Wipes Clean Up

October 1, 2007

Innovations drive sales of nonwoven wipes.

Wipes Clean Up

Innovations drive sales of nonwoven wipes.

Melissa Meisel
Associate Editor

What began as a convenience cloth for parents during baby diaper changes has turned into a vast, task-specific product market where there is a handy wipe for nearly every  environment, every target consumer.

The global demand for wipes—consumer and industrial—is forecasted to increase 6.1% a year to $7.8 billion wholesale in 2011, according to World Wipes, a study from Cleveland-based industry research firm The Freedonia Group. At the same time, the U.S. demand for wipes is forecasted to rise 5.5% a year through 2011 to $3.4 billion retail. Freedonia predicts the demand for wipes used in industrial settings will advance 6.6% a year to $1.1 billion wholesale in 2011.

What is the allure of the nonwoven wipe at home or at work?

“The success of household and personal care wipes derives from the ease-of-use, disposability, portability and reduced risk of cross-contamination these products offer,” says Pamela Prokop, industry analyst for The Freedonia Group. “In addition, a relatively healthy U.S. economy has allowed consumers to try new, oftentimes higher-priced, items, such as wipes.”

Convenience is also among the reasons personal care wipes have taken off in terms of sales, according to Ms. Prokop. In addition, value-added ingredients, such as those designed for beauty needs, are extremely important to consumers. And the proof is in the numbers—according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), in the moist towelettes category, $714.6 million were sold—including $474.5 million for baby wipes and $240.1 million of other types of moist towelettes.

On the Homefront

Nonwoven wipes have become a staple in almost every household’s cleaning regimen—even standing in for paper towels and mops on occasion.

According to IRI, household cleaner cloths sold $263.6 million, with cloth all-purpose cleaners leading the way at $209.3 million in sales.

In 2006, retail sales of surface care products in the U.S. grew 3% to $3.5 billion, according to  Surface Care in the U.S., a recent report by Euromonitor, with growth driven by multi-purpose cleaners, household antiseptic/disinfectants and bathroom cleaners—especially impregnated wipes for surface care.

All-purpose wipes are an essential for household routines.
These household cleaning wipes in particular have become more specific in function, notes Virginia Lee, a research analyst at Euromonitor, who cites as an example SC Johnson’s Pledge Stainless Steel Wipes, described as an easy way to restore a surface. The company also introduced Pledge Clean & Dust Wipes, which are designed to remove more dust and allergens than traditional dry dusting.

For the backyard barbeque, independent marketer Grate Chef’s Stainless Steel Wipes introduced some products specifically designed to clean grills.

“These stainless steel wipes included in the impregnated wipe range have helped drive growth for the range as a whole, especially as stainless steel appliances continue to be very popular in the U.S.,” notes Ms. Lee. “As a result, other impregnated wipes was the fastest growing segment in surface care.”

One for All

While there is a trend for specificity in product innovation, wipes designed to clean all surfaces continue to grow rapidly, according to Ms. Lee. In fact, all-purpose cleaning wipes grew 14% last year.

“These wipes were helped by strong growth from the two leading Lysol and Clorox wipes in 2006. Sales for Lysol were pushed by Reckitt Benckiser’s claim that the product is now 50% stronger and cleans better than Clorox wipes. Sales of all-purpose wipes continue to grow as consumers become more accustomed to buying these products for a variety of uses,” said Ms. Lee.

This year, Procter & Gamble entered the category in a big way with the launch of an all-purpose wipe under the Mr. Clean brand. Mr. Clean Power Multi-Surface Wipes “dispenses like a tissue, but is tough like a towel” and features an  “easy dispensing top,” so wipes pull like a tissue, one-at-a-time, with less snags, tears and pinching.  With a towel-like texture said to be 30% thicker than the leading wipe, Mr. Clean Power Multi-Surface Wipes aim to disinfect and clean all around the home.

“In 2008, Mr. Clean will be a brand we’ve all known and trusted for 50 years, so it is very exciting to launch a product that will revolutionize the wipe category,” said Glenn Williams, external relations manager for Mr. Clean. “We listened to the consumer about her frustration with current wipes. Mr. Clean Power Multi-Surface Wipes addresses those issues by offering easier interaction with each wipe and the ability to power through the toughest jobs.”

Green Machine

Potential company activity is likely to evolve around “green,” “natural” products designed to benefit from consumers’ increasing desires for healthier buys, notes Ms. Lee of Euromonitor. One company leading the natural movement in the mass market is Method, which has sold a little over $3 million in all-purpose cleaning wipes this past year, according to IRI.

