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Absorbent products in the U.K.

During the last 12 months there has been a great deal of innovation and new product launch in the U.K. disposables business. The three multinationals in the business all launched trainer products to supplement sales and in the feminine hygiene business, wings and other shaping innovations have come into play in a very big way. However, the retail adult incontinence business remains very small, with no exciting new products. Let us look at the diaper and feminine hygiene business in more detail.

The Diaper Market

The disposable diaper market was valued at 448 [pounds] million in 1992 and market penetration has reached 90%. Brands represented 75% of volume sales and Procter & Gamble dominated the market with 71% of all sales. Figure 1 shows market share for diapers, not including training pants products.

Market share is constantly changing and in the last three months "Pampers" has increased its lead to approximately 73% of the total market. Much of this is undoubtedly due to consistency and quality of performance and sound marketing, but it is also due to retailers using Pampers as a "draw line," i.e., selling it at a very low margin to attract customers. The recommended retail selling price for a package of Pampers is 8.99 [pounds] and it is regularly sold at 6.99. [pounds] In order to compete with this, Peaudouce and Swaddlers have both had offers such as "three for the price of two," which have cut into their promotion budgets.

Looking at the product ranges offered by the leading manufacturers, Procter & Gamble currently has two lines on the market, "Phases" and "Phases Baby Dry." Phases is the lead product and is available in the full range of sizes and boy/girl versions. Baby Dry was launched earlier this year and is available in larger sizes only (midi and maxi) and boy/girl configurations. Baby Dry is designed for heavy wetting, including night use and stress wetting (when the baby wets intensely in one place) and it sells at the same price as Phases.

To complicate things still further and to stay ahead of the pack, P&G has just announced the launch of a third diaper product, "Pampers Ultra Thin," which was expected on the shelves at the end of last month. This has an improved absorbent core and less bulk than Phases and Baby Dry. P&G said that the product is 30% thinner and uses almost 30% less material. This means both advantages to the retailer in shelf space savings and also ecological advantages. Like Baby Dry, Ultra Thin will be available only in midi and maxi sizes and is expected to retail for the same price as Pampers Phases Baby Dry and Pampers Phases carry packs.

The excellent performance of Pampers in the U.K. has over the last four years drastically reduced Peaudouce's share. Peaudouce is a daughter company of Molnlycke and at one time had a 25% share of the U.K. market; it has now fallen to 7%. This is despite the introduction of a Phases type range called "Step by Step," which offers standing leg cuffs, boy/girl versions and all the other features offered by Pampers. Peaudouce has no choice but to continue to upgrade its product and will soon be producing a more compact version. The new product will have an inner pant anti-leak system with a combination of anti-leak leg cuffs and two special new "waist pockets"--one next to the baby's stomach and one at the back--which Peaudouce claims forms a "complete leakage barrier. The new feature is available on all sizes excluding newborn.

Peaudouce is also responding to the ever increasing pressure on shelf space and inventory. This month the company will introduce heavily compacted diapers so that retailers will get 28% more product into 13% less shelf space. The compacting technology means Peaudouce will switch from a portrait to a landscape shape like Pampers, which improves shelf utilization. The landscape shape also improves portability.

The third player in the U.K. diaper market is Swaddlers, a subsidiary of Finaf, Italy. Finaf and P&G tried to form a joint venture in Italy where they are the number one and two players respectively; however the EEC asked that Finaf divest itself of Swaddlers U.K. before giving the go-ahead for the venture. It is rumored that Finaf is trying to sell Swaddlers, although Swaddlers U.K. would not confirm or deny this.

Swaddlers' diaper "Togs" now has 4% of the U.K. market. It is currently available in boy/girl configurations, but the manufacturers have decided to change back to a unisex product and relaunch in night/day variants only. Eighteen months ago, Swaddlers launched a premium night time diaper that has been very successful and now represents 15% of its total sales. Interestingly, the unit cost of 25p makes "Togs Night-Time" the most expensive diaper on the U.K. market, but this has not prevented a high level of acceptance by mothers frustrated with changing wet bedding and clothing in the morning. According to the company's research, parents are skeptical about the value of boy/girl nappies, but recognize the value of the Day-Time/Night-Time strategy, which fits closely with babies' nappy changing needs. The reasoning behind the new day/night strategy is that a trim, high performance diaper is required during the day when the baby is typically changed every three hours, but at night when a nappy needs to last up to 12 hours, a large, very absorbent product is needed.

Swaddlers predicts that the retail trade will not only benefit from reduced shelf space (created by going unisex) and the increased cash turnover, but that the new strategy will also pull consumers away from low margin/loss making brands, increasing the overall profitability of the nappy fixture. It has a 3 million [pounds] national promotional campaign planned between November and April, as well as a 3 [pounds] cash back promotion aimed at linking Togs Day-Time and Night Time purchases and "locking mums in" to the new range.

