Whats Up With Wipes?

By Melissa Meisel and Christine Esposito, Associate Editors | September 30, 2010

Household and personal care wipes remain in-demand due to convenience.

Even in a down economy, consumers are still using wipes to clean up, according to data from market research firms covering the household and personal care markets. Yet, while Americans are turning to these nonwoven cloths for convenience, not every subsector of the market is surging.

For instance, in the household side of the market, sales of all-purpose wipes rose more than 7% in supermarkets, drugstores and mass outlets (excluding Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, 2010, but sales of furniture care and glass cleaner wipes fell by 11.8% and 22%, respectively, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

According to David Lockwood, director of research consultancy at Mintel International, consumers are gravitating to multifunctional products, a trend that’s occurring in wipes and the entire household cleaners market in general. According to Mintel, sales of specialized wipes at FDMx have fallen considerably between 2007-2009, with furniture polishing wipes down 32% and glass cleaning wipes slumping almost 86%.

La Fresh’s latest wipes innovation, the Eco-Beauty collection.
While one or two types of wipes may be fine, Lockwood said “in general, people have been moving away from having five different types of wipes” in their cleaning cabinet.

Some industry observers suggest sales of task-specific wipes are taking a nosedive because many of them leave buyers disappointed. For instance, furniture polish wipes may not have enough product infused in the material to handle a large task, or they are used so infrequently, consumers find remaining wipes dried up before the pack is finished.

Back To School/Flu Season Bounce for the Wipes Market?
Clearly, the workhorse of the wipes marketplace remains all-purpose products that promise to clean up dirt on a variety of substrates and fight germs at the same time. In fact, it is wipes’ antibacterial properties that make them a big seller come Fall. Alongside notebooks, pens and flash drives, almost every 2010 back-to-school supply list included a canister (or more) of antibacterial wipes.

But what gives the market more of a boost is cold and flu season. Last year, H1N1 fears caused a sharp spike in sales, and most experts believe antibac wipes should continue to move off store shelves this Fall/Winter as well.

With consumers buying more wipes for themselves and their local schools, they are keeping an eye on cost. In a sure nod to the sluggish economy, private label wipes are making their way into more shopping carts. Private label already leads in the baby wipe sector, and they are making gains in household too. While sector leader Clorox all-purpose wipes posted a 7.27% gain last year, private label wipe sales surged an impressive 18.98% to $42.3 million, coming right up on the heels of No.2 Lysol all purpose wipes, which tallied sales of $42.6 million, with a gain of 2.16%, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

Cleaning Up at Home

Method rolled out an antibacterial range, including household care wipes.
With increasing pressure from private label offerings, marketers are upping the ante when it comes to their wipes, boasting improved performance and feel as well as user-friendly and eco-minded benefits to lure shoppers away from value-priced lines.

Method, the San Francisco-based marketer of eco-friendly household and personal care products, introduced its first line of botanical household wipes. The Method Antibac assortment of antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial all-purpose wipes is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency and available in lemon verbena.

Method partnered with CleanWell, makers of the thyme-based disinfecting technology, to create a patented botanical formula that kills 99.99% of household bacteria including E.coli, Salmonella enterica, Influenza A and H1N1 virus on hard, non-porous surfaces.

According to the company, in the past, Method was unwilling to develop or promote antibacterial cleaners because it had not yet found a technology that met its strict ingredient standards and aligned with its principles.

“We recognize that some people prefer to use antibacterial cleaners for high-contact surfaces like toilets and sinks, and we’re excited to offer a line of disinfecting cleaners that utilizes CleanWell’s botanical technology,” said Adam Lowry, the company’s co-founder and chief greenskeeper.

CleanWell itself rolled out a line of wipes this season. The “travel friendly” hand sanitizing wipes are available at Whole Foods Market, select Target stores, Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Amazon.com and a growing number of retailers nationally.

Household care marketer Weiman is also said to be working on a new disinfectant wipe that will“exceed all others in terms of the organisms it kills, the time it takes to work and in addition it will be neutral pH and safe to use on any surface without leaving a residue or sticky film,” according to the company’s chief executive officer Carl DeMasi.

For the Little Ones
Baby care wipes—a nearly $500 million segment at FDMx, according to SymphonyIRI Group—are considered by many to be the genesis of the modern wipes movement. In a pinch, parents turned to these cloths for tasks other than cleaning baby’s bottom.

Sprouting from this category are wipes that care for the hard surfaces in baby’s domain. Popular baby food marketer Earth’s Best, for example, branched out this season with its All-Purpose Nursery Wipes to keep the little one’s crib, car seat and stroller clean. Produced with a natural, non-toxic, hypoallergenic formula, the wipes combine naturally cleansing herbal oils and lavender and lemongrass for a light, natural scent, said the company.

Earth’s Best All-Purpose Nursery Wipes are also made with a chlorine-free natural fabric that provides a softer texture.

