Euromonitor International recently published a two-part series on innovation in the retail tissue and hygiene market. The reports analyse the key themes surrounding innovation in the space, and highlights some of the most significant product launches of 2017.
As the retail tissue and hygiene market nears saturation in developed countries, and remains challenged to tap into the full growth potential of developing countries, innovation has proven to be a pillar in the industry’s strategy to support growth. From value-added to affordable products, innovation is necessary in order to differentiate products in developed markets, and drive product adoption in developing markets.
Source: Euromonitor International
Innovation in materials
Product innovation in retail hygiene products stems from innovations in the materials and technology that go into the end products. The hygiene space has seen significant innovations in nonwovens, in order to improve functionality and softness of various product categories. For example, spunlaced nonwovens have typically been used in the wipes industry, but have recently started to expand into other markets such as baby diapers, adult incontinence, and feminine hygiene. Efficient manufacturing processes have made spunlace a more affordable choice for hygiene manufacturers. While spunlace technology is not new, it is growing in usage in non-wipe hygiene categories.
In the last couple of years, the hygiene market has seen several new products in baby care and adult incontinence that feature wearable sensor technology. The use of smart technology in these product categories aims to improve the comfort of the wearer and help prevent skin issues. The technologies typically enable alerts for caretakers, notifying when a diaper or adult incontinence needs to be changed.
A major challenge for smart baby diapers is the high price for a product that is constantly being disposed of, with regular diapers already a major cost for new parents. Therefore, recent innovations have shifted away from creating a disposable smart diaper, and focused on creating a product that can work with regular diapers. For example, Korean start-up Monit developed a Bluetooth sensor that goes outside the diaper and can detect faeces and urine by monitoring temperature, humidity and gas. Since the product is on the outside of the diaper, it can be reused and even functions separately as an air quality and temperature monitor.
In the adult incontinence space, Abena has partnered with the innovative wearable sensor technology of MediSens Wireless to create “Nova,” an adult incontinence product equipped with a digital sensor that registers changes in wetness levels, which is then shared via the Nova app. Nova is expected to launch in early 2018.
Wearable technology is more likely to take off in adult incontinence than in baby care, as the healthcare industry can see total savings in labour costs, medication for skin issues, and cost of soiled bedding.
Value-added benefits are a staple in retail tissue innovation to drive category value growth. The industry has seen a wide range of value-added benefits – from ingredients in the products, to design and quality, to functional benefits. Examples of added benefits through additional ingredients include scents, disinfectants, and lotions/oils for gentleness on skin.
Essity’s Zewa brand, which had a 16% share in retail tissue in Eastern Europe in 2016, is known for adding ingredients to its toilet paper and facial tissues. For example, in Germany, the brand launched a limited edition toilet paper with the scent of ylang ylang blossom. The Zewa Softis line came out with several innovations in facial tissues across several markets, including Softis Soft & Sensitive with almond oil and aloe vera, and Softis Protect, with antibacterial ingredients to stop the spread of bacteria.
In a highly competitive market, where purchase decisions are usually based on price, tissue manufacturers utilise packaging innovations to increase the attractiveness of the product and help it stand out on crowded store shelves. The tissue market in Finland saw a strong trend of new designs in 2016, with Essity’s launch of its Lotus Emilia Design Fun, with Moomin characters, and Metsä Tissue’s collaboration with PatternLab (part of the largest technical university in Finland) on the design of its paper towels. A design called Origami was chosen by consumers and was featured in the Serla Design range of paper towels. The collaboration was so successful that Serla partnered with PatternLab for several collections to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. This initiative also engages consumers by encouraging them to vote for their favourite design.
In addition to attention-grabbing designs, it has also been a trend to focus on showcasing product benefits more clearly, in order to give consumers a reason to choose that brand over others on the shelf, as well as to limit confusion. Sofidel recently announced plans for a 2018 refresh of its Regina brand in Western Europe. The refresh will include a new packaging design that shows product benefits and features in a clearer and more uniform manner, in order to help consumers choose the right product. The packaging will also focus on transparency of information as well as transparency of the product – with the texture of the tissue to be more visible.
As retail shelves continue to become overcrowded in developed markets, and product variety continues to grow in developing markets, consumers need a reason to choose one brand over another – whether that be price, packaging design, product format, etc. Brands also cannot give consumers a reason to choose a competitor due to questions that are unanswered, making it critical that communication through packaging is clear.
While the past year has seen several successful innovations in both the retail tissue and retail hygiene spaces, there is still more to be done in order to meet the changing needs of consumers. Cost efficiencies will continue to be a major focus for manufacturers in the coming years, as a majority of the global unmet potential comes from untapped consumers who are unable to afford certain products. The balance between value-added and affordable remains key.