The personal care wipes market has seen consistent growth worldwide over the past decade, and there are no signs of a slowdown. According to market tracker Euromonitor International, the retail volume for personal care wipes has nearly doubled from 2003 to 2013, from 93 billion units to almost 170 billion units sold, respectively.
“Total personal care wipes sales reached $8.2 billion (constant value, fixed exchange rate) in 2013, with positive growth of 2% over 2012,” says Svetlana Uduslivaia, Head of Tissue & Hygiene Industry for Euromonitor International. “Convenience and ease of use—especially on the go—remain the key driver of consumer demand and growth, along with product development—including increasingly more products marketed as more eco-friendly—and marketing to encourage use.”
Euromonitor predicts there will be a 3% growth in constant value terms in U.S. dollars (fixed exchange rate) and a 3% growth in volume terms, at compound annual growth rate, during the 2013-2018 time period. The total dollars estimated in 2018 will reach $9.3 billion.
Flushability has been a topic of discussion during the past several years, and the nonwovens industry is doing its best to guide manufacturers on how to label their products accordingly in order to ensure end-users flush only the appropriate items.
While much of the waste clogging up drains are products that shouldn’t be flushed, such as paper towels and baby wipes, wipes that are designed for flushing are getting a bad rap. A quick Google search on flushable wipes will bring up a number of articles on clogged up pipes or sewer systems and to combat this stigma, manufacturers are working hard to educate consumers on which wipes can be flushed.
“Flushability remains a confusing topic for many manufacturers and consumers,” says Jeff Maxon, vice president of Technical Services, Kleen Test Products, a contract manufacturer. “INDA is applying significant resources against educating the industry and consumers on what is and what is not flushable.”
Maxon is referring to the guidelines for evaluating flushability created by INDA, the association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, and EDANA, the European Disposables and Nonwovens Association. Together, these groups have focused on the area of flushability since 2004 and encourage makers of nonwoven wipes to implement the guidelines “to help companies assess their product prior to making a flushable claim.” INDA and EDANA promote a “Do Not Flush” logo to be placed on products that don’t hold up to the guidelines, or if they are products that have “significant potential to be flushed, even if not designed or marketed for this purpose,” according to INDA’s website.
“With the uncertainty of the long term regulatory status of flushable products, many companies are taking a wait and see approach before expanding their utilization of this claim,” Maxon comments.
This subject is a top priority for wet wipes producer Nice-Pak, as well as its retail partners and consumers, therefore the company has put dollars toward “innovative technologies and consumer education,” according to Linda Mayer, director, corporate communications, Nice-Pak Products/PDI. “Our new Advanced Flushable Technology is the latest example of our commitment to creating high quality products that are environmentally responsible,” she says.
Nice-Pak is also aware of the confusion consumers face in relation to flushability. “We also recognize that there is quite a bit of misinformation about which products are safe to flush,” Mayer says. “While media headlines often single out wet wipes, forensic studies have shown that most wastewater problems are caused by flushing paper towels and other items that were never designed or intended to be flushed.”
As part of Nice-Pak’s consumer education initiatives, the company claims it was among the first to place the “Do Not Flush” logo on packaging for wipes not meant to be flushed. “We also partnered with INDA and the Maine Wastewater Control Association on a pilot campaign that successfully educated consumers that baby wipes and other non-flushable wipes should not be flushed, but disposed on in solid (trash) cans,” adds Mayer. Information on this initiative can be found at SaveYourPipes.org.
While the industry and manufacturers are making efforts to inform end-users on what’s flushable, industry consultant Susan Stansbury doesn’t think companies are doing enough. “Sometimes there is not enough information on packages,” she says. “Recently I observed a product that said ‘flushable’ on the package, but showed a drawing indicating the user should throw it in the trash. In addition, products that just have the word flushable are likely to be non-degradable.”
Even with this uncertainty and confusion, shoppers are still demanding products that can go down the drain.
“In the personal care space we are seeing growing demand for flushable wipes like moist toilet tissue and feminine hygiene wipes,” says Bill Lutz, vice president sales & marketing for Premier Care Industries. He says the company is also seeing interest in flushability for hemorrhoid wipes and baby wipes.
