Magazine article Marketing

Disposable Society

Magazine article Marketing

Disposable Society

Article excerpt

The nappy sector is having to overcome the challenges of own-label, price promotions and a stabilising birth rate, writes Jane Bainbridge.

This is an unusual FMCG sector: for much of the population, nappies are of no relevance whatsoever, while for those who do buy them, the products are high on the list of items people wish they could do without.

The nappy phase may be associated with all the joy of a happy new baby, but after a couple of years of nappy-changing, most parents are more than glad to ditch them from their shopping lists.

Although a parent's association with nappies is generally limited to a few years, during that time the product's performance is paramount Leaking nappies are no fun for anyone, whether parent, child or unfortunate bystander.

This market has traditionally been a straight battle between two major players: Procter & Gamble, with its dominant Pampers brand, and Kimberly-Clark, with Huggies. Together they account for 79% of the market by value. One in three customers remains very loyal to their nappy brand, choosing to stick with the one they trust to perform best, according to Mintel.

However, the market has experienced a downward pressure on prices, with extensive promotions and more activity from own-label offerings. Money-off deals are certainly a strong incentive for consumers, which is not surprising, given how significant the outlay on nappies can be for a family with several small children. According to Mintel, 75% of nappies are bought on promotion.

Procter & Gamble has responded to this demand for value by launching a lower-priced branded label, Pampers Simply Dry. This is a risky strategy, as there is a danger of cannibalising its sales of Pampers rather than hitting the own-label competition.

Thanks to a rising birth rate (up 8% since 2005), the downward pressure on prices has not slowed the sector's growth: in fact, it increased 16% over the period, according to Mintel. In 2010, it estimates that the market for nappies and wipes will reach pounds 640m - pounds 433m for nappies, pounds 207m for wipes.

Almost all children younger than 12 months wear nappies, with use dropping off as potty training starts. By 36 months, the majority no longer need nappies during the day.

The environmental impact of disposable nappies has been widely reported and discussed, and few parents would fail to recognise the problem of nappies' contribution to landfill. It is estimated that more than 7m disposable nappies are thrown away every day in the UK.

For the greener parent, there are a couple of options: to buy the 'eco'-style disposable nappies made from biodegradable material, such as the Nature Baby and Tushies brands, or to take the 'washable and reusable' route. The latter suffered some bad press in 2006 when research published by The Environment Agency suggested that they were not really any better for the environment because of the energy used to wash them. Several groups have challenged the basis of the research upon which it based its conclusions, and with the energy calculations depending on the wash temperature and means of drying, there is no clear answer for shoppers.

It appears, therefore, that, even if a parent's intentions are good, nappies are one area of their lives they struggle to, or are unwilling to, make greener. …

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