This year, INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, connected 390 professionals from 19 countries in its annual World of Wipes (WOW) International Conference in Atlanta GA, June 24-27. The four-day event covered trending topics driving new products and markets within the global wipes market, providing insights on major developments affecting wipe producers and marketers. The event was the place to be for professionals in the nonwovens industry, offering knowledgeable speakers, exclusive displays and valuable networking opportunities.
“This year’s program content addressed the critical issues of our industry—economics, sustainability and political issues facing wipes producers and marketers. WOW serves as the nexus for international wipes professionals to convene and connect,” says Dave Rousse, INDA president.
WOW kicked off on Tuesday, June 25, with a presentation from Brad Kalil, director of market research and statistics at INDA, who presented statistics on the North American wipes market. Kalil discussed economic and population drivers, supply-side developments and demand-side developments. According to INDA data, the North American wipes market is currently growing at 3.4% per year and is expected to grow at a rate of 3.7% between 2019-2023. Baby care wipes, which represent the largest piece (44%) of the market, are growing 2.6% and will grow 2.8% per year between now and 2023. Factors credited with the activity in the wipes market include a strong economy and changing demographic trends. Consumers are willing to pay more for convenience in daily tasks but lower birth rates and an aging population are impacting the kinds of wipes people buy.
Also on June 25, the 2019 WOW Innovation Award presentations took place, highlighting the three finalists: Kelheim Fibres’ Danufil QR Fibres, Bawdy Beauty’s Bawdy Butt Masks, and Earthly’s Not Yet Wet Wipes. Danufil QR Fibres from Kelheim Fibres was announced the winner of this year’s award. The advanced new fiber is a positively charged viscose fiber that does not bind to disinfectants and can be processed with all nonwoven technologies. Danufil QR provides the opportunity for disinfection of surfaces based on a sustainable product with an organic origin that is renewable and biodegradable.
Rob Johnson, PE, principal, Smith, Johnson & Associates, led the Wipes Academy, a two-day course which gave attendees knowledge of wipes from design and production to cost implications and packaging. The Academy is the first and only comprehensive wipes training course to cover the entire wipes supply chain, focusing on the most important consumer wipes segments while introducing and stressing the importance of every major facet of the multi-billion dollar wipes sector.
Focus on Plastics
Single use plastics were a hot issue at this year’s conference, specifically the impact of the Single Use Plastics Directive, which was adopted by European Parliament last year. The directive seeks to significantly reduce the amount of single use plastics (SUP) going into European landfills by limiting the use of SUPs in certain categories and banning the use of certain SUPs like single use straws as the EU seeks to transition to a circular economy.
The biggest impact of this directive will be felt in labeling requirements that need to inform consumers about the appropriate disposal of the product and about the negative impacts of SUPs and littering on the environment. Additionally, EU members will be required to develop awareness programs educating consumers on reusable alternatives to products containing SUPs. The U.S. is also being affected by this new trend. Although federal action in the U.S. is unlikely, already more than 100 bills concerning plastics have been introduced in more than 20 states.
On the topic of plastics and sustainability, featured speakers, Lisa Morden, VP, Safety and Sustainability, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and Tracy A. Doucet, senior director, Research and Engineering, Kimberly-Clark Global Nonwovens, presented “Wiping Responsibly” featuring insights into Kimberly-Clark’s methods to create a more circular model for a sustainable future. Morden and Doucet warned that companies need to lead the efforts to find new solutions, or risk becoming obsolete. Consumers want a more responsible wipe and they expect transparency to the source.
Responding to the shifting landscape of the industry, airlaid manufacturer, Glatfelter presented a 100% cellulose-based wipe, which is free of plastic, offering a minimal carbon footprint and product disposal options that are less harmful to the environment. Meanwhile, Earthly’s Not Yet Wet Wipes are eliminating waste by packaging their wipes in 100% cotton packaging that can be washed and hand dried and is shipped in plastic-free shipping containers. At WOW, Jacob Holm highlighted products aimed at the skincare market with its Sontara fabrics, which are 100% bio-derived and biodegradable.
Addressing the issue of transparency, Jim Flannery, CEO of SummitVentures, gave a presentation on the development and implementation of the SmartLabel program, which allows consumers to access information on thousands of products with the use of their smartphone. The SmartLabel app uses the phone’s camera to scan the products’ ISBN codes which will bring the consumer to information like nutrition information, ingredients, usage instructions, third party certifications and more. “It is really up to the company how much information they want to provide,” Flannery told attendees at the conference.
Other highlights included presentations from Richard Palmer of Nehemiah Manufacturing Company, Janet O’Regan of Cotton Inc., Nicole Acevedo, Ph.D. of Elavo Mundi Solutions LLC, Paul Harmon of Berry Global Inc., Jonathan Layer of Fibertex Nonwovens Inc. and Jon Woods of Eastman Chemical Company.
Next year, the WOW conference will be held in Minneapolis, MN. WOW 2020 is expected to attract more than 400 members of the wipes industry when it convenes at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. For more information, visit http://www.worldofwipes.org/.