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Introductions abound at private label show.

Introductions Abound At Private Label Show

manufacturers of disposable diapers and other personal care products made an impressive showing at the 10th annual private label show in Chicago in November; the biodegradability bandwagon rolled on, although some producers remained skeptical; foam waistbands led product innovations The words "environmentally friendly" and "biodegradable" were the buzzwords of the disposable diaper manufacturers at the Private Label Manufacturers Association's annual show in Chicago last November. More than 3000 attended the 10th gathering, while exhibitors numbered above 700.

Biodegradable baby diapers and adult incontinence products led the list of introductions by a majority of the top private label producers. While not all the manufacturers professed total biodegradability, many said their new diapers have improved degradability levels and are being produced in response to retailer request and, presumably, consumer demand.

On the other side of the coin, however, some manufacturers remained skeptical about biodegradability in general and the importance of it in baby diapers. These manufacturers have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, analyzing what the branded manufacturers are doing before making costly, and perhaps unnecessary, investments. The absence of an industry-wide definition of biodegradability continued as a major stumbling block.

It appears that foam waistbands captured the attention of most R&D developments in the past year, as several companies introduced baby and adult diapers with this feature. Brand name innovations such as landing strips, superabsorbent polymers, multri-strand elastics and individual packaging of sanitary napkins have made it into almost all private label products by now, although only one company reported taking the plunge into gender specific diapers.

To Degrade Or Not To Degrade

That is the question. And private label producers are definitely divided on the answer. While almost all the manufacturers reported researching, working on or running samples of some type of biodegradable product, there was certainly not a consensus as to the effectiveness of this solution.

Several companies reported plans to introduce a biodegradable product in the months following the show. Weyerhaeuser, Tacoma, WA, expects to introduce a biodegradable diaper early in 1990 and said that it will have packaging that explains and educates consumers about the topic. Atlantic Packaging, Ontario, Canada, planned to introduce a biodegradable baby diaper last month in both the U.S. and Canada and reports are that several other companies have plans to come out with biodegradable introductions in the next few months.

Some have already taken the plunge. Hospital Specialty, Cleveland, OH, introduced "Precious" ultra biodegradable diapers in a biodegradable bag at PLMA. The company's George Murphy said that "we have gone backwards to a rayon facing, but it is now biodegradable." Just introduced last month, the diapers have had a very positive response, according to Mr. Murphy. "People want to help the environment."

"Ultra Shield Plus" is a new biodegradable adult diaper from Whitestone Products, Piscataway, NJ. Both adult briefs and adult underpants are available nationally.

Other companies that introduced biodegradable diapers earlier in the year were at the show to continue the environmental push. Dafoe & Dafoe, Ontario, Canada, the first to introduce such a product at the 1988 Private Label show, continued to showcase its biodegradable "Nappies." The company reported that the diapers had been well received in the Midwest and Northeast and will soon be available nationally.

One of the larger displays at the show, with a large sign depicting a scene from nature and the words "environmentally friendly," was offered by Nice-Pak, Orangeburg, NY. The company was promoting biodegradable baby wipes in recyclable tubs. Although the company's Bill Sims said that 100% biodegradable is not yet possible, Nice-Pak has updated the packaging to offer products that are environmentally friendly. "The other key issue," he said, "is that environmentally friendly doesn't have to cost more. Our products are not priced at a premium because of this."

In the feminine hygiene area, ICD Industries, King of Prussia, PA, introduced an environmentally friendly feminine hygiene line, "Today's Choice." The four products have a 100% cotton sheet and come in a 100% recyclable cardboard box. The company simply calls the product "a step in the right direction." ICD also introduced Today's Choice dioxin-free baby wipes.

On the "not to degrade" side, one company that did not wish to be identified reported it is watching Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble before making its move. Another said it is waiting for technology to develop. "Corn starch backing is in its infancy," said one company spokesperson. "Waiting a couple years will allow the technology to improve."

Pope & Talbot, Portland, OR, reported it is looking at the situation, but is not ready to move yet. "While we are faced with the situation, biodegradability is not the answer yet," said a company spokesperson.

"It is a solid waste problem, not a diaper problem," said Jim Daly, of Chicopee, New Brunswick, NJ. The company currently has no plans to get involved in the biodegradability barrage.

Technologically Speaking . . .

Foam waistbands are the word. This was the dominant new feature on the baby diapers at the show. Four companies reported introducing foam waistbands on their ultra diapers in the past few months or are planning to do so shortly. Chicopee began shipping its foam waistband addition, available on its "Ultra Deluxe" diaper, in September, but it is now available for national distribution.

In addition, Weyerhaeuser reported that it has had its soft stretch foam waisband available on its ultra brand for more than a year, while Dafoe & Dafoe is planning a foam waistband introduction in 1991. Universal Converter, Oconto Falls, WI, introduced a foam frontal tape on its private label diaper.

Only Pope & Talbot has taken the plunge thus far into gender specific diapers in the private label waters. Having introduced the diapers early in 1989, Pope & Talbot has plans to expand production to all five of its diaper plants (the gender specific diapers are currently manufactured only at its Shenandoah, GA site). By the end of 1990, Pope & Talbot expects to have capabilities at all facilities.

An assortment of new adult incontinence product improvements were also on display at the Private Label Show. Health Tec, Palmer, MA, introduced a pad with a new nonwoven topsheet with "baby quality softness" that has fluff in the wings. The new 300 Series premium product also has multi-strand elastic.

New from Professional Medical, Greenwood, SC, was the packaging on its adult diapers. New graphics and carrying handles enhanced the poly bag, which now holds 10, rather than 12, pads. The company also added multi-strand elastic leg gathers and a new type of superabsorbent powder that improves containment.

Another new adult diaper was at the show from Medical Disposables, Marietta, GA. Its "Sure Care" one-size-fits-all diaper has a button hole design and, according to the company, the highest absorbency factor in its class. "The price allows retailers to make 25% more profit than from national brands," said Michael Applebaum, the company's eastern U.S. representative, "yet gives the consumer 30% savings." He claimed that eight out of 10 incontinent users say the product is the most comfortable.

Feminine hygiene led the way at Marcal's booth. The Elmwood Park, NJ converter introduced a private label version of its "Whenever" feminine hygiene line. The product is a thin absorbent triple folded pad with superabsorbent polymers throughout the pad. The pad is also individually wrapped.
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Title Annotation:includes related articles; Private Label Manufacturers Association convention for manufacturers of disposable diapers and other personal care products
Author:Noonan, Ellen
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Profitability: and the factors that drive it in the U.S. absorbent products business; the results may be eye opening to some industry observers.
Next Article:PL sanitary sales performed well in 1989.

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