light bladder leakage use any products for it. The move to bring in Siragusa along with the other players is part of a strategy to help promote the more masculine design of the product and remove the stigma associated with incontinent males.
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.
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. Baby boomers are more apt to feel annoyed, or frustrated. They want to get up and go without the fear of feeling restricted. This is especially true of women, but the occurrence of incontinence is three times more common among women than men and calculations show that one-fourth of the world’s women aged over 35, at some time in life will be affected.
“Incontinence effects in particular women who are pregnant or managing physical effects from bearing children,” says Jan O’ Regan, director of strategic initiatives, Cotton Incorporated. “This is part of the reason why women make up more than 80% of this market.”
These consumers are seeking products that address their key needs. According to research conducted by Cotton Inc., consumers’ main concerns are security and discretion, which involves leakage, absorbency, odor control and fit.
“The market is rising to demand with products that can cross the femhy/AI boundary,” says O’Regan. “The introduction of products that emulate ‘real’ underwear that are more comfortable and quiet without losing out on absorbency and fit are on target.”
Another major concern among consumers is skin health and comfort. “Skin sensitivity increases with age, therefore, these consumers continue to seek products that are also kind to the skin such as cotton,” says O’Regan. “Technical developments that enable cotton to provide moisture transport through a combination of hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity have been recently introduced to the market. As a topsheet, this development also provides the skin health benefits of natural, hypoallergenic cotton where skin can be particularly sensitive.”
Depend-ing on innovation
Consumers today, especially the Boomer population, are demanding better-performing absorbent undergarments. “They refuse to accept ‘institutional’ products like the big, bulky adult diapers from hospitals and nursing homes,” says Elizabeth Metz, director, Depend brand in North America for Kimberly-Clark Corp. “To a lesser degree, we see other trends such as younger, more active consumers using the product and also consumers entering the category with more disposable household income.”
Retailers are pursuing the category more aggressively to draw these consumers into their stores. “Online sales channels are also growing, which we believe reflects consumers’ interest in privacy and discretion as they experiment with products and styles to learn what works for them,” says Metz, who also believes the adult incontinence market is a healthy market with increasing competition given positive demographic trends and evolving technologies leading to more consumer-focused innovation.
“Consumers are demanding absorbent undergarments that fit more like underwear, and provide the protection that enables an active lifestyle,” she says. “This consumer is younger than people stereotypically think; adults often enter this category in their 50s and sometimes younger. Today’s products must be thinner, less bulky and offer better protection and comfort to fit active lifestyles.”
K-C has launched Depend Real Fit Briefs for Men and Depend Silhouette Briefs for Women designed to fit and feel more like real underwear. Additionally, Depend Guards for Men and Depend Shields for Men were launched last year to provide a more masculine solution for men with lighter bladder leakage.
In addition Depend brand has launched Depend Underwear with new Fit-Flex protection, which provides more Lycra strands for a smooth and comfortable close-to-the-body fit. As part of the launch Depend brand is featuring the personal journeys of real people with bladder control issues in a series of videos on www.depend.com. The videos follow real people as they experience the discreet fit of Depend Underwear with new Fit-Flex protection for themselves and gain a newfound sense of normalcy that helps give them the freedom and confidence they need every day.
“The Depend brand remains committed to introducing innovative solutions that can help improve the lives of people living with bladder leakage and reduce the stigma associated with this common condition,” says Metz. “We hope that highlighting the personal stories of these people will show men and women with bladder leakage that they don’t have to be embarrassed or let it slow them down.”
Europe’s market shift
In Europe the AI market is on the verge of a complete transformation, according to founder and CEO of Drylock Technologies, Bart Van Malderen. “The traditional AI market was in Europe mainly an institutional market, dominated by technical product performance and price,” he says. “But now a huge and potentially far bigger consumer market is arising, with focus on discretion and convenience.”
