Tuesday, 31 May 2005

PLMA Show: Amsterdam – 23rd to 26th May 2005

Key Points:
• Cost reduction pressures appear to have halted or even reversed the proliferation of impregnated wipes.
• A shake-out of wet-wipe producers which will hurt the middle-market is anticipated.
• This year's new-ideas showcase had fewer innovative products than previous shows.
• The melamine foam “Magic Eraser” cleaning products were on many stands.
• Soap impregnated wash mittens are proliferating (in the wake of Kandoo® mitts?)
• Dual – surface make-up removal pads were on many stands.
• Fluid-masking perforated thermal bond topsheets were being used on Hyga GmbH femcare products.
• Probiotic tampons were shown by Ellen AB. Rostam claimed a similar development and also an FDA Approved drug-delivery applicator.
• Twist-off digital tampon wraps were common.
• Boots' New Tampon as made by Ontex features lengthwise expansion.
• The presence of the P and G CEO aroused speculation that P and G were considering Private Label supply.

Albaad ( Israel )

President Amnon Brodie complained that the wet-wipe market was suffering from oversupply. As a result fragmentation of the market has stopped and multipurpose products were returning. The big brands continued to lose share to PL however, but they would fight and a shake-out could be expected. This shake-out would hurt the mid-size converters, the small producers being able to continue making a living out of special niches. In substrates, spun-lace was now “king” and the embossed versions were essential to success. Flushability remained desirable and would be developed from 100% viscose, spunlaced and cut into smaller sizes. Air laid would not return on the back of flushability. He did not see cotton becoming any more important than it is now. In the cosmetic market, the US had flirted with dry products such as “Olay Daily Facials” which needed wetting before use, while Europe went with wet wipes. The US consumer had now decided that the wet approach was best and the dry products were in decline. Had he seen any really innovative new wipes recently? No, but packaging developments still had a way to go. For instance car wipes were now being packed in a container which looked like a soft-drink cup and could be stored in the cup-holder.

Bosmat ( Israel )

Ronit Ramot (Marketing Manager) had no flushable products on display this year and commented that while the demand was there, the only safe way was to use smaller products.

Converting Wet Wipes SRL ( Italy )

Federico Piccone also complained that world wide wipe prices were declining while raw material prices increased. He was having to buy products with 50% woodpulp (Orlandi, Orma) instead of viscose to keep cost down. For premium products he thought 100% cotton was the answer but cotton would not replace the viscose or pulp in the mainstream wipes. They were starting to develop flushable products for the toddler market.

Dr Schumacher GmbH ( Germany )

…were displaying the “Kandoo” kiddy wash mittens which they produce for P&G and which are now on the market in the UK . They were also showing larger foaming wash mittens for adults and a glove impregnated with moisturisers for hand skin-care. Here the user was supposed to wear the gloves for 15 minutes instead of applying cream. An impregnated nonwoven face-mask which claimed to whiten the skin was said to be for sale in the Asian market.

Dynamic Wipes Industries ( Israel )

…were showing a range of mitts, some with film liners so that the hand remained dry in wet cleaning. Their “Onyx” body wash spa gloves (mitts) appeared to made of the soap-impregnated high-loft wadding of the sort on show at the Noam Urim stand and claimed “gentle exfoliation, cleans, moisturises and conditions – enriched with vitamins.” They also had dual-sided make up removal pads, a laminate of coarse and fine fibre thermal bonded nonwovens, again claiming exfoliation and moisturising.

Ellen AB ( Sweden )

…displayed their probiotic tampon claiming it to be the “first innovation in the area for the last 20 years”. The new Ellen tampon has added human lactobacilli – Lacto Naturel – to maintain the natural balance of the vagina. This replaces vaginal flora, normally dominated by lactic acid bacteria, which can be lost in menstruation, or destroyed by antibiotics, seminal fluid or exaggerated hygiene. The product was launched into Swedish pharmacies in 2002 and in Finland last year. It is now going International.

Fischer Pharmaceuticals ( Israel )

…had, amongst a wide range of wiping products, most of which were on last year's stand, wet-wipes for bathing your cat, this time claiming to preventing the shedding of cat-hair.

Flawa AG ( Switzerland )

…were showing what appeared to be make-up removal pads targeting the toddler market. Marianna Dittman explained that the colourful prints used on the pads covers were indeed targeting children, but they would be used for cleaning their bottoms, hands and faces by mothers who preffered the pad structure to a conventional wet-wipe. The colours used were food-grade and the lotions hypoallergenic. These Novace® printed pads could be customised with company logos and used as promotional products ,or printed with designs more suitable for adult users. Flawa also sell dual surface cleaning pads made from 100% cotton, one side being soap impregated. These need to be wet out before use. The edges are sealed but soft, thanks to Flawa's patented edge-seal technology.

Fratelli RE ( Italy )

…showed a “Swiffer” mop with a bendy lower shaft to allow easier access to floors under furniture.

