Wipes Market on the Up and Up

By Karen McIntyre, editor | September 15, 2011

WOW presenters agree on one thing: Wipes remain strong across a number of regions.

Among the highlights of the World of Wipes (WOW) conference, held in June in Atlanta, GA was a breakdown of wipes market growth, opportunities and challenges in several key regions. These presentations, given by experts on their respective regions, showed how wipes are faring in North America, South America, China and Asia. What experts agree on is that wipes continue to be strong, although it is emerging areas that seem to have the most room for growth.

North America
As the wipes market surpasses the $4 billion mark in North America, manufacturers continue to uncover new ways to get consumers to buy wipes. In fact, the consumer market has outpaced industrial sales in the wipes market during the past 15 years.

“Wipes volume quadrupled in 15 years,” INDA president Rory Holmes says. “Shares rose from 8.9% to 18.5% of total nonwovens by 2010.”

Consumer wipes keeps increasing its share, expecting to represent 79% of total sales by 2015, compared to 65% in 1995. This increase can be attributed to strong growth across the three major categories of wipes—personal, household and baby—which comprised $4 billion in 2010 compared to $1.6 billion in 2000. Growth is expected to continue, reaching $5.1 billion by 2015.

Within the consumer segment, the breakdown between the three major categories has changed significantly between 1995 and 2010. In 1995, household applications comprised only 4% of consumer wipes, a figure that increased to 45% by 2010 on the strength of floor cleaning cloths, antibacterial wipes and other applications. Personal care wipes, meanwhile, upped its share from 8% to 26%, while baby care applications shrank their marketshare but still grew larger as the entire category increased more the five-fold to $4 billion.
As the consumer wipes market continues to adjust to its diversification farther and farther beyond baby wipes, some of the key issues it is facing are private label competition, raw material price stability and the difference between spunlace and airlaid technology, Holmes adds.

Last year, 52% of wipes made in the U.S. used spunlace while 24% used airlaid. A small percentage used spunlaid, wetlaid, carded or needlepunch.

South America
Presenting a look at the South American wipes market was Rick Jezzi, of R.D. Jezzi Associates, LLC in Atlanta, GA. While this population is characterized by low birth rates, opportunities abound because of the region’s low penetration, particularly in baby wipes. Currently only about half of diaper buyers buy baby wipes and this market is dominated largely by global players like Procter & Gamble or Kimberly-Clark.

About 55-60% of the volume here is carded or spunmelt while the rest is spunlace. Jezzi estimated that penetration was about 20% last year and will reach 26% by 2015. This is significantly behind penetration in other disposable areas.

A snapshot of a grocery store shelf shows wipes are creeping into the mainstream in Brazil.

According to Jezzi, growth in wipes—and other nonwovens categories—are being driven by a number of factors. These include increased participation of women in the labor force; a cultural emphasis on personal and aesthetic treatments and a general increase in purchasing power among the population.

Growth is being lead by pre-moistened baby wipes but personal care and cosmetic wipes are strong as well, growing 15% between 2008-2011. Having a harder time in the region are household wipes due to a cultural mindset regarding household chores.

Meanwhile, in China wipes growth is being brought on by the rapid rate of investment in spunlace technologies. According to C.K. Wong who was presenting information compiled by CNTA, there are no fewer than 160 spunlace lines operating in China; 37 of these were supplied by more sophisticated European suppliers Andritz Perfojet and Fleissner Trützschler. A number of these lines make over 5000 tons of spunlace per year and total capacity is estimated at 325,000 tons.

Of course, not all of this is serving wipes but numbers in this segment are impressive. According to Wong, sales in this market grew from $68 million to $157 million between 2003 and 2008 and are expected to reach $230 million by 2013. Personal care applications, including baby care wipes, comprise the bulk of this market, comprising $155.9 million worth of sales.

Heidi Beatty of Nice-Pak/PDI shared her take on the European wipes market, which is recovering slowly, Key opportunities are the aging population, Eastern European growth and unforeseen events like the Swine Flu; challenges include commodity prices, mounting regulatory pressures and brand positioning versus private label.

The UK continues to be the largest market, with a €569 million value expected by 2014. Meanwhile, France and Germany are both in the €350 million range and Spain and Eastern Europe are slightly below €300 million.

Beatty believes growth opportunities will be strongest in Eastern European countries where birth rates are rising at the same time as disposable incomes.

Meanwhile, in the highly developed UK market, brands are increasing the sale of multipacks and other branded multi promotions to help increase growth.