Wipe Out?

October 13, 2009

Although the recession has slowed growth in some sectors, wipes remain an active category with marketers rolling out new products.

Physicians Formula’s new 100% biodegradable wipes.

Wipe Out?

Although the recession has slowed growth in some sectors, wipes remain an active category with marketers rolling out new products.

Christine Esposito and Melissa Meisel
Associate Editors

Having burst onto the scene at a time when consumers were basking in the real estate boom, the explosion of the wipes market was proof that Americans craved—and would shell out cash for—convenience. From wiping up a baby’s mess to swiping spilled soda to cleaning the floor, these single-use nonwoven cloths were seen as the solution to every cleaning dilemma. Looking to get in on the action, marketers were adding wipes in droves. Business was booming.

But like nearly every other consumer product sector, the wipes market has been impacted by the recession, and industry players are anxious to see exactly how much this hot market has cooled off since the economy tanked.

“It’s not clear what effect the recession has had on the market,” said Susan Stansbury, a nonwovens industry expert and consultant with Right Angle Concepts, based in Conover, WI. “Some of the converter-manufacturers have taken some downtime; yet others are expanding. It’s likely affected some categories more than others.”

According to data from Cleveland, OH-based Freedonia Group, Inc., demand for wipes in the U.S. is forecast to increase 3.9% a year to $2.3 billion in 2013, down from the 7.2% growth the market posted between 2003 and 2008.

Despite decelerated growth rates, wipes are here to stay, say industry experts.

“Wiping products’ staying power has been proven through the decade, especially in cleaning tasks, as mainstays,” Ms. Stansbury told Happi.

The reason is simple: wipes make cleaning tasks easier.

“Convenience is still a driving factor when consumers buy wipes. Consumers can pull and use them to make quick work of cleaning, tasks and ‘pampering’ themselves—whatever the wiping category,” she added.

The Beauty Scene

The beauty category has had a steady influx of rollouts. Both prestige and mass market brands are bulking up their product offerings with complementary wipes that make it easier to care for the face and other body parts too.

Combe recently added Anti-Itch Medicated Wipes with skin-soothing aloe and vitamins E, A and D to its Scalpicin range.
Drugstore favorite Physicians Formula is touting a first-to-market 100% Natural Origin Facial Makeup Remover Towelettes in its Organic Wear collection. According to the company, the 100% biodegradable pre-moistened wipes feature a gentle formula to easily wipe away dirt and makeup from skin and pores without irritating extra sensitive skin. The towelettes use “environmentally friendly fibers” originating from natural plant sources; while the formulation features the brand’s Eco-Aroma Therapy, a proprietary complex of naturally active organic soy, olive, orange water and lavender to condition, fortify and protect the eye area and lashes.

Eyes, Lips and Face (ELF), another mass market staple, has added Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloths to its range. Infused with aloe vera extract for deep hydration, these pre-moistened cloths are ideal for travel and remove all traces of dirt and makeup, including waterproof mascara, according to the company.

In the prestige category, Philosophy complements its personal care range with Microdelivery Exfoliating Cloths—designed to provide exfoliating benefits while helping deep clean pores and promote an overall healthy skin condition.

According to the company, the cloths are unique because they allow for customizable exfoliation that even the most sensitive skin can use. For a light exfoliation, use the cloths with the brand’s Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser; for a deeper clean, wash with the Microdelivery Micro-Massage Exfoliating Treatment Wash.

GloMinerals recently rolled out GloCleansing Cloths, alcohol-free facial wipes that are gentle enough to use on the delicate eye area, according to the company. Also, for Fall 2009, skin care marketer Decleor is tapping the wipes category with its first ever SKU of eco-friendly makeup remover wipes. Aroma Cleanse pre-saturated wipes are Ecocert-certified and designed to quickly remove face and eye makeup with natural ingredients such as lavender and neroli oils, according to the company. Plus, a portion of net proceeds this month will be donated to Cancer & Careers for Breast Cancer Awareness.

A Bevy of Uses

Besides erasing the daily face of cosmetics, personal care wipes can also be used to combat pesky critters or solve the quandary of dermatological conditions from seborrheic dermatitis and eczema to hyperhidrosis, or heavy sweating.

La Fresh Group, which sells a range of cosmetic, skin care, hygienic and cleaning wipes, lotions and gels, debuted its All Natural Biodegradable Insect Repellent Towelettes. The wipes repel mosquitoes and ticks and are made with peppermint, sesame, olive, castor and wheat germ oils. Moreover, the company maintains that the towelettes are as effective as a formula that contains 30% DEET.

Combe’s hair care brand Scalpicin recently added Anti-Itch Medicated Wipes with skin-soothing aloe and vitamins E, A and D to its scalp-itch relief range. The fragrance-free wipes are ideal for people on-the-go, and help relieve itching on the scalp, neck and around the ears, according to the company.

Heavy sweaters can turn to Dermadoctor’s MedeTate injection-free wipes for use on the face, underarms, palms, soles, and other areas most commonly affected by hyperhidrosis. These wipes contain a patent-pending formulation featuring aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine and dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate as well as botanicals such as portulaca, gynostemma and ginseng. Users simply have to wipe the towelette over the affected area for relief that lasts all day, according to the company.

Wipes are even finding their way into the oral care domain. As practicing dentists, Drs. Grace Lo and Jonathan Korn knew the importance of cleaning babies’ teeth after feedings and before bedtime. As the parents of two young children, they found that it was not always so simple. But they were determined to find a simpler way to begin good oral hygiene with their daughters and Tooth Tissues is the results of their efforts. Distributed by My Dentist’s Choice, the disposable dental wipes are designed for infants and toddlers for plaque removal from teeth, gums, tongue and cheeks. Natural and paraben-free, Tooth Tissues are formulated with xylitol, a proven cavity fighter, said the company.