Hyga GmbH ( Germany )

…were showing a range of femcare developments:

  1. Ultra-thin pads which follow the P&G “Always” range using perforated thermal-bonded nonwoven topsheets instead of the perforated film. A 3-D topsheet with large holes was the most “structured” and smaller hole versions were also available.
  2. Masking of the fluid had been achieved (they wouldn't say how but it looked like a high-titania loading in the nonwoven).
  3. Ultra-softness in a non-perforated topsheet made from fine bico fibres with a fully hydrophilic finish. (Strike-through was too poor with hydrophobic finishes)
  4. A laminate of the “Always- type” perforated film with 10gsm of lightly bonded PP fleece. This provided the performance of film with a more comfortable textile-like surface.
  5. Panty-liners with highloft wadding under the perforated thermal bonded topsheet to match J&J's “Carefree” range for dryness and cleaness.
  6. Twist-opening digital tampon-wrap. They get round the J&J patent by fully-perforating the Cellophane, but with holes so small the wrapped product can be dipped (briefly) in water without the fibres inside getting wet.

In wet-wipes they commented that the P&G “Kandoo” range of products aimed at toddlers would be the ones to follow. Hand & Face wipes were next after the moist toilet tissue. As if to illustrate the consolidation that was occurring, they drew attention to the Nivea “Toddies” wipes which were on sale in France, Austria and Poland which claimed multi-use, i.e. suitable for bottom and hands and face, presumably not in that order. Wet-wipe developments were being hindered by extreme pressure on cost-reduction and frequent alterations in the EU guidelines regarding ingredients. For instance poly-ethylene glycol could no longer be used. (The Öko-Test organisation was checking products regularly and this October all lotion ingredients will have to be declared on the pack.)

Hyga feel their strength is the speed with which they can develop and consumer test a prototype. (3 months from idea to execution).

Innovate BV ( Holland )

…were showing a range of wipes for premature babies with lotion designed for the very young skin. These were dispensed in a Kandoo-type box which they had co-developed with ALDI. The wipes had a logo embossed into the fabric which they admitted was done with PGI's Apex technology. Cotton wipes remain interesting and Innovate claim to be able to source the fabric exclusively for this application and convert it at a cost which allows the retailer to sell 100% cotton baby-wipes at a lower price than P&G's “Pampers” wipes. For hand and face uses, their wipes are still growing in a crowded market as a result of offering the highest quality at the lowest price. Flushability was still sought after, but in their view an air-laid substrate was necessary to make this possible. Unfortunately, compared with commodity spun-laced viscose polyester, air laid pulp was now too expensive, and while the demand for flushability was still evident at retail level, the absence of standards was hindering development. Nevertheless their moist toilet tissues for kids claimed flushability at the 3 wipes per flush level.

Intigena V & M AG (Switzerland)

…were displaying a small diaper with a highly apertured nonwoven topsheet that looked like a woven gauze, and an attractively printed backing film. The topsheet was like PGI's Apex material but they said it was made elsewhere.

Kimberly-Clark Europe

…claim the knowledge gained developing premium brands makes them best able to meet the needs of today's retailer seeking differentiated own-brand products. In fact the synergy works both ways because they now have examples of features developed at the request of retailers which have been incorporated into their brands. Commenting on the fact that no wet-wipes were visible on the stand, a K-C'er speculated that they had yet to introduce Huggies wipes in Germany probably because P&G “Pampers” wipes were too well established and the listing fees required by the retailers (for shelf space) were too high. As last year they were making the most of innovations in their tissue products, especially those featuring colours and prints suitable for marketing to children, and the softness advantage they feel they have from through air drying. While they do not yet supply the US private label market, they do feel they are onto a good thing. Why don't P&G do likewise? Maybe they will – for the first time ever they had observed the P&G CEO and staff touring the show.

The only “new” item on display was a digital tampon wrapped in a green twist-off wrapper.

Multibrands ( UK )

…described themselves as an 8 year old import-export company who 2 years ago decided to make rather than import. They are introducing a premium quality branded baby-wipe into the UK using the “Tushies” brand. In the USA where this brand name is already taken the same product is marketed as “Honey”. Why are they at PLMA if the strategy is premium brand? Because they would make a similar own-brand product if anyone asked. What made “Tushies” special enough to take on P&G in the UK ? They used heavier spunlace to give a thicker softer texture and use an advanced lotion formulation at pH 5.5 which is clinically tested. ( These wipes appeared to contain little or no cellulosic fibres. )

Nagev Surgical Dressing Ltd ( Hungary )

…showed a pantyliner with asymmetric wings designed for more comfortable attachment to thongs. The wings did not overlap when fastened around the thong and hence reduced the overall thickness. They also had digital tampons with the twist-off wrapper.

Nice-Pak International ( UK )

…observed that the cosmetic wipe sector had fragmented into a wide rang of offerings with each wipe providing ever more subtle variations on the theme of skin care. In this sector “multi-purpose”, which seems to be the emerging theme in household and baby-care does not work. Flushability continues to be demanded by retailers but the confusion of standards makes development difficult. Big companies like P&G can self-validate using their own proprietary methods, but the private label suppliers have to rely on independent testing houses. The situation is made more complex by the variety of different flush volumes and toilet designs and this makes many of the claims on the packs unbelievable – e.g. 5 wipes per flush on a “Kandoo” type product. Cotton certainly has marketing advantages in the baby wipe sector but the price pressures here make it too expensive for the Nice-Pak range. In the Household Wipes sector there is nothing new this year. Last years developments went way beyond requirements and the fragmentation observed then has reversed with multipurpose products at lower cost being preferred. The adult inco wipe sector is growing nicely.

In the New Ideas section Nice-Pak showed a “Scratch n' Sniff” label on a flowpack so that the customer could smell the product inside without opening the pack.

Noam Urim Enterprises ( Israel )

…were once again promoting their Soap'n Wipe range of bulky polyester needlefelts impregnated with soaps for use in hotels, restaurants and hospitals. However at this show several stands were showing wash mittens which appeared to be using this product beneath a topsheet. (presumably following the P&G “Kandoo” Kiddies wash mitten)

Nölken Hygiene Products GMBH ( Germany )

…claimed the largest and strongest wet-toilet wipe for kids (“Feucht und Frisch”) which could be disposed of in the toilet at up to 5 at a time. How quickly did it disintegrate? It didn't: it was not air-laid but 100% viscose spunlaced and it biodegraded rapidly. It may not work in all countries but they said it did in Germany .

Ontex International B.V. ( Holland )

…had a “new” tampon on display, enthusiastically described as specially developed for Boots who had commenced selling it 3 months ago. The new feature? Lengthwise expansion!

Orlandi SPA ( Italy )

…were one of the very few nonwoven producers at the show. Mr Massimo Cassani, their spunlace sales manager explained that since building their first line in 1991 they had added two similar lines capable of making the standard spunlaced viscose/polyester blend needed by wet-wipes and a fourth line capable of making a unique fibre/pulp/fibre sandwich. Here the viscose/polyester outer layers were calendered to give a very smooth texture and to prevent pulp fibres migrating to the surface. They are currently working on 3-D embossed products using both water-jet and thermal methods.

The wet-wipe market has now plateaued, supply exceeds demand, and the developments in China are frightening everyone. Costs have to be reduced while raw material prices rise and the $/€ exchange rate remains a tragedy. Lenzing has and effective monopoly on rayon in Europe and the USA . Prices have risen steadily until earlier this year when they stabilised and started to decline.

Rockline Industries Ltd ( UK )

…reported the cosmetic wipe sector 20% up on last year with textured spun-lace substrates doing best. They described wet-wipes as becoming more of a process than a product because interactions between the substrate and the lotion were emerging that demolished the old “simple” product view. You now had to decide the feature you wished to deliver and co-develop the lotion and substrate to work together. Many cosmetic wipes needed a dual-sided substrate (exfoliation and moisturising again) to get the right texture. They feel cotton is going to be a more important marketing angle in future and are testing products made of 100% cotton. However the cavalier attitude to product claims in Europe (c.f. USA ) make life difficult for the strictly “honest” supplier. Cotton claims are being made on products which are blends and some being minority cotton. Clearly they don't perform well and get the “cotton” claim a bad name.

Nowadays, the PL suppliers job starts with matching the performance of the brand leaders and moving ahead from this point. The big conflict is between cost and customisation, retailers wanting ever more customised products while being unwilling to pay the inevitable extra costs. 9 out of 10 wet wipe introductions have failed in the last few years, Colgate Palmolive's Dish Wipes, Microwavable oven-cleaning wipes and Brillo's Scrub n' Toss being the higher profile examples.

Rostam Ltd ( Israel )

Had nothing visibly new on display and were characteristically reluctant to talk. Having shown them the Ellen probiotic tampon they did admit to be looking at similar developments and to have been working on an applicator which also “delivered a drug.” This was now FDA approved but they were not ready to launch it.

Sadovsky Ltd ( Israel )

Had developed a laminated version of the “Magic Sponge” to improve its durability. The melamine foam was laminated to a coarser pan-scourer which was said to prevent it from breaking up too easily in use. Their floor-mops used knitted microfibre tapes rather than the slit chemically-bonded nonwovens favoured by Vileda, and their floor cloths were massive knitted microfibre fabrics.

Spring Srl ( Italy )

Showed a full range of “Swiffer-like” electrostatic dust gatherers including a mitt (“Blitser Facile”) made of the same scrim-reinforced spun-laced polypropylene.

Wecovi B.V. ( Holland )

Had a full range of “Swiffer – like” anti-static wipes but new for this year was the “Magic Eraser”, a block of melamine foam of the sort used in building insulation being sold with claims of an ability to remove stains from most hard surfaces. Variations on this theme featured on many stands, but Wecovi claimed an exclusive arrangement with the foam maker (BASF) presumably for Holland . (This product was described elsewhere as a discovery similar in importance to 3M's “Post it” adhesive.)