Outside of diapering, Kelly Jackson, brand manager of Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle brand, confirms the importance of flushability for households. “Consumers want the option to flush their wipes, and we expect that behavior will continue well into the future. So, our focus is to provide truly flushable solutions and then encourage consumers to use the right product when flushing.”
K-C has its own way of educating users on the subject. According to Jackson, the company promotes flushability by displaying its own SafeFlush Technology logo on all of its flushable wipes packages, aiding quick shopper recognition.
“But a lot of consumers never really think about what happens after flushing the wipe, and we’re trying to change that,” Jackson says, adding that the Cottonelle brand recently launched a “Seeing is Believing” challenge. Through the program, shoppers were encouraged to compare how various wipes break up in water. “A lot of consumers were surprised to see such big differences between products—so it was a unique way to show the value that a good flushable wipe provides.”
In response to demands, nonwoven machinery producer Trützschler Nonwovens collaborated with Voith Paper to create a dispersible substrate. According to Trützschler’s Jutta Stehr, group marketing manager, Trützschler and Voith Paper’s wetlaid-spunlaced material was among the first to be tested according to the INDA/EDANA guidelines. “During the last two years Voith Paper and Trützschler Nonwovens jointly developed a process for manufacturing flushable and 100% biodegradable substrates,” says Stehr. “Both companies invested more time, manpower and machine hours in product development than usual because both recognized the potential of the technology. Flushability is only the beginning. The efforts paid off by supplying several wetlaying/spunlacing lines for flushable wipe material.”
Customer Demands...from Substrate to Use
When it comes to wipe substrates within personal care, users seek products that are soft, durable and feature optimal cleaning properties.
“While there are some great personal care wipes in the market, consumers are looking for an even better cleaning experience,” says K-C’s Jackson. “They want personal care wipes to be the gold standard for personal freshness outside of showering—and many are looking for a more compelling difference versus dry bath tissue and other solutions. So, the industry has more work to do in delivering against that standard.”
Carolin Weber, sales director Hygiene and Wipes for Sandler, explains that personal care wipes manufacturers are looking for softness and uniformity in nonwoven substrates, which is something the company will likely continue to focus on in the future. “Soft Sandler nonwoven substrates are gentle on the skin, thus increasing comfort in the use of personal care wipes, while featuring excellent cleaning properties,” says Weber. “They promote a fresh and silky feel and are also suitable for impregnation with skin care preparations—ideal materials for cleansing, removing make-up, or refreshing the skin. Sandler also provides a variety of different surface structures, which increase the nonwoven substrate’s dirt-holding capacity.”
Weber adds that because Sandler’s substrates feature an even surface with high opacity, even at a low base weight, the uniformity “increases the wipes’ cleaning efficiency.”
As for the actual category of wipes consumers are demanding within personal care, experts are seeing a trend toward unique specialty wipes, specifically in skincare.
The market for personal care wipes is maturing, according to Kleen Test’s Maxon, and the company is hearing an increasing demand for wipes with “unique and differentiating claims.”
“This category runs the gamut from commoditized hand and face wipes to very specialized premium products,” says Maxon. “Consumers are looking for convenient and portable wipe products to complement their traditional liquid skin care regimen. This expectation is driving proliferation into many smaller segments that have not been historically available.”
Specialty wipes that are gaining interest include anti-aging solutions, serum delivery and wrinkle relaxation, Maxon explains. “Kleen Test Products continues to develop new products to meet this growing need. We provide base formulations that can be customized for our customers to meet specific consumer and marketing needs.”
Contract manufacturer Diamond Wipes, which also distributes its own branded wipes, recognizes the demand for skincare related products.
“Across the board, consumers still have appearance related concerns, specifically with aging,” says Cali Carter, marketing coordinator for Diamond Wipes/La Fresh. “There continues to be a growing trend in anti-aging products that prove efficacy.”
New or Improved
Over the last year wipes makers have come out with a variety of new products, giving wipes-aficionados something fresh to try out. Yes to, Inc., a global leader in natural skin and hair care, is known for products made with fruits and veggies. Joy Chen, CEO of Yes to, emphasizes the importance of wipes in personal care.
