Because of diverse needs in the market, today’s component manufacturers need to adapt to new customer requirements and changes in the hygiene industry. Suppliers of films, laminates, adhesives, fasteners, and more, are doing this through constant innovation and investments, making today’s products more sophisticated than ever before.
Adhesive supplier Bostik has been hard at work trying to understand the needs of adult incontinence producers and consumers. “We know that the needs of AI producers are different and we know that designs are changing pretty dramatically depending on where you are in the world,” says Courtney Korselt, global marketing manager, Global Nonwovens, Bostik. “We are looking to understand what the unique AI producers’ needs are as the products evolve and whether our current products can meet them, and then how we can look for new innovations that help them achieve their product and market goals.”
But Bostik is going beyond just discussing specific products with customers. It is also making significant investments in research to truly understand specific topics that are relevant in the hygiene industry, and they are sharing this information with customers.
“As component suppliers, in the past we may have just come with our catalogue or our single product recommendation, but from Bostik’s standpoint, we think that the customers need more from us than that,” Korselt says.
Last year, a PhD at the company spent nine months away from his normal work to research the incontinence market, and his study was completed over the summer. Other research from Bostik has focused on odor, and now the company is spending more time on softness. “We are making deep investments in these topic areas,” Korselt says. “We know that our customers are working with leaner staff, and they might be located in one region but want information about another. For us, it’s about providing more than just the product—we want to provide more value. So we may actually spend less time talking about new products and more time providing value beyond the product. That’s the value of buying from Bostik, in addition to great products.”
Bostik is also hosting “Smart Summits” around the globe on relevant topics in hygiene. One of these was events was held in the summer in Shanghai, China, and focused on the adult incontinence market. At all summits, Bostik shares industry insights to help its customers take advantage of market opportunities.
In the adult incontinence market, Fabrizio D’Amico, commercial director of Poligof, a producer of films and laminates for backsheets, has identified two conflicting trends. On the prescription side, where wearers are using incontinence products in institutional settings, growth is mostly predictable. In this sector, D’Amico says that there are no major changes in product design since specifications are created by institutional healthcare departments that do not follow business-to-consumer parameters, and they are slow in making any changes.
“[These] products require cost efficiency, high productivity and quality consistency. Retail products, on the other hand, require constant innovation, soft materials, state-of-the-art printing technology and service, characteristics traditionally belonging to the baby diaper market: they grow very quickly and not always in a predictable way,” he adds.
According to D’Amico, Poligof is able to meet the varying demands of its customers in the hygiene market with flexibility in planning, dedicating a “liquid” production capacity and being ready to work on innovation according to a customer’s technical demands.
Qualities that Count
Soft, stretchy and breathable materials, like a cotton-touch cover—this is how Walmart describes components from its Parent’s Choice diapers, which were re-launched earlier this year as a premium brand of diapers.
To complement the nonwoven components of a diaper, which are softer than ever before, today’s suppliers have adapted their technologies and techniques so that they do not compromise the softness of an end product.
How do adhesives play a role in this? According to Korselt, when a customer uses a soft film or nonwoven, Bostik works with the customer to make sure their product will stick to the film or nonwoven, especially if it has a surface treatment or slip agent on it. If the adhesive sticks properly, then Bostik can contribute to a softer product through the way the adhesive is used, giving recommendations on how much to use and how to apply it, she explains.
For its part, adhesive maker H.B. Fuller is improving its adhesive technology to enable the bonding of super-soft substrates, as demand for softness across all segments of the disposable hygiene market increases. “We are leveraging our proven technology developed for Asia markets to expand our offerings for these difficult-to-bond substrates to help our customers meet consumers’ preferences globally,” says Julia Li, global marketing manager, H.B. Fuller.
According to Li, today’s busy moms are also driving the need for improved disposable hygiene product designs with added convenience features to save time and simplify user experience. They’ve seen this growing need through the demand for H.B. Fuller’s newest Full-Care 9500 series wetness indicator adhesive. These wetness indicator adhesives feature improved speed, increased humidity resistance, and a more distinct color change at the time of wetness.
Other new technologies from the adhesive specialist cater to active adults who seek a new generation of incontinence products that are better fitting, more comfortable, thinner and discreet. The company’s ODOGard is an odor elimination technology that helps H.B. Fuller’s customers design thinner and more breathable absorbent products without fear of in-use odor-related risks. Li says this provides a valuable competitive advantage in a tough, ever-changing market. Meanwhile, H.B. Fuller’s Conforma adhesive technology provides remarkable stretch and retraction features that enables product designs to hug the curves of a wide range of body shapes. Conforma adhesive allows for optimum control and flexibility in line with the look and feel of cotton underwear.
“Diverse consumer needs are steering manufacturers towards creating more and more unique product features across hygiene segments,” Li says. “This vast diversity of consumer requirements, along with manufacturers striving to differentiate, is driving the emergence of distinct product segments in the disposable hygiene market.”
According to Li, these sub-segments include products developed for premature babies, feminine care liners for the active user, light incontinence products for men and expansion of various tier products for underwear-like, disposable pants.
“Now is an exciting time for suppliers to operate in this dynamic marketplace as it challenges us to be more proactive and think differently about relevant product innovations and empower our customers to create differentiated product designs that are poised to address unmet consumer needs in emerging niche sub-segments,” Li concludes.
Also offering adhesives to the hygiene market is Portuguese company Colquimica, which manufactures a full range of products that covers all the adhesive necessities in the sector, from pressure sensitive adhesives to olefinic and others. According to Pedro Gonçalves, board member and technical director for Colquimica Group, the market for adhesives in the hygiene market is moving towards innovative products that may substitute traditional technologies effectively and with added benefits. Sprayable olefins and core integrity adhesives are some of Colquimica’s most recent product introductions. Gonçalves says these provide a clear orientation towards the manufactures’ requirements such as low odor, processability, enhanced properties and economic value.
“Customers are constantly updating their product portfolio, and developing new and innovative properties for their products,” he says. “These features create complexity in the manufacturing, and as [a result], require differentiated adhesives that can add the technical benefits and retain the competiveness. Our product range has grown in order to have products specifically designed for each application, addressing the higher complexity in the product’s manufacturing process.”
RKW, a producer of film and film-to-nonwoven based raw materials, is also offering some new products. A new ultra-soft and low weight laminate is available in printed or unprinted versions, and the roll out of its latest film in the Hyfol range of backsheets is extraordinarily lightweight, and is soft yet strong enough to cope with the demands of high-speed converting lines, according to Patricia Featherstone, director Marketing & Communications, Hygiene & Industrial, RKW Group.
“The new ultra soft textile backsheet certainly speaks to consumers’ needs for sensory fulfillment, i.e. soft, quiet, silky and pleasing to the touch,” she says.
To respond to the fast growing demand in the incontinence sector, RKW has recently increased its capacity for textile backsheets, Featherstone says.
Investing in Hygiene
Other companies have also responded to growth in the hygiene market through investments.
Texsus, a manufacturer of ADL, topsheet and topsheet-ADL combined structures with air through bonding technology, made a major investment in a new converting line this year, which has enabled the company to laminate different technologies such as nonwovens, tissue, plastic and other materials to manufacture frontal tape/loop products for the medical field, the food packaging industry and other industrial applications, according to Alistair Bonaffini, key account manager for Texsus.
“This brand new lamination line has enabled Texsus to experiment with technologies other than the very familiar through air bonding technology,” he says. “This, in turn, has opened many doors within and outside of the hygienic industry.”
Adhesive specialist H.B. Fuller has also made some major investments. The company’s new facility in Surabaya, Indonesia, adds new PSA, hot melt, and water-based adhesive manufacturing to support H.B. Fuller’s hygiene customer base in Southeast Asia and complements its manufacturing facilities in China, Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to Li. “This expansion provides local support in this growing region in addition to helping improve efficiencies to compete in the hygiene marketplace,” she adds.
The company also completed the first phase of an investment in Pune, India, earlier this year when it opened a business office and new R&D center at its Shirwal, India, manufacturing facility. Local hygiene companies can now leverage these new R&D capabilities in the region.
H.B. Fuller has also grown through acquisition this year with the purchases of Wisdom Adhesives, Royal Adhesives & Sealants and Adecol. “These acquisitions are expected to bring technologies and manufacturing synergies and will provide multiple benefits to our business,” Li says.
Meanwhile, Savare Specialty Adhesives, which supplies a full range of hot melt adhesives for the hygiene industry, has finalized investments at its Cerro Maggiore, Milan, Italy, plant, which included capacity expansion, innovative efficiency interventions, and a dedicated polyolefin production line as well as digitization. This has turned the facility into a high efficiency manufacturing plant for hot-melts, with larger capacity and recognized top quality standards, according to Mattia Revelli, nonwovens industry manager, Savare Specialty Adhesives.
Savare is also expanding at its Delaware, OH, plant. This expansion includes innovative efficiency interventions and an optimized supply chain for its North America customers.
“We are committed to the hygiene market, which is rapidly changing [because of] customer consolidation, higher standard needs and cost pressures,” Revelli says. “We are adapting ourselves to be the best partner choice.”
Infiana, a manufacturer of films, recently celebrated the opening of a hygiene production facility for the North American market. The new hall at its site in Malvern, PA, will produce high-quality hygiene film products. Previously, products for the personal care market were imported from Infiana’s plants in Germany and Thailand. In addition to making films for sanitary protection and adult incontinence, the facility can also produce films for medical and healthcare applications.
“With the opening of the new expansion at our plant in Pennsylvania, we can now supply North America locally,” says Jill Castro, global key account manager Personal Care. “This will allow us to offer improved lead times for production and design changes, so it’s a nice benefit for everyone buying here in the U.S.”
Infiana offers siliconized and non-siliconized films, partial siliconization and backside printing, as well as discreet, soft and lightweight solutions. The company’s latest product launch is Light+, an individual wrap for sanitary napkins that can weigh as little as 10 gsm per wrap, reducing plastic material by up to 50%, according to Michael Pirner, vice president Personal Care. “The market is between 16 and 25 gsm, with the market average at 20 gsm, so it is really a significant reduction to 10 gsm,” he says.
Castro adds that this new product will help Infiana’s customers improve their “green goals,” some of which include reducing waste year-on-year. “If you’re able to reduce thickness or the basis weight of the film on average by half, then you’re not using a smaller product but you are using half the film. It allows our customers to hit a lot of their sustainability goals, and at the same time, there are some other competitive advantages versus thicker films,” she says.
And, because the film is siliconized, the sanitary napkin producer can eliminate the piece of paper that usually sticks to the adhesive strip in a sanitary pouch, thus reducing more waste.
With Light+, Infiana is able to produce a substantially thinner product that’s also strong enough to be converted on a sanitary napkin production line. “What’s unique about this product is that it’s a 10 gsm product, but it has the same converting tensile strength of a standard 16 or 17 gsm product,” Castro says.
Light+ will be available for customers in 2018.