Flushable Baby Wipes
I have often wondered if there is a market here or not. Many new mothers probably don’t know that most baby wipes are not flushable. I understand that typically when you use one as instructed you generally fold it into the diaper (I did my share a few years ago), but if someone uses it as a moist toilet paper they’re just clogging sewer systems. Would consumers pay a slight premium for a flushable version? I don’t know, but I bet if all baby wipes were flushable it would be better for the environment and there would be some happier municipalities.
Specialty European Wipes
A great opportunity in Europe may be for specialty wipes. It was reported at World of Wipes in 2013 by Engqvist Consulting that approximately 85% of all personal wipes consumed in Western Europe were baby wipes, which are used for everything from stains to toys to pets. This will take a major educational effort along with navigating the seemingly endless regulations, which may vary by country. New opportunities include kitchen & bath, multi-surface, automotive and industrial. The wide array of the markets will offer substrates from different nonwoven platforms to find markets.
Two Sided Wipes
A few years ago SoftScrub had a needlepunch product in the market that had a soft absorbent side and an abrasive side for scrubbing. A beautiful design with the scrubby side in purple and the wiping side in white, it didn’t last long on the market. Was it too expensive? Maybe, but perhaps it could have been enhanced by treating with a water activated soap or detergent, or making it a wet wipe individually packed to make it more interesting. There’s not much like it on the market now, but a “multi-tasker” should offer some advantages to a “uni-tasker” (apologies to Alton Brown).
Much has been done over the last decade to improve wet wipe packaging, but more work is needed. The resealable ”travel” wet wipe pouches can still be difficult to get a wipe out, either because the consumer can’t find the edge of the wipe or multiple wipes are removed from the pouch at the same time. When the latter happens and someone tries to put the extra wipe(s) back in the pouch, many times the unit will not seal back properly, drying out the remaining wipes. From personal experience a dry wet wipe is not a happy sight.
Pop-up canister wipes can have their own challenges as well. If the plastic cap is too stiff or sharp, it is possible to tear the wipe, especially lighter weight spunlace. Also, if the wipe falls back into the canister, a consumer could cut a finger trying to “reload” the wipe through the pop-up lid. It would be nice, too, if the wipes would tear at the perforation more easily.
Capacity for Larger Wet Wipes
In 2014, my company, Nonwovens By Design was approached by two companies looking for oversized single wet wipes. Finding converting capabilities proved to be difficult, especially at lower start-up volumes. We were eventually successful and the projects are moving forward, but it seems there may be a need to run products up to 24” x 24”, folded, dosed and packaged. Most converters seem to max out around 8” x 12” or 10” x 12” (unfolded) single pack. These larger wipes could mimic a bath towel, make institutional bathing easier or possibly apply wax to a car. This nay not be a huge market now, but it could be down the road for specialty applications.
Considerations for a New Product Launch
There are many other hot topics to consider in the wipes market if you are contemplating a new product launch:
• Substrates – There are many different nonwoven products available for wipes depending on your need. Absorbency, abrasiveness? Compostability, flushability? Oil or solvent absorbency? Softness? Be sure to evaluate all types of fabrics to determine the best fabric for performance, cost and availability.
• Sustainablilty – Does it need to be compostable? Fiber choice and nonwoven technology determines what product claims can be made. Consider viscose, cotton and PLA, among others.
• Formulation – Unless you have microbiologists on staff, it is best to seek outside resources with your ideas. Not only do you need to identify your active ingredients but also preservatives to make sure the product remains stable.
• Flushability – If this is important to your application be sure to have the product tested against the INDA Guidance Document. If it is not a flushable product, be sure to have the “Do Not Flush” icon and wording in an obvious place on your packaging.
• Claims – Be careful with what you claim on the package! A mistake or unsubstantiated claim can be quite expensive. Anything such as “kills germs” or “latex free” (among many others) must be backed up.
With INDA estimating a 2012–2017 Annual Growth Rate of about 5% for the wipes market the opportunities are ripe for new products, especially as implementation of the EPA Wiper rule takes place over many states in the coming years. From Pampers Baby Wipes to Sertun Disinfecting Wipes, Wet Ones to Dude Wipes or Kimwipes to One Wipe Charlies, there is a wipe for just about everything. Or is there?
Jeff Willis is president of Nonwovens By Design, a consulting and sales agency founded in 2013. NBD specializes in new product design and business development in the medical, wipes and hygiene markets. NBD also is involved in independent sales. Mr. Willis has been involved in the nonwovens industry since 1989 with prominent companies such as Veratec, Fiberweb, Tredegar and Texel. Please address any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit NBD’s website at www.nonwovensbydesign.com.