“Wipes are very big categories in baby, beauty, and cleaning,” says Chen. “They have become very popular in the last 10 years due to consumers searching [for] convenience in their lives.”
Yes to wipes are made of FSC certified material, are compostable, and are 98% natural, and Chen claims that the company was the first natural beauty brand to introduce natural face wipes. “We created the natural wipe category which did not exist four years ago. It is now a big part of natural beauty,” she adds.
Yes to debuted its latest fruit- and veggie-laced wipes products in 2014—Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes and Yes to Limited Edition Wipes. The coconut scented wipes, which can be used on the body, face, neck and hands, are ideal for dry skin types and are made with a nourishing formula that intensely moisturizes and relieves dry, cracked skin, according to the company.
For last year’s holiday season, Yes to teamed up with YouTube beauty guru Ingrid Nilsen of MissGlamorazzi to create limited edition packaging for the company’s Yes to Blueberries Cleansing Facial Wipes and Yes to Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes. During the campaign, Yes to and Nilsen opened the collaboration up to students in the Packaging Design Class at the Fashion Institute of Design in Los Angeles in San Francisco. One lucky student’s design was chosen, and the limited edition designs hit shelves during the 2014 holiday season and will be available through April of this year.
Well-known natural products company Burt’s Bees, which has offered natural personal care products for 30 years, came out with a selection of new towelettes in 2014. The company’s Pink Grapefruit Towelettes and Cucumber & Sage Towelettes launched last February, while its Peach & Willow Bark Exfoliating Facial Cleansing Towelettes debuted in July.
Made specifically for normal to oily skin, Burt’s Bees says the Pink Grapefruit towelettes wash away dirt, oil and make-up without rinsing, while its Cucumber and Sage towelettes are crafted for normal to dry skin, removing make-up, cleansing and toning the skin without rinsing. Further, the Peach & Willow Bark Exfoliating Facial Cleansing towelettes cleanse, gently exfoliate and tone without rinsing. According to the company, willow bark is a natural source of salicylic acid, which “removes dead skin cells and encourages healthy cell turnover, leaving skin feeling smooth and revitalized.”
La Fresh, a Diamond Wipes consumer brand founded in 2007, offers wipes for makeup removal, facial cleansing, nail polish removal, personal hygiene and sunscreen. The skincare-focused and eco-conscious label, which touts its water conservation efforts on its website, branches off into three brands: TravelLite, Eco-Beauty, and the Eco-Beauty Be Good skincare line, which launched last year.
According to Carter, items in the Eco-Beauty Be Good line, which include face-cleansing wipes, “are made with a natural anti-aging botanical complex to help maintain a fresh, youthful skin appearance.”
Meanwhile, in the moist toilet tissue category, major corporation Kimberly-Clark recently upgraded one of its products. The new CleanRipple Texture for Cottonelle FreshCare flushable cleansing cloths enables the wipes to remove more. “With this new feature we can deliver a better cleaning experience and hopefully start to change expectations about what a personal wipe can deliver,” says Jackson.
Originally debuting in 1989, Nice-Pak’s Nice ‘N Clean line of eco-friendly personal care wipes addressed customer demands for soft, durable wipes made from plant-based materials, according to Mayer. Most recently, Nice-Pak introduced a refillable dispenser for the Nice N’ Clean moist flushable wipes, available in brushed nickel and bronze finishes, that can be fixed to a wall or placed on the back of a toilet. Additionally, the company reintroduced its Wet-Nap brand wipes in 2014. The antibacterial wipes are “strong and gentle, kill 99.9% of germs and are consumer preferred 3:1 over the leading national brand,” according to Mayer.
Not Your Ordinary Wipes
While makeup removers and exfoliating wipes may have once been considered niche products, wipes offering even more specific tasks have been entering the market. Whether these specialty products prove successful depends on whether they offer a significant convenience for customers and are worth the cost.
“Niche wipes are successful when they deliver convenience and performance features valued by consumers,” says Stansbury. “In some cases, consumers ‘discover’ these wipes and are interested enough to try them and then the question is whether they will be repeat buyers.”