On the softer side, pregnancy/baby skin care marketer Mustela marked its 60th anniversary by launching a reformulated version of its Mustela Bébé wipes. This year, the company decided “less is more” by adding paraben-free, phthalate-free and phenoxyethanol-free to the labels of its diaper change and facial care products. Celebrity fans of the wipes include Molly Ringwald, Tori Spelling, Gwyneth Paltrow and Melissa Joan Hart, amongst others.

Breakthroughs in Beauty
Retail sales of personal care wipes in the U.S. posted a CAGR of 3.8% between 2004 and 2009, according to Euromonitor International. And while sales of cosmetics wipes at FDMx have fallen by 5.2% during that span, new beauty care wipes continue to hit shelves nationwide. These towelettes not only gently cleanse and remove makeup, but some even offer aromatherapy benefits.

One of the biggest launches this season is Pond’s Wet Cleansing Towelettes in Morning Refresh and

Pond’s new beauty towelettes offer soothing or energizing properties for the face.
Evening Soothe variations. The former features microbeads that polish away dullness with a citrus scent; the latter offers a “relaxing” chamomile and white tea fragrance. Both products also feature new packaging—a seal was added to maintain moisture.

This summer, La Fresh, debuted an “eco-beauty” line at Cosmoprof that features everything from an oil-free face cleanser wipes formulated with a blend of aloe, papaya, pineapple and jojoba to nail polish remover pads scented with Tuscan blood orange.

“With the introduction of the eco-beauty wipes line, La Fresh is fulfilling the groundswell of demand for natural beauty products that deliver performance, convenience and affordability,” said Jennifer Norman, vice president of marketing for La Fresh Group, “These wipes are 100% biodegradable, and the formulas are designed without parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, glycols, dyes, PEGs, artificial fragrances or animal byproducts. They care for the health and beauty of the skin as much as they care for the environment.”

Fundamental to the La Fresh eco-beauty line philosophy is that blue is the new green. “About a billion people on earth —one in eight of us—don’t have access to clean drinking water,” said Eve Yen, president of La Fresh Group. “Using pre-moistened wipes instead of conventional face washing or hand rinsing literally helps prevent vital fresh water from pouring down the drain. Every little bit of daily conservation adds up to help save lives, energy and the ecology in the long run.”

La Fresh eco-beauty products will be available in multi-count peel and reseal flowpacks for daily use as well as single packets for trial, tote and travel.

Natural ingredients still are “all the rage” in personal care wipes for 2010. For example, Shobha Rosewater Freshening Cloths are infused with the essential oil of rose, allowing them to soothe skin, according to the company. They are also an on-the-go solution for tidying up after a long day, and can even double as a makeup remover, according to the company. Kaia Naturals’ facial cleansing cloths also feature “green technology” via its bamboo fiber components.

Wipes are being used for beauty rituals beyond facial cleansing, such as hair removal and even oral care.

Hair removal marketer Nad’s has jumped aboard the eco-friendly wipes bandwagon. Its Hypoallergenic Facial Hair Removal Strips are packaged with desensitizing Kava Wipes to help relax and calm the skin after waxing.

Speaking of tranquility, drinkers of red wine are embracing a new oral care product, Wine Wipes. These orange-flavored moist towelettes are said to get rid of that deep red film that can stain pearly whites after a glass of vino. The wipes are sold in small tins with mirrors and resemble makeup compacts.

Future Focus
What lies ahead for wipes? The good news is flu season is just around the corner in the U.S., and for baby wipe marketers, there’s a new customer born every second (hey, there’s another one!)

But the bad news is consumers seem to be moving away from task-specific products and are shifting to private label options and shopping at discount retailers and dollar stores. Add to that a steady influx of new products and it is easy to see why the household wipes market will be hit by pricing pressure, even as it continues to expand, insist industry observers.

Mustela reformulated its baby care collection to include paraben-free diaper wipes.
No wonder why Lockwood says that innovation, will drive brand sales.

For example, through surveys conducted last spring, Mintel found that consumers are looking for wipes that can better handle heavy-duty tasks. In fact, one such offering, Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol Dual Action Disinfecting Wipes—which boast a scrubbing side tough cleaning and a soft side for easier tasks—has already become a top seller. Sales surged a whopping 77.64% to just over $10.0 million, making it the fourth best selling product in the all-purpose category at FDMx outlets, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

“Continued innovation is how name brands compete against private label,” said Lockwood. “[Brand-name manufacturers] are doing a lot but there is a lot more they can do.”

Find Out More about the Wipes Category

Want to learn more about wipes? INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, is sponsoring two events next year that are wipe-related.

The Vision Consumer Products Conference, which honors some of the best new ideas in wipes, will be held Jan. 10-12, 2011 at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, CA. The conference includes the annual Vision Awards, which recognizes innovative consumer end products that contain a nonwoven fabric or utilize a nonwoven technology during the manufacturing process. Products are judged on their novel use of nonwoven technology, as well as on their consumer and trade acceptance. Eligible consumer product categories include household and personal wipes and home filters, among others.

Later in the year, June 14-16, 2011, the World of Wipes Conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead in Atlanta.
More info: www.inda.org

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