Tuesday 3 June 2003

PLMA 2003: Amsterdam Holland : 27-28th May


This Amsterdam PLMA show was smaller and less crowded than last year's Chicago event, and according to several exhibitors was probably less well attended than the previous Amsterdam show - “but the quality of attendee has been excellent”.

From a nonwovens and disposables viewpoint a notable feature was the large number of stands showing wet-wipes, cosmetic wipes, dry-dusters and floor-cleaners of every description. Micro-fibre wipes, both nonwoven and knitted were also much in evidence.

You can't ignore Private Label say SCA Hygiene

SCA Hygiene AG, Europe 's leading producer of tissue and personal care products with such well known brands as Velvet, Edet, Tena and Libresse had a large presence to underline their commitment to the private label sector. According to Peter Irish, Director Customer Development , private label was shedding its cheap and cheerful image, and supermarkets were increasingly interested in premium own-label products. This was seen as a new retailer strategy: they want to match the quality of the international brands and still undercut them while in some way differentiating their products from those of the other retailers.

SCA want to participate in this quality-end of the PL market, not just to fill up capacity but as real partners of the major retailers. The growth in PL and the advance of the discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl could not be ignored. 61% of tissue products were now sold under private labels. With regard to nonwovens, SCA now made very few, buying-in most of their requirements. They no longer produced tampons, having swapped their made-under-licence o.b. product for the Serenity incontinence range in a deal with J&J last year.

Baby Wipes 13% PA Growth

Nice-Pak UK 's Chris Hall (Marketing) reported that after some signs of stagnation a year ago, baby wet-wipes were not only the biggest wet-wipe category, but they were still growing at about 13% per year thanks to mothers continuing to use them on toddlers. Whether this should really be counted as baby wipes or part of a “toddler” wipe category can be debated, but at Nice-Pak, the baby wipe category remains way ahead of the rapidly growing cosmetic and floor-wipe categories.

Convenience remains the key growth driver in all categories although some seasonality is evident most especially in deodorant wipes. Spun-lace continues to progress outside premium baby wipes at the expense of air-laid which cannot match the strength or aesthetics and has been rising in price recently. Air-lace does not really figure, maybe because consumers don't differentiate it from air-laid. Wet-laid nonwovens are now mainly found in single-wipe sachets, most of which are supplied as complementary refresher wipes. Which products suffered most from the growth of baby-wipes? Mr Hall felt it was the absorbent cotton-wool products that used to be introduced to new mothers by the maternity wards.

On the stand were wipes for: Lime-scale removal, toilet cleaning (flushable), floor cleaning, intended for use on a mop, Exfoliating, Deodorising, Anti-ageing, Glass cleaning, Scouring, Hob cleaning and Personal refreshment. New product introduced at the show: a deodorising foot wipe.

Waiting for a breakthrough?

Rostam were showing the plastic applicator tampon launched at the Chicago PLMA show last December. They were keen to point out that a recent magazine article claiming that it was flushable and biodegradable was in fact a mistake. They said it was nevertheless being very well received in the UK , but its future in Europe as a whole really depended on the increasing success of the branded plastic-applicator products.

According to Haim Ezer, VP Business Development, Rostam could not grow the market by themselves: they could only follow the high-spending branded product producers in. In the USA , the plastic applicator was now well established and selling well. Since Rostam's launch, First Quality had followed with another PL plastic applicator product.

PL Plastic Applicator Tampon in UK

The Chilwood stand displayed plastic applicator tampons as part of its range of private label femcare products. These were made by Rostam and supplied by Chilwood only in the UK to Tesco and Morrisons supermarkets who wanted to buy a full range of femcare from whoever supplied them. Chilwood also make a full range of external protection.

You can't ignore Private Label say Kimberly Clark

Kimberly Clark were showing tampons for the private label market . John Bebbington, the Director of Customer Management, Retail Brands, Europe said their Kotex and Camelia branded tampons come up against very stiff competition and they now believe that private label or “retail branding” provides an excellent additional route to growth. In this sector Rostam is the leading producer, and their introduction of the plastic applicator at this show was a surprise because plastics were still rather “taboo” in Europe .