Sure to raise some eyebrows is a new specialty wipe created by legendary cannabis activist, pop culture icon, and Grammy award-winning comedian Tommy Chong. In November, Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipe debuted, which is designed to swipe away the smell of cannabis and tobacco odor on clothing. Chong teamed up with Reviver Clothing Wipes to develop the product.
“While our culture is rapidly accepting cannabis consumption as a way of life, it’s fair to acknowledge that smelling like cannabis in many public settings may not be cool,” Chong said at the time of the announcement. “I could have used my Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipe 10 years ago to save me from a lot of headaches. Now, those who partake in it can keep it to themselves.”
In addition to the Smoke Swipes, Reviver, which was featured on the hit reality TV show Shark Tank in October, offers its own niche dry wipes. Reviver’s Clothing Swipe that debuted in 2013 is infused with its patent-pending RefreshTek technology, which the company says “leaves your clothes smelling crisp and fresh while eliminating unwanted odors.” The Clothing Swipes are non-toxic and can be used up to 10 times.
Reviver also offers Spark Clothing Swipes For Men and Spark Clothing Swipes For Women, which are also dry and reusable. Truly setting these wipes apart are the fact that they’re infused with pheromones. That’s right—pheromones—which are defined as “a chemical substance that an animal or insect produces in order to attract other animals or insects and especially a mate,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. So, for those looking to attract a mate, Spark markets the products as “chemistry for clothes,” which allow consumers to “‘swipe on sexy’ and step up your game.” The Spark wipes are also feature odor neutralizers and fragrance.
Reviver also sells Pet Swipes for Dogs, which “eliminate unwanted odors that cling to your dog’s coat,” according to the company.
Arvell Technology Comes to Market
In October, Polish wipes maker Harper Hygienics announced it would start manufacturing wipes using Arvell technology supplied by wipes converting line specialist Teknoweb. The wipes using this technology are sold under the Cleanic Kindii brand for children and Cleanic brand of refreshing wipes and feminine hygiene wipes.
According to Carmine Cimini of Teknoweb, Arvell offers wipes converters a lower cost option for backward integrating into nonwovens production.
Based on proprietary technology acquired by an Italian company and honed by Teknoweb, Arvell technology has been designed to enable intimate blending of the two types of fibers, which are then assembled into a web by thermocalendering technology. The result is a web that shows unsurpassed performance in terms of absorption through a process that gives manufacturers unlimited options when it comes to raw materials.
A completely dry process, Arvell does not require the use of hydroentanglement for bonding and the absence of water, giving it a better sustainability profile. In fact, a recent lifecycle assessment found Arvell to have a carbon impact at least 38% lower than spunlace and to impact 46-87% lower than spunlace in 10 other environmental factors.
“There are many reasons why this makes sense for wipes makers to have,” Cimini said in October. “The environmental factor is one thing. It also allows them to do what they want with their lines. This line is made to be very flexible.”
Robert Neymann, president of Harper Hygienics, has said consumer tests of the new line were met with positive reactions and he was confident that Arvell would bring a new value proposition to the market.
“I believe that the quantum leap which we have made with this project, in conjunction with the clear benefits on the cost side, will contribute to a rapid increase in the scale of Harper’s operations and soon will be clearly and positively reflected in the financial results of the company,” Neymann added.
Wipes in Emerging Markets
While personal care wipes are popular in mature markets, experts agree that use of these products in emerging regions will depend upon price, and more people will show interest as incomes rise.
According to Euromonitor’s Uduslivaia, emerging markets are seeing growth, but not for all personal care wipes. Regarding total sales, some categories remain very small or insignificant, she says, and “growth is not universally positive” for all wipes within personal care.
“For instance, intimate wipes remain negligible in markets like China,” Uduslivaia explains. “At the same time, deodorant wipes showed a significant drop in Latin America while facial cleansing wipes saw a healthy upper single digit growth. While increased incomes and product availability help to support demand for wipes that provide convenient personal hygiene solutions, not all wipes are perceived as worth spending money on. Turning products into indispensable and convenient part of personal care can be a major challenge for manufacturers and retailers. Consumer awareness, consumer perceptions, price, in-store availability, and product variety all play a role.”
In Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific, personal care wipes—in volume terms—showed stronger gains in 2013, compared to more mature markets, according to Uduslivaia. In unit volume, she adds that China and India grew in the double digits.
“In terms of types of wipes, growth was mainly coming from general purpose personal wipes, baby wipes and, to some extent, facial cleansing wipes,” Uduslivaia concludes.
The success of personal care wipes in emerging markets will be contingent upon price, says Trützschler’s Stehr, adding that people in these areas will use convenience products when they can afford them. “My personal hope is that moist wipes can make a breakthrough in countries with low hygienic standards. In places where water is a scarce resource, such wipes could be a good way to prevent the spreading of diseases.”
Though, because of the high cost of investing in a nonwovens and converting line, this becomes an issue for local/regional wipe production, Stehr explains.
Companies like Sandler and Kleen Test also agree that where there’s an increase in income, there’s an increase for demand.
“Wipes are a value added product, which carries a premium cost over liquid alternatives,” says Maxon. “As such, emerging markets are slow to adopt as their consumer economics develop. In markets where consumers have increasing disposable income, wipe products are beginning to expand.” He adds that Kleen Test is seeing growth in Asia.
Sandler is noticing that personal care wipes are gaining popularity in developing regions, but solely among the middle and upper class. “These disposables still are somewhat of a luxury item,” says Weber.
Committing to the Environment
Companies in the industry continue to adopt environmental sustainability, whether through their final products or their overall business operations, keeping the Earth a top priority.
“Our commitment is to meet growing demands for wet wipe solutions through business practices that respect the environment, which we call Thinking Green, Working Clean,” says Nice-Pak’s Mayer. “We partner closely with our customers and suppliers to enhance sustainability performance, as well as participate in ongoing education and awareness to help the public understand appropriate use and disposal of wet wipes.”
In addition to using plant-based materials for many of its wipes, Nice-Pak recently installed a solar array on the roof of its headquarters and plant in Orangeburg, NY. According to Mayer, the solar array will reduce the company’s “environmental footprint by up to 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.” Additionally, she says Nice-Pak’s manufacturing locations in New York and Indiana are “zero-landfill operations.”
Meanwhile, Sandler aims to practice sustainability through all of its processes, according to Weber, “from energy-efficient production technology, to the use of raw materials from natural sources to certification according to sustainability standards.”
To reduce energy consumption, Weber says the company uses an energy monitoring system in its production lines. The company also uses raw materials from natural sources such as viscose, cotton or PLA together, which makes up nearly a quarter of Sandler’s raw materials.
“In cooperation with our partners we also developed a wipes substrate made from 100% viscose,” she says. “The nonwoven is biodegradable and the raw materials are sourced in Europe, reducing emissions during transport. This bio wipe substrate is also certified according to the PEFC standard. Sandler is also certified according to the FSC and PEFC standards for its nonwovens containing viscose fibres, supporting sustainable forestry and the conservation of natural resources.”
In 2008, Sandler implemented the “Less is Best to Nature” program to reduce raw material consumption. This lowered the basis weight of the company’s wipes substrates without compromising their properties and functionality, according to Weber.
Machinery companies are also doing their part for the environment. According to Stehr, Trützschler Nonwovens, which is a member of Blue Competence, the sustainability initiative of the German machine building and engineering association (VDMA), most recently worked to increase line productivity and reduce the energy consumption of single machines. Stehr says its new high-speed foulard for chemical bonding lines, which will be presented at ITMA 2015 in Milan, Italy, features higher productivity. “This twin roll applicator is a proven unit, but newly designed accessories allow for a 50% increase in speed,” Stehr adds.
Trützschler’s Streamliner is a new dryer for spunlacing lines. Stehr says its spiral design optimizes airflow within the dryer, which increases evaporation capacity and reduces energy consumption by up to 30%. Stehr indicates that Trützschler Nonwovens will discuss an energy management system across all machines at ITMA 2015.