Cleaning Up in 2009

Convenience is imperative in household care—from the kitchen to the bathroom. During the past few years, the market witnessed a steady influx of task- and surface-specific wipes. But with consumers cutting back on spending, sales of these targeted products have fizzled.

Data from Information Resources, Inc. shows that for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, sales within the household cleaner cloths category in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart), fell more than 4% to $262.6 million, dragged down by steep declines in glass cleaner and furniture polish/cleaner subcategories (see chart below).

While it appears some consumers have gone back to paper towels and spray bottles when cleaning windows or dusting end tables, all-purpose wipes are holding their own. According to Euromonitor, all-purpose cleaning wipes posted good gains in 2008, rising 9% to $371 million.

Experts suggest innovative products and green technologies show the greatest potential in the wipes sector moving forward.

Wipes aren’t just for baby anymore.
One of the biggest launches so far in 2009 was Clorox’s newest addition to its eco-friendly cleaning collection, Green Works Natural Biodegradable Cleaning Wipes. Debuting one year after the launch of the original Green Works spray, the product is crafted of 100% cellulose fibers and derived from renewable farm grown trees. Formulated using biodegradable ingredients, the wipes are 99% natural and feature the grassroots environmentalist organization Sierra Club logo on the package, a fundraising effort for the Clorox company. The product also has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for using environmentally preferable chemistry, and carries the “Design for Environment” certification as well.

Also tapping the green scene is Israeli-based Wet Naps Ltd., which plans to expand in the U.S. with environment-friendly wipes for the automotive market. The company, which already sells adult, baby and cosmetics wipes to Americans, plans to introduce dashboard, window and interior wipes. In addition, the firm is developing antimicrobial products that it anticipates will meet EPA guidelines.

Still another area of focus is flushable wipes. In the past, most flushable wipes were considered “flushable” primarily because of their small size, rather than their ability to degrade.

“When there were very few being flushed, almost no one noticed or cared. But as wipes gained popularity, municipalities, waste treatment plant operators, even federal agencies started to notice problems caused by these ‘flushable’ wipes,” said Phillip Mango, president of Mango Consulting, a firm based in Charleston, SC, which has expertise in nonwovens technologies and materials.

As flushable product use increased, industry associations began to address the concerns. In 2008 U.S.-based INDA (the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry) and its European counterpart EDANA released their first comprehensive guidelines for flushable wipes, which were followed more recently by a set of voluntary guidelines.

“This effort has already had a significant effect on the industry as major wipes producers who for years had been satisfied with simple ‘flushable by size’ products are scrambling for dispersible biodegradable candidates,” added Mr. Mango.

As one of the biggest players in personal care and a leader in flushable products, Kimberly-Clark has bulked up its roster of flushable products with the recent launch of Cottonelle Soothing Clean Flushable Moist Wipes. Targeting those with sensitive skin, the products, which break up after flushing, are infused with aloe and vitamin E. Earlier this year, K-C rolled out the Scott Naturals line, which includes a flushable wipe made with 100% fibers derived from sustainable resources and natural aloe vera.

A Bit About Aesthetics

Besides adding new wipes, marketers are also revamping staple nonwoven products with new logos and packaging.

Diamond Wipes International (DWI), a manufacturer of disposable wet wipes for dining hubs such as Outback Steakhouse and Pizza Hut, is commemorating 15 years in business by unveiling a new logo to mark the occasion. Similarly, surface care marketer Weiman Products is utilizing a fresh new logo for 2009 as well as new packaging. Top-selling SKUs for the brand include Cook Top Wipes that clean, shine and protect glass/ceramic smooth top ranges; as well as Stainless Steel Wipes that remove fingerprints, residue, smudges and grease.

In the baby care range, where wipes are always a big deal, Little Busy Bodies, Inc., the makers of Boogie Wipes, has been hard at work with package improvements including a new double wall insulated package to decrease evaporation rates. The revitalized packaging also features a custom Boogie Wipes logo shaped widget (lid) with branding artwork under the flip top lid, as well as translation on all U.S. packaging into French and English, according to the company.

Looking Ahead

With wipes still a promising market, competition should remain heavy.

“There are likely brand owners right now who have products in liquids, lotions, bottles and jars considering ways to add wipes to their lineup. Or, there are companies serving categories from janitorial to medical considering ways to address other markets with wiping versions of their products,” said Ms. Stansbury.

New uses and new products should help propel the market over the next several years. According to Euromonitor, sales of wipes in the U.S.—including personal wipes, household care wipes and floor cleaning systems—are forecasted to grow by more than 13% to $2.6 billion by 2013.

To achieve double-digit growth, the industry must tap unmet needs. As they keep a tighter hold on their purse strings, consumers must see these easy-to-dispense cloths as indispensable to their daily routine, whether they are cleaning up the counter or taking off cosmetics.

For manufacturers, experts suggest a holistic approach to wipe development rather than a rush to market.

According to Ms. Stansbury, compatibility is key. For example, will the fragrance be compatible with the cleansing ingredient. Will they be compatible with the nonwoven fabric? Will the fabric softness remain after ingredients are applied? Will it stretch too much? Will it be strong enough to pull from a container? Will it be strong enough to use and degrade after flushing?

“Many product concept people do not realize how complicated it is to source and combine the right wet formulas, nonwovens and other elements to deliver a winning product,” Ms. Stansbury noted. “Often they have not fully considered the impact that each element has on the other.”