Talking wipes, the zip-lock fastener on early versions of the highly successful “Huggies” wipes pack had proved troublesome so they now used a new closure without the tab, which could, like freezer bags, be closed by the fingers alone.

Apart from the baby wipes, most of their wiping products were dry. Mr Bebbington thought that K-C's Consumer and Professional divisions could, in principle, move into a broader range of wet-wipes. On the other hand, were wet-wipes really necessary? Maybe in the same way as P&G were promoting the ability to wet-out “Bounty”, K-C would decide to focus on wet-out products rather than pre-wetted products.

Microfiber Wipes the Floor

Christina Hild of A&N&A ( Germany ) demonstrated their new premoistened nonwoven microfibre floor-cloths, one of numerous microfibre products on the stand, all made from the 80% polyester/20% nylon segment-pie bicomponents, many of which appeared durable and either knitted or woven. A&N&A were currently selling 10 packs and 2x15 packs of the nonwoven floor cloths, and intended to introduce a multipack where wet and dry wipes were added. The products were designed to be attached to a lightweight mop.

Keep Your Nose Clean

Fischer Pharmaceuticals ( Israel and Belgium ) claimed more new product introductions than any other exhibitor, but not all of these were wipes. Keren Sliwowicz (International Marketing Manager) showed fruity-fragranced toddler wipes and, also for toddlers, a nose-wipe. Also new at the show were “Age defying facial cleansing wipes with Q10” and pre- and post- birth intimate wipes, apparently with a haemorrhoidal treatment.

Elsewhere on the stand: patient-care wipes, a “head-bath” system intended as a bed-shampoo for institutionalised patients, menthol-loaded vapour-wipes for easy breathing, sunscreen wipes and self tanning wipes (not to be mixed up), and pet-wipes, said to be very popular in the USA. According to Ms Sliwowicz, Fischer have 70% of the Israeli wipes market and are major suppliers to Asda and Superdrug in the UK .

Random Dots for Abrasion

Tecnofibra had an Abrasive/Soft two-sided spun-lace fabric on display, the abrasive side created by random dot-coating with EVA hot-melt in a process which must be similar to that used in fusible interlining manufacture. The dots could be in different colours for different applications. According to Dr Francesco Natale this could be sold at 2-3 times the price of the standard 50/50 viscose/polyester spunlace at 50gsm. A new “embossed” version of this standard wipe was now made using a new patterning roll on the HE machine and this was available at a small premium. A supersoft material for the ultimate baby wipe was made with a PP/viscose blend.

More Microwavable Bathing Towels

Diva International SRL ( Italy ) introduced a microwavable bathing towel in two pack types, one for home and one for hospital use. Unlike the long-established “Comfort-Bath” product from Sage in the USA , these “Daily Comfort” body wipes appeared to be multi-layer spun-lace wipes, bonded and bulked in an embossing process carried out by Diva during conversion. The overall effect was a most attractive soft and bulky material. Elsewhere on the stand were multi-layer tissue kitchen wipes suggesting that the spun-lace had been put through a similar layering and embossing process.

Inherently Antimicrobial

Noam Urim (Israel) were showing an antibacterial kitchen wipe based on needled and thermally bonded 65% viscose, 20% PP and 15% Amicor antimicrobial acrylic fibre from Acordis. According to Sophie Tuviahu, marketing manager it had been on the market for 18 months and was selling particularly well in South America, Europe and Hong Kong . They also had a body-cleansing mitten made from a lofty through-air bonded (and maybe needlepunched) nonwoven impregnated with soap. This dry product was intended to be wetted with hot water prior to use in nursing homes, hospitals, or when camping. A version for car cleaning was also available.

Pulp Friction Disguised

Daniele Mamoli of Orlandi Spa ( Italy ) showed a unique 3 layer wipe substrate made on their new high-output fourth HE line. This 50gsm fabric was remarkably soft considering it contained no viscose and 50% wood-pulp. The pulp was sandwiched between 12.5 gsm of polyester and 12.5 gsm of polypropylene. Mr Mamoli commented that while the dry softness was good, the wet texture was excellent. As well as needled and spunlaced rollgoods, Orlandi supply consumer wipes direct to supermarkets and professional wipes for the healthcare and catering trades to specialist wholesalers. While wet-wipes are a major outlet for the spunlace variety, they do not convert themselves, preferring to feed rollgoods to the major converters for both private label and branded products.

Daily Facials etc

Wecovi bv ( Holland ) were showing Wecotec “Daily Facial Cleansing Cloths” looking very like the P&G Olay® product. They bought in the coarse-apertured spunlace product and added the soap themselves. A transparent plastic tub and a refill pack were on display.

Their microfibre wipes were woven or knitted by their subsidiary in the Far East . Dust attracting floor wipes were described as “3D Quality” apparently due to the embossing achieved during hydroentanglement. These were made without a reinforcing scrim, but they also had a version made with the scrim, and a spray-jet sweeper with absorbent pads made using a needlefelt central layer.

Green Tea Wipes

Albaad's ( Israel ) Amnon Brodie (President and CEO) emphasised that growth, either by verticalisation or acquisition was essential for a company such as his. They had transformed themselves from chemical-bond and spunlace nonwoven producers to fully vertical suppliers of wipes of all kinds. Their offerings were now colour coded to assist differentiation: Yellow for surface wipes, Blue/green for windows, Orange for furniture. He pointed out the springless self-opening plastic wipes box, the “White Cloud” baby wipes for Wal Mart, and their use of embossing patterns to increase the bulk of the spun lace.

Their “Green Tea” line of wipes “delivers the idea of indulgent Spa treatment while cleaning your face and body.” The range includes “Relaxing and Moisturising Facial Cloths” with the calm and healing power of Green Tea's Theanine”. The Deep Cleansing Peeling Facial cloths use the “purifying antioxidant power of the polyphenols in Green Tea” while the Deodorant cloths utilised the antibacterial qualities of the tea's flavonoids.

Biodegradable Femcare?

The CIP4 stand had a display case promoting a fully biodegradable femcare range. The “exploded” pad had a conulated film cover, and an apparently normal synthetic backsheet and acquisition layer, displayed against a photograph of a field of corn. No-one on the stand could say whether PLA fibre was used to make the synthetic components: the display was said to illustrate a concept product which had yet to be commercialised.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Sitclin had an innovative “origami” toilet seat cover that stretched over the top and outside edges of the seat and fastened with two small adhesive thumb-tabs. According to Ralf Conrads , the many small paper segments were joined by water soluble glue so that the whole product was totally flushable, and disintegrated within 4 metres of leaving the toilet bowl.

Instant Real Cappucino

Maurice van den Boomen of Fort E.P. Leidische described how the launch of a new coffee making system by Philips and Douwe Egberts 2 years ago had proved popular for making single cups of frothy white coffee, and now had 15% of the Dutch market, where over a million of the Philips machines were now in use. Fort is now introducing PL versions of the coffee bags (called “pads”, but in reality they appear identical to the UK 's round tea-bags) in several flavours and decaffeinated.

The system has so far been introduced to Belgium , France , Spain and Germany and could be expected in the UK shortly. The obligatory taste test proved the coffee to be excellent, and we look forward to an increased market for the apertured tea-bag paper accompanying the success of the PL launch.

O-Pac SRL ( Italy ) were showing a bulky embossed spunlace make-up removal wipe said to be 70/30 Viscose/PET and 50 gsm.

Stenago SRL ( Italy ) “Bio Salviette” cosmetic wipes were 100% cotton and ICEA certified.

Calvin Woodings

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