A Diamond in the Rough

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | April 14, 2012

Diamond Wipes relies on an environmental conscience to help guide its way in the wipes market.

Diamond Wipes got its start in 1994 when Taiwanese immigrant Eve Yen wanted to bring the hot towel concept that was so big in her native country to the U.S. Deciding that the disposable concept worked best in this product area, Yen invested in a disposable wipes production line and started selling to hospitality markets such as hotels, airlines and restaurants.

Soon she started moving into other applications like makeup removal wipes and before long she was contract manufacturing and packaging scores of new products for the wipes market.

Today, the entrepreneur has over 400 SKUs plus a few hundred personal care formulations, a successful contract manufacturing business and two trademarked brands—Diamond Wipes and LaFresh.

Eve Yen started Diamond Wipes in 1994
shortly after emigrating from Taiwan
“We really have a juice, a lotion or a wipes for the majority of applications in wipes,” she explains. “The advantages we can offer is since we know wipes and know what works best, we can offer specialty filling.”

With the ability to make over one million wipes per day, Diamond operates a total of about 40 lines in California and Ohio. The majority of the company’s business is in North and Central America but some activity is beginning in Asia and the company has had a long-term customer in the UK.

Currently about 40% of the business is private label, 40% if contract manufacturing and the remaining 20% is trademarked brands.

According to Yen, branding is where the company would like to grow. The challenge here is educating people to get them to try new products. “We also have to develop sales channels,” she says. “This has become easier with the internet and social networking.”

Going fresh

The LaFresh brand was founded in 1999 as
a means to better target consumer markets.

In 1999, Yen developed LaFresh in an effort to build up the branded part of its business but at that point the contract manufacturing side was so strong, it was hard to focus on their own products.

It was not until 2007 when the company launched LaFresh travel packs, single use sachays containing wipes in nearly anything you could need to travel—nail polish removal wipes, moisturizing wipes and makeup removal wipes. In 2010, the company started modifying these products creating Ecobeauty which feature all natural ingredients, biodegradable substrate.

“There is no other wipes line using all natural ingredients that can do the jobs that this line of wipes can do,” Yen explains.

Sustainability offering are also crucial to the Diamond Wipes brand. Here Yen recently launched two eco-friendly dining wipes, known in the restaurant industry as 'oshibori.'

Naturally Yours' premium wipes and 'Warm Welcome' economy wipes are both made of biodegradable, compostable, FSC-approved cloth. The wrappers are made of recyclable OPP (oriented polypropylene) monolayer film and the formulas contain 99.9% natural ingredients.

"My company began as an oshibori manufacturer catering to the restaurant industry. Over time, we have grown to produce about a million oshibori wipes per day," comments Yen. "In any given year, we could be responsible for thousands of tons of material for oshibori restaurant wipes alone."

Investing in the Earth

Product development is not the only area where Diamond Wipes is mindful of the environment. Earlier this year, the company completed construction of its 3360 panel clean energy solar installation, which will generate nearly 550,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year for its Southern California manufacturing facility.

“As business continues to grow, I've become increasingly attuned to the near and long term impact we may have on the environment” says Yen. "As a good corporate citizen, I want to do everything I can to support eco-conscious behaviors and practices.”

LaFresh Ecobeauty was launched last year
to give consumers a green option across a
number of personal care applications.
Yen adds that solar panels are much more common in Taiwan so incorporating them into her business seemed like a natural fit for her.

In other green efforts, Diamond has already begun utilizing its new clean energy system, offsetting up to 86% of its primary factory's energy utilization away from traditional electric.

These efforts will help Diamond and Le Fresh continue to grow in the wipes market, a business that Yen says will remain strong. “There are still so many untapped uses for wipes,” she says. “It’s such as great applicator to skin and surface areas.Today’s younger generation grew up with wipes and won’t know any differently. Just like it’s unheard of to use cloth diapers in place of the disposable ones, future generations won’t think twice about using wipes. Some day no one will know about handkerchiefs.”
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