The institutional market will keep on growing due to demographic reasons, but this newer consumer market will grow because of lifestyle aspects. “More people are more active until older ages and want to retain their previous lifestyle and personal well-being,” says Van Malderen. “They also have increased buying power versus older generations and are willing to spend more money on products that allow them to continue living as before. As they are buying AI products for themselves, convenience is very important.”
Apart from the ongoing requirement for protection against leakage and wetness, modern consumers and institutions are putting more focus on personal and social compatibility of adult incontinence products, which translates into smaller, softer, thinner and more stretchable products.
“Key developments are in the direction of designing thinner, more discrete, more flexible, more elastic and softer products. This can ultimately only be achieved with true fluffless (i.e. without using fluff or airlaid materials) absorbing cores,” says Van Malderen. “A fully flexible diaper is by default a true fluffless diaper as a fluff or airlaid based core would not be flexible and is not elastic. If it is replaced by a nonwovens based core, these are already flexible and can be made elastic at very low additional cost. So that it becomes realistic to design superabsorbent underwear instead of incontinence diapers.”
The ultimate goal for the traditional all-in-one diaper is to achieve maximum comfort and performance at relatively low cost. “The cost aspect is very important as such traditional products remain the key products for the institutional market where budgets are always under pressure,” says Van Malderen.
Drylock Technologies has developed various fluffless core technologies allowing design of flexible and stretchable AI products. The company says it will launch full ranges of ultra-thin adult diapers, light inco products as well as adult pants in the near future. “The consumer market-oriented products will be completely fluffless, whereas the institutional market products will be extremely low on fluff,” says Van Malderen.
Domtar gets aggressive
Pascal Bosse, Domtar’s vice president of corporate communications and investor relations spoke in December at Citi’s sixth annual Basic Materials Conference. Among the topics he discussed was Domtar’s recent acquisition of Laboratorios Indas and how it fits into the company’s strategy of growing its personal care business, which will now represent 23% of the company’s $5.6 billion in annual sales.
“This is remarkable for a business that didn’t exist two years ago,” Bosse says. “In two years, we have made five acquisitions to build this business as an offset of our pulp and paper business.”
Not only is absorbent hygiene attractive to Domtar because it is a consumer of fluff pulp, a material the company makes in North Carolina, the company also believes it is able to offer a differentiated product line in this market, which is valued at $9 billion worldwide and growing fast.
“We see a lot of opportunities to be a differentiated player,” Bosse says noting that the purchase of absorbent core specialist EAM in particular will allow Domtar to innovate in the personal care world. “The market is expected to grow 8% until 2017,” he says. “We have the ability to at least grow with the market, if not grab some market share.”
The acquisition of Indas, which closed in early January, allows Domtar to become one of the leading adult incontinence products manufacturers in Europe and a truly pan-European supplier of adult incontinence products by bulking up its activity in the south of Europe with a manufacturing site and strong presence in Spain. Domtar already makes adult incontinence products in North Europe, at a Swedish plant acquired with the European business of Attends.
Meanwhile, Domtar’s acquisition of North American private label diaper manufacturer AHP earlier this year should open up adult incontinence retail channels in North America, which is currently much stronger on the institutional side of the business. “We hope to do some bundle packaging with the diaper business,” Bosse says.
A fully flexible future?
At his assessment of the diaper market at the Vision conference in January, longtime diaper industry expert Carlos Richer predicted that a fully elasticated diaper with cross directional stretch for adults will be the next big thing to revolutionize the diaper market. Surely the market for diapers, both adult and infant, has seen the addition of more stretchable components over the years, starting with more stretchable sides leading to elasticized side panels and backsheets. However, a fully elasticized diaper is still in the future.
While surely the stretch trend is being seen across both markets, experts predict more attention is being paid in the adult market where the wearer has a bigger say in which product to select. Add to this the adult consumer’s growing need stay active and stretch is a top priority for adult product manufacturers.
