Beyond Softness

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 26, 2014

In the evolution of wipes, what they contain has become just as important as how they feel. Efficacy now, as well as aesthetics, plays an increasingly important role in a product’s success.

Soft as a baby’s butt…but what else? For years, wipes have been promoted for how they feel on the skin in comparison to alternatives such as tissues or toilet paper. Today, the most successful wipes are touted for what they can do for the consumer’s skin, her cleanups, and even tough spills on factory floors.

“Aveeno recognized the increasing consumer demand for makeup removing wipes and wanted to deliver on that preference with its consumers,” according to Florence Grossman, senior brand manager, Aveeno, a Johnson & Johnson brand, which recently rolled out Makeup Removing Wipes under its Positively Radiant Collection.

But instead of just removing makeup, these wipes also contain something called Active Naturals Total Soy Complex that works to reveal brighter, smoother, healthier looking skin while also removing makeup, including waterproof mascara, according to Grossman.

Features like these are a big reason why specialized wipes continue to grow faster than baby care wipes in most US outlets. Sales of wipes rose nearly 4% to more than $1.6 billion for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 16, 2014, according to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, IL. But while sales of baby wipes increased 2.85% to more than $1.1 billion during the time period, sales of moist towelettes jumped nearly 6.50% to almost $494 million (see charts on page 23). Both are good gains, but with private label holding the top spots in both categories, it is clear that marketers must do more innovating if they want to stay ahead of copycat store brands and play an important role in the wipes success story. Marketers are responding to the challenge with new wipes that boast attributes consumers won’t find in a private label product—for now.

Years ago, Clorox snapped up Burt’s Bees in an effort to gain a stronghold in the fast-growing naturals category that, according to recent data from SPINS, is growing more than 13% a year and exceeds $90 billion (retail) in the US. To further emphasize its commitment to the natural space, the company introduced the güd by Burt’s Bees line of personal care products, which are billed as being paraben-, phthalates- and petrolatum-free. The güd line includes shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and, most recently, wipes.

The güd by Burt’s Bees Natural Cleansing Wipes are described as being soft, natural towelettes that can be used to remove dirt and sweat and leaving behind an invigorating cooling sensation and deodorizing effect.

E for Effort

Other companies are working with natural ingredients to create eco-friendly wipes, too. Earlier this year, for example, derma e, Simi Valley, CA, launched Hydrating Facial Wipes and Very Clear Oil-Free Acne Wipes. While both products are promoted for their convenience, company executives are also quick to point out what the wipes have—and what they don’t.

“This is our first entry in the wipes category,” explained Jennifer Norman, VP-marketing, derma e. “Wipes have been a growing trend for the longest time.”

But derma e didn’t get on the wipes wave at first because the brand is positioned as being natural and eco-friendly and company executives wanted to come up with a product that was as environmentally friendly as possible.

“The outer packaging has always been an issue; we wanted a recyclable outer package. Consumers may save water using wipes, but they throw away a lot of packaging material,” said Norman.

To solve that issue, derma e wipes are packaged in a recyclable pouch made from monolayer PET No. 7 that still keeps the wipes moist enough to pass a three-year water loss test. The move to PET No. 7 was an important switch for the company and its customer who, according to Norman, is a woman, 45-55 years old. She mirrors the Whole Foods customer in that she is very into natural ingredients, health and wellness and is concerned about what she uses, reads labels and does her research.

“She’s looking for alternatives that have questionable ingredients,” explained Norman.

That inquisitiveness is why the derma e wipes are made from 100% rayon, which, according to Norman, is more compostable than cotton. Furthermore, it takes more water to produce a cotton wipe in comparison to a rayon wipe.

“Rayon is the preferred choice for people looking for a solution that is more eco-friendly from start to finish in the supply chain,” insisted Norman, who said it takes anywhere from 7,000 to 29,000 metric tons of water to produce cotton compared to just 500 metric tons to produce the same amount of rayon.

What’s in ‘Em?

As a result of these choices, the company bills its new wipes as being made from 100% compostable rayon and says it is one of the first US brands to introduce wipes in 100% recyclable outer packaging.

The derma e wipes are available in two formulas: hydrating and anti-acne. The former contains a great amount of hyaluronic acid—just like derma e’s traditional bottle-based formula. But company chemists had to develop a non-rinsing hyaluronic-based formula that still lived up to the derma e promise of being paraben-, GMO- and gluten-free.