The private label sector currently holds about 15% of the market; the biggest selling product is "Boots," the chemist's diaper (with 8% of the total market). All supermarket and larger chemist's chains have their own products and it is normal for hypermarkets to stock Pampers plus either Togs or Peaudouce's brand plus their own brand and occasionally a very cheap "other brand." The main suppliers of private label diapers in the U.K. are Breger Gibson, Skippingdale Paper Products and Premier Disposables. Leading chains demand all the latest features, such as standing leg cuffs, from their private label suppliers.

Training Pants Biggest Innovation

The big news on the U.K. disposables scene this year has been the long-awaited launch of the first training pants products. British consumers, already slightly bewildered by the choice of diapers, suddenly saw three new products on their supermarket shelves--"Huggies Pull-Ups" from Kimberly-Clark, "Pampers Trainers" from P&G and "Up and Go" from Peaudouce. These state-of-the-art products use complex elastic and adhesive technology to offer a close fit to prevent leakage alongside a pants-like material for taking up and down during potty training.

Pampers Trainers are priced at 6.99 [pounds] for 26 10-15 kg packs (unit cost 27p). Huggies Pull-Ups retail at 26.99 for 28 9-12 kg (unit cost 25 p) or 22 14+ kg (boy.)/15+ kg (girl) packs (unit cost 31 p). Peaudouce's Up and Go product retails at 6.49 [pounds] for 22 12-16 kg packs (unit cost 29.5). Price comparisons with toddler diapers reveals a 50% premium for Pampers Trainers over Pampers Phases if comparing on the basis of current cut price cost of 6.99 [pounds]; if compared to the recommended price of 8.99 [pounds], the premium is only 18%. In the case of Peaudouce's products, there is a 65% premium for the training pants.

Describing the composition of the products in detail would require a separate article. State of the art stretch nonwoven fabrics, leg and waist elastication and spray adhesive systems are used liberally in all three products but all use very different approaches to this. Figures 2, 3 and 4 show the differences--the P&G and K-C products look like pants when laid out flat, while the formation and use of 22 elastic threads across the waist in the Peaudouce product make it look more like a normal diaper as it comes out of the pack.

Aesthetically, first prize goes to Huggies Pull-Ups, with second prize going to Up and Go, as the Pampers Trainers are not as soft and appealing to the eye. All products are designed to be easy to tear for removal when wet. Full color printing is on the backside of the nonwoven cover in the Pampers product and on the plastic film under the nonwoven cover in the K-C and Peaudouce products.

As yet there is no private label training pant on the market, but at least one U.K. private label manufacturer has production planned to come onstream by the beginning of next year.

The Feminine Hygiene Market

The total U.K. feminine hygiene market is worth 245 million [pounds] at retail prices and the external sector has risen from 54% in 1992 to about 60% this month. The increased share of napkins over tampons is due to the improved reliability of the winged products, which were launched beginning in February 1992 with P&G's "Always" product.

The Always line is available in normal and ultra versions with and without panty-protecting wings; it quickly made inroads into the napkin market, which was until then dominated by Kimberly-Clark, Sancella and Johnson & Johnson (Figures 5 and 6).

The biggest growth area in the sanitary napkin sector has been the ultra thin and winged products, which have displaced 30% of the traditional rectangular napkins since the beginning of 1992. Currently traditional (non-ultra, non-winged) products hold 70% of the market, ultra thin (with and without wings) product, have 19% and thick winged products have 11%.

It is these more expensive high performance products that have encouraged women to change from tampons for all or part of their protection and account for the increase of the external protection market share over internal protection. The technical approach to wings varies from company to company with various positions and shapes of wings (Figure 7).

K-C has gone in a different direction from its competitors, introducing "Kotex Simplicity Curved." This is a non-ultra non-winged napkin of a similar thickness to Always Plus. An elastic component is inserted along the sides of the middle third of the napkin, giving it a boat shape. The elastication does not add much to the performance, however, and the product does not appear to solve the side leakage problem the way the wings do. The other K-C product is the normal thick napkin "Simplicity," with its unique Kotex central protection strip, which has been used by K-C around the world. This blue strip under the coverstock is designed to channel fluid along the center of the napkin away from the sides.

Sancella continues to upgrade its products. Last March it introduced "Bodyform Invisible" an ultra thin winged napkin with a "drier sensation" cover. Sancella also added "Bodyform Goodnight" winged night napkins in September; research shows this napkin reduces leakage by half compared to normal pads. The company believes there is a need for thick night napkins in the sanitary protection field in much the same way as Swaddlers has found a night niche in the diaper market.

Grocery and chemist chains have been keen to have their own winged napkins and despite earlier expectations that patents would prevent private label manufacturers from introducing winged products, several are now on the market, including Boots and Tesco. The Tesco product is made in Japan, while the Boots product is made in the U.S.

It is hard to imagine what might be around the corner in the diaper and sanitary napkin business, but one thing is for sure-manufacturers will continue to diversify their ranges to stay ahead in this very competitive market.

Clare Haddad is a long-time consultant for the disposables and absorbent products industries in the U.K. Ms. Haddad, who is based in Godalming, U.K, is a frequent contributor to NONWOVENS INDUSTRY.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products
Author:Haddad, Clare
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:2053
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