Adhesives play a major role in producing adult incontinence products to meet the growing demand for garments that are discrete, comfortable and effective, according to Heather Walch, North America business director nonwoven hygiene at adhesive manufacturer H.B. Fuller. The ultimate goal is to develop an adult incontinence product that offers the fit and comfort of a normal piece of clothing while still providing the functional assurance that it will not leak. She says adding stretchability to the chassis of the diaper has been explored for some time as one way to maintain normalcy, but a couple technical challenges must be overcome.
“The full stretch chassis of the diaper will likely impact core design,” Walch says. “Currently the core is securely fastened to backsheet. The fluid is managed through swelling of the core and does not detach from the backsheet. However, a full stretch chassis creates an environment where the chassis may be moving differently than the core, forcing manufacturers to re-evaluate assumptions around cores. The backsheet in a stretch chassis puts a retractive force on the core, which could impact fluid dynamics, especially as cores get thinner.”
Another technical challenge is the manufacturer’s continuous balance between fit and function. The most comfortable stretch materials give the user a good feeling when they are putting it on, before insult. After insult, the weight introduced in the core can cause the item to go from a body hugging undergarment to a loose fitting, non-discreet item, which can open the door for leaks.
While a full stretch chassis is appealing in concept, Walch says chassis will likely contain some components that are non-stretch. This challenges manufacturers to create a balance between maximizing comfort, while still having the core function exceptionally well.
Courtney Korselt, global communications and insight manager, global nonwovens business unit at Bostik, says stretchable features will expand more quickly on the retail side of the adult incontinence product. “In adult incontinence there are multiple approaches to adding stretch, including using strand elastic, stretchable film, extensive nonwovens or laminates,” she says. “Adding stretchable components requires a review of the entire product design because all parts of the product must work together to ensure good fit before and throughout use, especially given the volume of absorption required in an adult product.”
New products hit the market
New products are hitting the adult incontinence market rapidly. One new one is called B-Sure Absorbent Pads, a product designed to provide comfortable and discreet protection from accidental bowel leakage (ABL) and is being touted by its maker, Birchwood Laboratories, Eden Prairie, MN, as the original butterfly shaped absorbent pad. Proven in hospitals and in the marketplace for more than 10 years, the company says B-Sure Absorbent Pads are used by millions of men and women needing garment protection from occasional or ongoing ABL.
B-Sure Absorbent Pads are extremely thin, highly absorbent and serve as an alternative to bulky diaper-like undergarments, protecting clothing from staining associated with ABL, hemorrhoids, surgery and childbirth. The butterfly shaped pad fits comfortably between the buttocks, with no sticky, irritating adhesive needed says the company.
Because of their light weight and high absorbency, users can apply one or more B-Sure Pads at a time, as needed. They’re virtually invisible and conform comfortably to body contours, staying in place during normal activity. The comfortably soft B-Sure pads absorb 13 times their weight in water, for an extra measure of protection.
B-Sure Absorbent Pads are convenient to carry, and easily disposed of, in the privacy of a restroom. Made of all natural material, B-Sure Pads are flushable and biodegradable (not septic safe).
Another product draws inspiration from women of every age, according to Medline, creators of FitRight Pink designed to help women feel confident and comfortable. The FitRight Pink underwear features an extra soft, pink nonwoven fabric for a feminine appearance, a super absorbent core for exceptional dryness and leak guards for worry-free containment.
Medline also launched the new Continence Care Retail Program that is designed to help home medical equipment (HME) providers merchandise and sell continence care products. It also offers ways to diversify business models, maximize sales and expand cross-selling opportunities.
“For the first time the senior group 65 years of age and older is now the largest in terms of size and percent of the U.S. population,” says Rich Derks, durable medical equipment division president at Medline. “Given recent reimbursement changes impacting the HME landscape and baby boomers outspending other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services, it’s critical to provide functional, consumer-friendly options that still promote individuality.”