Formulator Kaj Johnson, known as the “Green Chef” at Method of San Francisco, CA, says that his company’s wipes products are novel for different reasons: “Our surface wipes are biodegradable, our bathroom wipes are flushable, and our sweeping clothes are compostable because they are made out of PLA, a corn derivative. “All our products formulas are non-toxic so when they enter soil or waterways they do not contaminate the earth.”

Mr. Johnson also tells Happi that the PLA nonwoven cloths were one of the company’s biggest innovations for 2007, as they are the first biodegradable sweeping cloths.

Newborns & Toddlers

Historically, baby wipes have been the largest category in the wipes segment. In 2006, for instance, baby wipes accounted for 50% of category sales, according to The Freedonia Group. Therefore, these wipes are open to many new marketing developments.

For example, Procter & Gamble is broadening its Pampers Stages wipes lineup to include a corresponding nonwoven for every step of a baby’s development. The line begins with Sensitive Wipes for newborns and branches out to include two other new products, Pampers Swipers Wipes (6-17 months) to Pampers Clean ‘N Go Wipes (18-36 months) which are ideal for cleaning toddlers from head to toe.

Natural ingredients such as green tea and cucumber are being added to traditional wipe formulas.
Natural ingredients are also a huge proponent in the marketing for baby wipes in 2007. Kimberly-Clark recently introduced an improved Huggies Supreme baby wipe, part of a new naturals line for Huggies. The improved Huggies Supreme baby wipes are said to offer a washcloth-like performance and are 50% thicker than branded competitive baby wipes and 30% thicker than current Huggies Natural Care baby wipes, according to a press statement from Kimberly-Clark. The new baby wipes by Huggies are also infused with cucumber and green tea ingredients.

Wet Ones also announced a recent new addition to its family of products—Wet Ones for Sensitive Skin Moist Wipes. Enriched with soothing cucumber extract, conditioning chamomile and a moisturizing complex containing aloe, vitamin E and provitamin B5, Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Moist Wipes aim to help maintain skin’s moisture balance.

The boom in naturals has even encouraged some larger companies to acquire smaller, independent lines in hopes of boosting their portfolios. In August, the Hain Celestial Group, Inc. agreed to acquire TenderCare International Inc., a Wisconsin-based marketer and distributor of chlorine-free and gel-free natural diapers and baby wipes under the Tushies and TenderCare brand names.

“This is an exciting transaction which expands Hain Celestial’s presence in a growing category adjacent to our existing products for babies and toddlers. TenderCare’s environmentally-friendly disposable diapers and wipes will give us a great opportunity to further expand our Earth’s Best brand beyond the current categories,” said Irwin D. Simon, president and chief executive officer of Hain Celestial.

Personal Care

Moisturizers, toners, creams, lotions and serums penetrate deeper and last longer with the cleanest possible skin. One way to achieve this is by using nonwoven personal care wipes. Exfolia by Beauty Cloth is a new nonwoven wipe that exfoliates dead skin cells. Nanoscale fibers of this unique cloth are able to scoop, lift and remove dead skin without intrusion or insult to the lower layers of the epidermis.

Naturals marketer vonNatur also features facial toners in its skin care repertoire. The Balance facial toner pads are soaked in soothing cucumber and healing chamomile to quell puffy skin.

There are even dry wipes available to complement formulations. Skin care proprietor/salon owner Renée Roleau recently introduced Renée Rouleau Toning Cloths.  With a blend of polyester and rayon, the toning cloths are said to be less absorbent, thus allowing more toner to hit the skin.

A World of Wipes

All in all, household and personal care wipes will continue to post favorable growth in 2008 and beyond, says Ms. Prokop of The Freedonia Group. While in some cases task-specific wipes will increase—for example, specific SKUs for hard-to-clean surfaces—multi-purpose wipes will also experience growth. Current trends of product line improvements through advancements in nonwovens, chemicals and packaging will also continue, according to Ms. Prokop.

Propelled by a significant manufacturing base, a large affluent population and lifestyle trends focused on time-saving products, the U.S., Western Europe and Japan will continue to lead the global wipes market, reports The Freedonia Group. More rapid gains will be linked to developing nations such as China and India; China alone will increase its demand for wipes to nearly $500 million in 2011. It truly may just become a world of wipes, as consumers come to rely on these products one swipe at a time.