In 2018, the US wipes market totaled $3.2 billion. Despite maturity in major product segments like baby wipe and moist towelettes, a number of factors support strong growth opportunities, particularly in terms of continued product development leading to gentler formulations and greater use of natural additives and biodegradable substrates that make wipes easier to flush.
Among the key areas wipe manufacturers are focusing innovation efforts are:
- Premiumization and diversification – such as through introduction of application-specific wipes and products targeting demographics that historically purchase fewer wipes, including men and seniors
- Flushability and dispersibility – e.g., quelling consumer and municipal concerns about the environmental impact of wipes, particularly on plumbing infrastructure
- Performance-enhancing formulations that add value to existing wipes
- Sustainability – both in production practices and in the composition of finished products
- Private Label Premiumization & Diversification
Private label wipes offered by retailers accounted for 34% of retail wipes sales in 2018. Originally favored by consumers for their lower price, private label wipes increasingly reflect strategies of premiumization and diversification, with manufacturers offering value-added wipes that help these traditionally discount products rival their brand-name competitors. For example:
- Through premiumization, retailers may place private label and branded products featuring comparable formulations next to each other on store shelves to enable easy product and pricing comparisons.
- Through diversification, retailers maintain their own full lines of wipe products, with a variety of scents and other features, to match the diversity of name brand product lines.
These strategies are helping manufacturers increase sales among demographics – such as men and seniors – that have historically purchased fewer wipes. Marketing efforts include:
- highlighting product performance features (e.g., skin-enhancing, greater durability, textured surfaces for easier cleaning)
- targeting specific demographics through branding, including product and packaging design (e.g., Dude Wipes)
- Flushability & Dispersibility
A 2019 Freedonia Group survey found that most consumers of wipes prioritize convenience and flushability over other considerations. With sustainability concerns on the rise – and media reports driving doubts over the true flushability of flushable products – consumers want assurance that the personal care wipes they buy won’t harm the environment or end up in a fatberg.
In order to provide this assurance, wipe manufacturers are engaging in consumer education efforts. For instance, in June 2019, Kimberly-Clark and Florida’s JEA launched a consumer education campaign to remind residents of what not to flush. The efforts also point out that properly labeled flushable wipes – specifically Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle flushable personal hygiene wipes – can be flushed without causing problems to wastewater infrastructure.
- Performance-Enhancing Formulations
Users of wipes have increasingly high expectations for product performance, even for lower cost private label versions. With more consumers coming to expect natural additives and gentler formulations with fewer ingredients – especially for products that come in contact with skin or are used on surfaces around children, pets, and food – manufacturers are ramping up efforts to communicate that their products meet evolving consumer needs.
Ingredient transparency is one way that wipes suppliers are building trust, since a growing number of consumers are concerned about the toxicity of the wipes they use.
In addition to cleaner labels, more natural formulations, and guaranteed flushability, wipe users are also interested in the sustainability of the products they buy, including the methods used to produce them. Hence, not only are a growing number of wipes manufacturers altering their business practices to reduce their carbon footprints and appeal to eco-conscious consumers – they are also doing so to cut production costs. These practices include:
- in-plant recycling and diverting of waste from landfills to incineration sites for waste-to-energy purposes
- use of packaging and substrates featuring recycled or recyclable materials
- use of ingredients derived from natural or renewable sources in place of those that are petroleum-based
For example, because the packaging needed to enclose individually packed wipes for use on-the-go can feel excessive to eco-conscious consumers, some suppliers are developing biodegradable or flushable substrates for their wipes and using reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging.
Want to learn more?
See Freedonia’s new Wipes study, which analyzes the US market for wipes, including pricing data, retail sales by product and other key retail trends, and insights derived from Freedonia’s proprietary consumer survey data.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on the consumer goods and packaging industries.