The hydrating wipes are said to lift away makeup, oil and impurities while thoroughly hydrating, softening and smoothing skin. Each naturally scented, pre-moistened wipe is infused with hyaluronic acid that helps condition, soften and smooth skin, leaving it fresh and dewy, according to derma e. Moreover, the wipes are fortified with superfruit extracts grape seed and maqui berry, which are said to offer antioxidant protection while keeping skin clean and refreshed.

The company’s Very Clear Oil-Free Acne Wipes promise to dissolve acne-causing bacteria, oil and makeup. Each fragrance-free, pre-moistened wipe contains 0.5% salicylic acid acne medication to lift away pore-clogging dirt and impurities. The formula is fortified with natural botanicals like willow bark, aloe and chamomile to soothe redness and irritation for calm, clearer, healthier looking skin. Each wipe variety retails for $7.99 for a 25-count package.

But not every derma-e formula is wipe-worthy. Norman noted that the company could not convert its tea tree formula into a wipe.

“Tea tree isn’t compatible with wipes,” she explained. “It’s a science to make sure that the formula and the package work well together so that you don’t have negative things happening to the formula or the packaging. A lot of fragrance oils are not compatible with certain packaging. Tea tree is a natural oil, but it is a potent oil. It wasn’t working with the plastic that we selected for the pouch.”

The company offers more than 80 products, which are billed as being cruelty-free and 100% vegan, and can be found in over 8,000 retail outlets in the US and distributed in 25 other countries. With that kind of a lineup, there may be more opportunities coming wipes’ way.

“Because this is our first foray into wipes, we are taking a wait-and-see approach before we commit to the form,” cautioned Norman. “There is a possibility that we will develop more wipes and there are several more derma e lines that are compatible with the form, but we want to gauge consumers’ reaction to the launch.”

While derma e tracks customer response, market leaders are rolling along with innovative wipes of their own. Kimberly-Clark, for example, the No. 2 national brand in the wipes category, according to IRI, recently announced that its designer tubs have been awarded the 2014 Product of the Year winner in the baby care category by Product of the Year USA, a consumer-selected award celebrating product quality and innovation.

Huggies Wipes feature sleek packaging in multiple designs that are filled and re-fillable with Huggies Natural Care Wipes with Triple Clean layers that are said to be gentle on baby’s skin, yet thick enough to clean everything from baby’s hands, faces and bottoms to high chairs and kitchen counters.

“Parents have known all along that baby wipes can clean more than just baby bottoms. But, we discovered that parents did not like the look of the baby-looking packaging in their main living spaces, so they would tuck wipes away which made it hard to get to them when messes happened,” said Keegan Coulter, senior brand manager, Huggies. “Our designer tubs are the perfect solution—they have discrete branding and on-trend graphics that can be proudly left out in any room of the house. We’re thrilled to be chosen as Product of the Year and are excited to introduce new graphic designs this summer to continue to provide effective, convenient and stylish products to meet parents’ needs.”

Huggies Designer Tubs are available at grocery stores and mass retailers nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.99.

The Nose Knows

Heads or tails, or more precisely, babies’ noses or their bottoms? Wipes can be used for cleaning both areas, but when it comes to getting the job done right, a lot of those little noses could use a little help, according to the entrepreneur behind Boogie Wipes, a wipe that contains saline solution to make clearing nasal passages quick and easy.

Little Busy Bodies, LLC, the manufacturer of Boogie Wipes Saline Nose Wipes, is the brainchild of Julie Pickens who realized there was need for saline wipes when she was trying to use saline nose drops on her three girls’ sore, red, runny noses.

“To find a manufacturer, I’m almost embarrassed to say, we Googled it!,” recalled Pickens. “We needed one who would take a chance on a niche. We reached out several different ones that would do a small run. We started making them in Israel. A year later we went with a US company. We threw ourselves into the fire.”

Their idea caught fire, too. Boogie Wipes debuted in 2007 in very small boutiques to gauge consumers’, aka moms’, interest. A month later, online sales debuted and sales soared. Consumers loved the products, remembered Pickens.

“We received a very emotional response,” she told Happi. “Moms loved the name and slogans such as: Snot Your Average Wipe!”

