The fact that consumers in Southeast Asia are demanding daily necessities has not escaped the notice of some of the world’s largest makers of consumer products who are looking to capitalize on rising incomes, growing urban centers and more educated consumers. Within the global hygiene market, companies are looking at the countries that make up Southeast Asia as well as India as the next big growth opportunities for their products.
Even though Unicharm is already the biggest maker and marketer of baby diapers, feminine hygiene items and adult incontinence products in Asia, the Japanese company never misses an opportunity to expand. Late last year, the company announced it would buy DSG International, a Thai-based maker of diapers and hygiene products, in a move designed to bolster the Japanese company’s lineup of low and mid-priced diapers in Southeast Asia while giving it manufacturing assets in new areas like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The company leads the adult diaper maker in Thailand and is the second largest (behind Unicharm) maker of baby diapers there.
Another company gaining new ground in Asia is Kao Corporation, which is hoping to follow up its Chinese success by launching its Merries diaper brand in India, which is a large and fast growing market for diapers. Procter & Gamble and Unicharm have been battling to lead the Indian diaper market in recent years, but if history repeats itself, Kao could soon be a major contender. The Japanese company was the first foreign diaper maker to understand the Chinese consumers’ taste for premium diapers, launching a high-end diaper there while most of the competition entered the market with a value product.
As markets for disposable products throughout Asia continue to rise, we will surely see more investment in the region—from both local players and multinational companies—and these will surely be seen throughout the entire value chain for nonwovens.