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By: Miles Agbanrin

    In September 2017, Euromonitor International presented at EDANA’s Outlook 2017; an annual conference dedicated to the nonwovens industry. From manufacturing, to marketing to product development, the event brought together experts and decision-makers from all professional functions and from all levels of the value chain. Over three days, delegates attended a number of talks and seminars divided into a number of sessions respectively titled: resource management, testing, building trust through partnerships, technology and product developments and markets.

    Euromonitor International presented during the markets session, focussing on the retail market for disposable hygiene with a talk entitled: Global Disposable Hygiene Market 2016 and Beyond: Trends, Outlook and Opportunities. With its component products often viewed as basic necessities of modern life, disposable hygiene is characteristic of a mature consumer good. Vastly different to other consumer products, however, is the industry’s intimate connection to basic personal comfort. As a result, shifting global demographics, new technology and the subsequent changes in consumer behaviour produce particularly dynamic change for all players.

    Focussing on three main product categories, nappies/diapers/pants, sanitary protection and adult incontinence, Euromonitor International’s presentation sought to analyse this change, forecasting some of the most significant challenges and lucrative opportunities available to businesses operating in the disposable hygiene industry.

    Map of Wolrd by Global retail hygiene: Retail value sales forecast CAGR 2016-2021.

    Global Forecast Overview shows sharp divide between developed and emerging markets

    With the lowest and highest expectations for future sales growth respectively, Western Europe and Asia Pacific are the clearest and most extreme examples of the very different trends impacting consumers in developed versus emerging markets.

    Asia Pacific Highlights

    Characteristic of the macro developments in other emerging regions, Asia Pacific offers a huge amount of growth potential due to its favourable demographics, low penetration of numerous hygiene products and expanding middle class consumer base. The fastest growing region, with some of the lowest private label participation in retail hygiene globally, Asia Pacific also presents a more accommodating competitive environment than Western Europe. Markets like India, with the second lowest per capita consumption of nappies in the world, are characteristic of the enticing growth prospects of the region.

    7%: Highest value CAGR, retail hygiene 2016-2021. .4%: Lowest volume share private label, nappies 2016. 15%: Highest internet retailing value sales, retail hygiene 2016.

    Accompanying the growth potential of Asia Pacific, however, are some significant challenges profiled by Euromonitor International. For example, the region is home to vast differences in culture, language and consumer preference between national markets, like China as compared to Vietnam. Of similar complexity are the differences that exist between geographic regions within a single market. This array of varied consumers and their habits will continue to add expense and complexity to attempts to create unified marketing and communications strategies in Asia Pacific.

    Notably, while penetration of hygiene products remains low at a national level, the upper and middle income households that have historically boosted growth are approaching saturation themselves. Businesses operating in the region will thus find it increasingly challenging to maintain margins as they are forced to look to Asia Pacific’s large and persistent low-income consumer base for growth.

    Bar graph of population living below USD3.10 a Day in Selected countries comparing 2016 and 2010. The countries are India, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam.

    In addition to larger macroeconomic challenges, Euromonitor International outlined a small yet significant threat to the region’s growing consumption of sanitary protection. As greater numbers of women in Asia Pacific participate in the workforce, awareness of and demand for more advanced and convenient contraception has risen in tandem. A range of very different options are available to women, from various forms of “the pill” to Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs). Notably, however, a significant proportion of them have some effect on the menstrual cycle; reducing its frequency, intensity or both. While the uptake of specific treatments is hard to predict, it appears highly likely that sales of sanitary protection will be restrained to some degree.

    Family planning high on agenda in emerging regions, growing use of contraception that influences the menstrual cycle, and rising female workforce participation in emerging regions.

    Comparing Western Europe and Asia Pacific in growing outlook, challenge, opportunity, and growth of reusable products. Western Europe: Growth outlook is (+1%) slowest globally, Challenge is fierce retail competition, opportunity is light incontinence, and growth of reusable products is ethics and sustainability. Asia Pacific: Growth Outlook: (+7%) fastest globally, challenge: low-income consumers, Growth of reusable products: affordability and access.

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