That playful attitude works too with the brand’s demographic, from babies to tweens. While moms use Boogie Wipes on babies, toddlers prefer the grape and berry scented variants and young girls use it to take off their makeup. Boogie Wipes are cheaper than other wipes, too; a 90-count pack retails for $7.99—the same price that Neutrogena charges for a 25-count pack. Consumers like what they see as sales of Boogie Wipes soared more than 17% to $15.3 million during the past year, according to IRI. That move makes the company the No. 5 player in the moist towelettes segment, behind multinationals such as Kimberly Clark, Playtex Products and Procter & Gamble (see chart).

Pickens is particular about her substrate as well, which is a spun-lace nonwoven with incredible loft and excellent softness.

“Softness is the No. 1 reason why moms love our wipes,”  said Pickens. “They don’t have to keep asking their kids to wipe their noses as there is no chapping and no friction. Plus, kids like to say ‘boogie!’”

Boogie Wipes are available just about everywhere and Little Busy Bodies expanded its product offerings with a saline mist in 2013. More new products are planned for 2015.

“We have aggressive growth plans, with new SKUs and new fragrances,” asserted Pickens.

Going for Growth

Little Busy Bodies isn’t the only company finding new growth opportunities in wipes. Gojo Industries, the company behind Purell hand sanitizer, is entering the wipes category via its February acquisition of Laboratoires Prodene Klint. Based in France, Prodene Klint specializes in professional hygiene, cosmetics and disinfectant products. Founded in 1973, Prodene Klint has become a major player in the French professional hygiene market and the cosmetic wipes market, according to Gojo executives.

“Prodene Klint is a market leader in France,” explained Tim Dye, group vice president and general manager for Gojo International Business. “(The acquisition) helps us expand our presence in Europe as we join forces. It really helps us in hand hygiene which we are already in, as well as cosmetics, disinfectants and wipes, so it expands our presence.”

Dye said the two companies are still in the process of exploring and learning from each other, but said he expects Gojo’s European sales to benefit, as well.

“In our wipes business, we have had strong success with Purell wipes in the US, but not much (success) in Europe,” he explained. “This gives us a base to build off of with wipes that are made on the Continent.”

The Prodene Klint wipes lineup includes Prodene Adulta, a pre-moistened wipe impregnated with cleansing solution; Prodene Aseptil, nonwoven wipes impregnated with bacterial and fungicidal solution (both aimed at healthcare facility operators) and anti-grafitti wipes. Aside from building a bigger presence in Europe, the Prodene Klint purchase will help Gojo serve key global customers, expand its portfolio and provide access to more diverse ideas and resources—and geography.

“Gojo has historically been a US company,” explained Dye. “Just by having a strong manufacturing presence in France will give us access to more diverse ideas and resources.”

Is It a Wipe or What?

As Gojo develops a certain, *Je ne sais quoi, Precision Fabrics Group, Greensboro, NC, is trying to define a new market for its cleaning towel, which can be used in the kitchen, bathroom and garage. But unlike a traditional wipe, this nonwoven laminate is designed to be washed and reused. In fact, it can survive as many as 20 go-rounds in the washing machine, according to the company.

The patent pending design gives this towel the strength and absorbency to replace woven cotton and terry towels that are up to three times heavier in weight. It is made with a very absorbent fiber exterior and a polyester core for strength, according to Precision Fabrics Group.

“We were challenged two years ago to replace Huck towels,” recalled Mark P. Painley, business director, consumer products, Precision Fabrics Group, Inc. “It is designed to replace terrycloth towels imported from Pakistan that you will find in bars and other businesses.”

Ultimately, however, Painley has his eye on the consumer market. It can be used in the kitchen, bathroom, and garage for all types of cleaning chores. In the kitchen it can replace dishrags used for cleaning dirty pots and pans, and it can be used with spray cleaners on counter tops, appliances, cook tops and even floors. This towel is so absorbent that it can replace the cotton dish towels normally used for drying work surfaces, utensils and dishware.

“In near term, it will replace terry cloth in establishments—that’s step one,” predicted Painley. “But I hope it finds its way to retail shelves so that the consumer can have it and use it around the house. We’ve been told that our strength and absorbency fits well with planograms at retailers such as Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s.”

If Painley’s timetable is right, the next generation of wipes should hit retail shelves in about a year.

Related Application: