Trends in the Baby Diaper Market by Nonwovens Industry Magazine
Diaper makers respond to diverse needs around the globe
Despite high market penetration and stagnant growth for baby diapers in developed regions like the U.S. and Western Europe, developing regions, specifically Asia and Africa, are predicted to deliver strong growth opportunities for baby diaper manufacturers in the future.
According to figures from Euromonitor International, the value of the global baby diaper market in 2019 was $43.38 billion (real terms, 2019 fixed exchange rate), and it is expected to witness modest growth over the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% to reach an estimated $51.53 billion by 2024.
Regionally, the fastest growing markets are now found mainly in Asia and Africa, according to Svetlana Uduslivaia, head of Home & Tech Americas at Euromonitor. The CAGRs for the two most populated countries in the world, China and India, will be 7.4% and 14.8%, respectively, through 2024. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are expected to be the fastest growing markets for baby diapers in Southeast Asia, with CAGRs of 11.8%, 5.9% and 8.4%, respectively, during the same time period. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are projected to see the fastest growth over the next five years, with CAGRs of 2.9% and 13.3%, respectively.
Meanwhile, with lower birth rates, more developed regions are expected to grow at a much slower rate.
“The disposable baby diaper market has been struggling in most of the mature markets, not only because people continue to use less diapers per day (a trend that our industry started with the 12 hour guarantee more than a decade ago), but also due to record low birth rate numbers,” says diaper industry consultant Carlos Richer, CEO at Richer Investment and Diaper Testing International. “In the United States, as an example, the birth rate in 2019 dropped for the fourth consecutive year in a row. Some people in our industry have predicted that sales in the U.S. will have to go up next year because women’s biological clocks will force them to have a baby, as they will be unable to delay this decision for any longer. I am not so sure this is true.”
While Richer agrees that there are a growing number of couples deciding to have their first baby later in life, there are also a larger number of couples deciding to have only one child, or to not have a child at all, with a preference to have a pet. “Unfortunately for this segment of our industry, it is easy to anticipate that 2020 will be another record low for birth rates,” he continues. “This is in part due to the likely reduction in the number of young immigrants coming into the U.S. In countries like Austria, the U.K. and Spain, the statistic about couples deciding never to have a baby is at a record high and continues to climb.”
Pricie Hanna, managing partner, Price Hanna Consultants, is also witnessing this trend. “Developing markets have really flattened out in growth,” she says. “They’re fully penetrated for the most part, and we need more babies. The birth rate in almost every country in the world is going down, and we have many countries now that are not replacing their own populations. That is hard to change.”
Most of the disposable diaper penetration opportunities for growth today are in Africa and rural Asia, she adds. In these markets, the biggest questions relate to affordability—whether there is steady economic growth where consumers feel that their standard of living can increase and they are optimistic, and whether they are living in a secure environment. “When there is stability and income growth, market penetration accelerates, but this progress is set back every time there are serious security or local warfare issues,” she explains.
A major positive influence in these regions has been access to the internet. “The internet is really making a difference in consumers becoming aware of products and understanding their benefit, and the global leaders are doing a great job communicating to consumers,” Hanna says. “Growth in developing markets is changing, because of the ability of consumers to become aware of the benefits and features of quality diapers. Consumers, even if they are low income, are making decisions about what they understand is the best for their baby, and how they will allocate the limited income that they have. Once they can try a high quality disposable diaper, they typically remain loyal purchasers as long as their income growth is secure.”
Richer sees baby diaper sales continuing to grow with double digit numbers in some emerging countries in Asia, with a “shining star in India.” Africa is also picking up steam. “We are seeing the start up of new baby diaper factories not only in the most developed regions of Northern and Southern Africa, but also in the Central less developed part of the continent. We are also seeing a healthy growth rate in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and some Latin American countries.”
The influence of Asia in the baby diaper market cannot be underestimated. Global trends such as softer and more breathable materials, as well as the ultra-premium segment, began on the continent in the last decade.
In China, past concerns over product safety steered parents toward premium, foreign-made diapers in the country’s urban areas. These diapers were high-quality, ultra-soft and offer an improved fit, and most notably, “Made in Japan,” which prompted some Japanese manufacturers, like Unicharm, to expand capacity.
Huggies maker Kimberly-Clark has been seeing success in the premium diaper tier in China. During the company’s third quarter 2019 conference call, CEO Mike Hsu reported that in China, the company’s organic sales in its key personal care business were up mid-teens compared to a soft performance last year. Sales were up double digits in both diapers and femcare, and in diapers, net pricing was helped by reduced and more targeted promotional spending, he said. He mentioned specifically that innovations launched on premium Huggies were delivering strong growth and improving mix.
“We feel very positive about the innovation that we’ve been launching,” Hsu said. “The 5D core diaper in China is doing very, very well.”
Another growing segment originating in Asia is the pant style diaper, as more parents have been converting from tape style diapers to the more convenient underwear-like pant style.
Hanna notes that the baby pants trend is still much more significant in Asia than in other regions. “It was fascinating to watch Unicharm’s success in starting baby pants in Indonesia and India because they realized that in those hot climates, pants were convenient, and they were similar to the traditional baby clothing before disposables,” she says. “They launched with affordable pants and were very successful in both countries, so that went against the perception that baby pants had to be more expensive and belong primarily in sophisticated Western markets.”
In describing baby pants technology, Richer says that it’s clear that the old style pull-up baby pant chassis made in machine direction with elastic film—like Huggies Pull-Ups—has lost its global traction and has essentially lost the battle against the Asian style three-piece cross directional Spandex baby pant. “It is interesting that even K-C, who is the market leader for Pull-Ups in the U.S., has preferred the Asian style pant for all their new pant launches, like those pants recently launched in Mexico, and most of Asia (Malaysia, Philippines, India, South Korea and China). The traditional open diapers are almost gone in India, with more than 95% of market sales already replaced by baby pants, made in all sizes from newborn to jumbo.”
Pampers also has shown a preference for this kind of chassis with Spandex, according to Richer. After several years of continued decline with open diaper market share in China, Pampers seems to be picking up sales with its new Pampers baby pants, he adds. “The recent launch of Pampers Cruisers 360 FIT in the U.S., a pant also made with the three-piece chassis and the use of the cross directional Spandex, seems to confirm the future growth for these products.”
Pampers Cruisers 360 FIT, which rolled out last March, feature a comfortable all-around stretchy waistband, which the brand says are already a favorite of parents of active babies around the world. The all-around stretch provides an adaptive and comfortable fit, while the pull on diaper is easy to put on, and easy to take off by tearing the sides, rolling it up and securing with the in-built disposal tape. The new line, available in sizes 3 through 6, is also crafted with a material that is super soft like cotton and features Air-Dry Channels for breathable dryness and up to 12 hours of protection.
“Pampers loves the curious nature of babies and toddlers, and we are committed to supporting them as they develop and discover the world,” says Andre Schulten, vice president and general manager Baby Care North America, Procter & Gamble. “With so many things to see and do, babies and toddlers need diapers that can keep up with their great adventures. This is why we designed Pampers Cruisers 360 FIT diapers with an innovative stretchy waistband that moves as baby moves and paired it with the Pampers protection parents trust.”
Millennials Lead the Way
There’s no doubt about it; today’s parents—many who are part of the millennial generation—have driven some of the latest trends in baby diapers, including ingredient transparency from baby diaper brands.
“At a high level, millennials always have an appetite for more information about the products they purchase,” says Colin Hanna, director of research, Price Hanna Consultants. “They really care to see that brands know and reflect who they are. I think there’s a sense that they’re sharing so much information about themselves as consumers by being active online, they expect the brands to use that information to reflect who they are.”
The Honest Company, for example, built its brand on ingredient transparency, not just by listing the ingredients in its diapers but also telling consumers where they were sourced. Honest was one of the first brands to do so, and other diaper brands have followed suit in recent years.
According to Pricie Hanna, there is also a greater emphasis on phrases like dermatologically tested and hypoallergenic, which move right into natural materials and why they’re favored. “Cotton is always magic for the consumer,” she says.
A more recent trend that is becoming more pronounced is responding to the “free and clear” demands of consumers, she adds. “In other words, products that not only list ingredients that are included but also ingredients that they are avoiding because they are viewed by consumers as unnecessary chemicals, possibly toxic, etc., so natural materials are closely related to safety.”
One of the brands responding to this trend is ParasolCo, which in August launched its latest generation of diapers called Clear+Dry.
With this launch, the three-year old company is determined to end the major cause of diaper rash—prolonged exposure to moisture. “We are in constant conversation with our parents, and the No. 1 thing they want is to open that diaper and see clear, healthy skin and not a red, irritated bottom,” says co-founder/CEO Jessica Hung. “We worked tirelessly with our global R+D team and worldwide network of vendors to innovate the right combination of materials and a new construction to make that a reality.”
As the product name states, Clear+Dry diapers keep baby’s skin clear and drier, thanks to Parasol’s exclusive new RashShield protection, a dual-core absorption system that immediately wicks moisture and locks it away from sensitive skin. Improved to be softer, drier and comfier, this latest generation diaper is also lighter and sleeker, providing greater mobility for babies to develop and explore their world. Clear+Dry diapers are dermatologist-certified with a 5-Star Seal of Excellence for Sensitive Skin from the Dermatest research Institute.
Each package of diapers includes two patterns: an artist’s abstract illustration of denim jeans and a tee shirt-inspired slogan, “See you at 2 AM”, a clever, insider wink to parents that Parasol knows the challenges of getting a full night’s sleep. For babies size 3 and up, Parasol offers pull-up diaper pants, also now with RashShield protection.
With the new line, Parasol made a conscious move on the packaging; changing from small packages to larger ones in order to reduce plastic bag usage, which was appreciated by subscribers, Hung says.
As a smaller startup brand, major challenges continue to be pricing and visibility, according to Hung. “Small brands like us are not in major physical retail stores and we don’t have the lowest pricing to compete,” she says. “We simply have to be super patient, be committed to our loyal customers and continue to focus on bringing them the most comfortable, pure and performing products that align with their value proposition to be mama- and earth-friendly.”
According to Essity, a major global player in the personal hygiene market, sustainability is getting increasingly important for both consumers and customers and it is constantly trying to improve the impact its products have on the environment. One example of this is that it has integrated a “life cycle perspective” in its way of working. This includes responsible sourcing, resource efficient production, sustainable products and services during and after use. “Our open baby diapers in Europe have seen a reduced carbon footprint by 25% since 2008,” says Linus Clausen, global brand director—Baby Care, Essity Hygiene & Health. “This was mainly through smarter product design, superior materials and a more efficient supply chain.”
For its Libero brand, environmental care is a natural priority, Clausen adds, and the brand has had the Nordic Ecolabel—the Swan, since 2007. “We simply cannot make products for babies without taking the environment into account,” he says.
In order to be approved for the Nordic Ecolabel, it is not enough just to meet strict environmental requirements. Both the products’ function and quality are evaluated. The Nordic Ecolabel Board examines the products’ environmental impact during the key stages of their life cycle. “Our life cycle approach together with the Nordic Eco label is a guarantee for the consumer that we continuously improve our environmental profile and our ambition is to continuously improve going forward,” Clausen says.
In new product news, a recent innovation from Essity addresses parents’ need of a baby diaper that is always comfortable to wear so their baby can move freely and not be bothered by the diaper. It is a next generation core construction that allows the diaper to gently flex with baby’s movements whatever the baby is up to. The core also has channels that prevent the central section from collapsing during use, enabling the diaper to stay in place. “Consumers perceive our new diapers as better in terms of softness, pliability and fit compared to our previous diapers,” Clausen explains. “We describe it as: ‘A diaper for babies who prefer to be naked. So comfortable it’s barely noticeable!’”
The innovation was launched last year on both Libero and Lotus Baby brands in Europe.
While diaper brands like Honest, Bambo Nature and Seventh Generation have captured parents seeking so-called natural diapers for quite some time, Pampers and Huggies released new products in the natural category just in the last two years.
Procter & Gamble launched Pampers Pure Collection in 2018, featuring diapers and wipes made with premium cotton and other thoughtfully selected materials. Pampers Pure diapers and wipes are made without chlorine bleaching, fragrance, lotion, parabens, natural rubber latex and 26 allergens identified by the E.U.
Meanwhile, last summer, Kimberly-Clark introduced Huggies Special Delivery diapers made with plant-based materials (23% by weight). The ultra-premium, plant-based diaper product is reportedly priced 40% higher than K-C’s other Huggies premium product offerings.
Huggies Special Delivery diapers feature a baby-side liner and waistband made with fibers derived from plant-based materials such as sugarcane, carefully selected to help provide superior absorption and fit. They are free of parabens, fragrance and elemental chlorine, and dermatologically tested and clinically proven hypoallergenic for baby’s delicate skin.
“We are committed to creating the best diapers in the best way for baby and the environment,” says Sarah Inbau, brand manager, Huggies North America. “We know that parents are looking for more and more natural ingredients, but they don’t want to sacrifice performance and softness. When we looked at the category, there wasn’t a product that met all of their desires for more plant-based materials, trusted leakage protection, and softness. We developed Huggies Special Delivery to combine the three attributes we know parents want: superior performance, more plant-based fibers, and of course, the softest touch on baby’s skin.”
Colin Hanna says that from a lifestyle standpoint, millennial parents are busy, mostly two working-parent families, and fathers are much more involved. “When Huggies released its new Special Delivery diapers, they put fathers on some of the packages. This, I think, is more meaningful to the millennial generation of parents than previous generations,” he adds.
Connecting to parents has been a crucial part of how new, plant-based diaper brands have been marketing to this new generation of parents. One way brands have been doing this is through celebrity partnerships and their social media reach.
Hello Bello, which launched in February 2019, features a collection of baby care products, from diapers and wipes to lotions, shampoo and rash cream. The line, founded by actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, along with Sean Kane (co-CEO), Jay McGraw (co-CEO) and Jennifer Pullen (CFO & COO), developed the brand as a collection of “plant-derived baby necessities.”
“As a mom of two, I know how beautifully messy parenthood can be, and that’s why we created Hello Bello - a line of premium, super-effective baby care products to take care of your kids from head-to-butt-to-toe,” Bell said at the time of the launch. “Our products are fresh and fun. More importantly, we use plant-based ingredients and organic botanicals that are better for our kids and better for our world.”
Hello Bello premium diapers have a specially designed core with proprietary spherical absorbent technology that can absorb over 50 times its weight in fluid—allowing reduced waste (less material) while still providing serious leak protection. They offer a secure and comfy fit that’s breathable to promote good skin wellness, without the chlorine-processed fluff, artificial fragrances and lotions. The line is available exclusively at Walmart stores nationwide, on Walmart.com and HelloBello.com.
Meanwhile, in November, actor Hilary Duff launched a partnership with Naturalena Brands and its two brands—Happy Little Camper, which offers all natural and earth-friendly diapers and wipes, and Veeda, a plant-based feminine care line. As Happy Little Camper and Veeda’s chief brand officer, Duff will help bring high quality, cost-effective, natural and eco-friendly solutions to consumers worldwide, the company says.
Happy Little Camper offers 100% natural cotton wipes, flushable wipes, and natural cotton diapers, all of which are third party tested and dermatologically approved.
“It’s so rare to find products that are natural and sustainable without sacrificing functionality,” says Duff. “As parents, we want what’s best for our kids and as a woman it’s important to think about my own health when it comes to what I put in my body. Happy Little Camper and Veeda are changing the way we think about the products we use and I’m so excited to take on this role and help further our mission to provide clean, plant-based products that are safe and accessible for babies and moms.”
As part of her new role, Duff will work integrally on product innovation, creative design, and building brand recognition and overall strategy for both Happy Little Camper and Veeda.
Adrian Forsyth, director and co-founder of Naturalena Brands, says the company officially launched the Happy Little Camper Natural baby diapers and Natural wipes range in April 2018 after learning a lot from the growth and success of its Natural Cotton feminine hygiene brand Veeda, which debuted in 2013. “We had always planned on extending into baby products because it sat so well with our vision of providing ‘better for you, better for the environment products for women and children,’” he says.
The company identified a lack of transparency from many of the mainstream brands regarding the raw materials used in their product composition, especially now that there are more and more raw materials available that reduce environmental impact and have less chemicals in general. “When we design all of our products we ensure a balance between product efficiency, environment and price,” Forsyth adds.
Happy Little Camper baby diapers feature a natural cotton blended front and backsheet, making the diapers extremely soft on a baby’s skin. The diapers also feature TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) wood pulp to make up the bio core blend.
“It is extremely important to stay abreast of product and raw material innovation,” says Forsyth. “We are always looking for new innovations in raw materials as well as any plant-based ingredients that can be incorporated into our products without sacrificing the products’ efficiency. With innovation and technology advancing as fast as it is right now, it is an exciting time to be in the disposable hygiene space and there is no excuse to not be constantly exploring new opportunities in the marketplace.”