Manufacturers expand in response to global demand
As the demand for incontinence products gains steam around the world, diaper makers are expanding their footprints.
The Hartmann Group, a maker of products for adult incontinence and medical applications, established a production site in Domodedovo, Russia south of Moscow. The new site represents a multimillion investment for the company and allows it to make adult incontinence products close to the market for Russian customers, eliminating transportation costs. The associated logistics has also been centralized at the new location and includes about 19,000 pallet places. Hartmann has been making underpads and incontinence pads since the third quarter of 2013 at the Domodedovo site.
Japanese firm Kao Corp. is constructing a $50 million plant for sanitary products that will initally serve the baby diaper market but will expand to include adult diapers as Japan’s society ages.
In India, SCA announced it will invest about $113 million in local production of hygiene products in the southwest part of the county. Production will commence in 2015. The brands that SCA intends to launch in the Indian market includes the TENA brand for incontinence products.
Abena—Bambo Produktion A/S
DK, 6200 Aabenraa, Denmark
Contact: Arne Terp-Nielsen
Location of Plants: France, Denmark
Brand Names: Abrisan, Abriform, Abrilet, Abrisoft
Absorbent Products Co., Inc.
2121 Woodland Circle
Bowling Green, OH 43402-9257
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Articulos Higienicos S.A. de CV
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Statale dei Giovi km. 7
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3400 River Green Court #600
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Attends Healthcare Products
1029 Old Creek Road
Greenville, NC 27834
Toll Free: 800-428-8363
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80 Manheim Avenue
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1-2-27 Miyagwa Iyomishima
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Cira Centre, Suite 2600
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Strada Provinciale Nr.35 Km. 4
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1416 Union Avenue
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Anqing HengChang Machinery
Anqing, Anhui 246005
Contact: Kaan Lee
Beijing Wallong I/E Corp.
No. 26 South Yuetan Street
Bicma Hygiene Technologie GmbH
Industriegebiet Grubenfeld/Basaltweg 3
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Mayen, Eifel D-56727
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Via Giolitti, 19
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Viale Kennedy 40
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65010 Moscufo (PE)
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P.O. Box 903
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Via Aterno 136
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Teatino (Chieti) Italy
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Fujian Peixin Machine Manufacture Industry
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Luojiang, Quanzhou, Fujian
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Via Circonvallazione Sud
26010 Offanengo CR Italy
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No. 11 Zhonghan Road
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Pingyao, Hangzhou, Zhejiang
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Shiqi Industrial Garden
Fuqiao, Quanzhou, Fujian, P.R. China
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Investkonsult Sweden AB
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No.131 Jinhu West Road
Jinhu Jiangsu China 211600
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North Central Industrial Zone
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Jinjiang, Fujian, China
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280 rue de l’Oliveraie
34130 Valerques, France
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9G, AEPZ, Haicang Dist.
Xiamen, Fujian, China
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CH-6900 Lugano, Switzerland
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No. 138 Jinhu West Road
Jinhu County, Jiangsu Province, PR China
M.D. Viola Macchine Srl.
Via Lombardia 16/18,
Valle Salimbene Pavia 27010 Italy
Contact: Davide Viola
Winkler + Dunnebier Aktiengesellschaft
Sohler Weg 65; DE- 62820 Neuwied
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Xingshi Equipments Co., Ltd.
Address: Siheng Dong Road
Yuan Cun, Tian He
15-21 Minamibefu Settsu
Osaka, 566-0045 Japan
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Via Libero Grassi 1
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Phone: +49 4499 820
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FOCKE & CO., INC
5730 Millstream Road
Whitsett, NC 27377
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OPTIMA Filling and Packaging Machines GmbH
74523 Schwaebisch Hall
Tel: +49 791 506-0
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Via Mengolina, 22
48018 Faenza, Ravenna
Contact: Davide Montanari