CHICAGO / TOKYO, (Reuters) – Time may not be far off when more adults need diapers than babies as the population gets older, potentially a huge opportunity for incontinence products manufacturers – if they can lift the stigma that has long limited sales .
FILE PHOTO: Incontinence pads and underwear appear in a grocery store in Chicago, Illinois, USA October 11, 2019. REUTERS / Richa Naidu
The market for adult diapers, disposable underwear and absorbent pads is growing rapidly, up 9% last year to $ 9 billion dollars, after doubling over the past decade, according to Euromonitor.
However, manufacturers such as Essity ( ESSITYa.ST ) and Kimberly-Clark Corp ( KMB.N ) account for only half of the more than 400 million adults likely to be affected . buy the right products of weak bladder, because they are too embarrassed.
Businesses try different methods to change attitudes, including making products more discreet, avoiding words like diapers or diapers, and placing items in the personal care pathway, next to deodorants and menstrual pads, rather than in the baby product section.
They also try to normalize discussions around the topic through advertising.
In Japan, where adult incontinence products have been selling baby diapers since around 2013 due to a rapidly aging population, Unicharm Corp. ( 8113.T ) has used the term "choi more" in its advertising, which translates as "lil & dribble", to explain the problem.
"What we do is try to let people know that incontinence, even among young people, is normal," said Unicharm spokesman Hitoshi Watanabe.
The company focuses specifically on people with mild bladder problems where it sees the greatest growth as people live more active lives. Unicharm's sales of absorbent quilts and linings targeting this market increased by 8% last year.
In the United States, market leader Kimberly-Clark this year gave its 35-year-old Depend brand a makeover, introducing thinner, softer, and more equipped products that can be used discreetly, in an effort to make them more acceptable.
The changes are only the latest in a decade-long attempt to win consumers, which started with manufacturers dropping a diaper label, to loosen the association older customers may have with a loss of control in their lives.
Nevertheless, it is still difficult for companies to persuade people to buy specially made incontinence products.
"People keep the fact that they have the secret of incontinence for their loved ones, from their husbands, brothers and sisters – this is a deep secret to many consumers, and yet it is just a fact of life, it is a physiological reality, "said Fiona Tomlin, who heads Kimberly-Clark's adult and feminine care department.
Manufacturers have been particularly concerned about winning over women, who are more than twice as likely as men to experience bladder weakness, due to childbirth.
Kimberly-Clark has reached them directly over the years in merry ad campaigns with actresses Whoopi Goldberg and Kirstie Alley.
Graphic: Incontinence affects three times more women than men, here
SECRET & # 39; S OUT
Kimberly-Clark's Poise brand targets younger women such as Ellie Foster, a 31-year-old from Maine, who has struggled with leaks since she had her first child a year and a half ago, but is too embarrassed to buy products that can help her.
"At first I did, but it was definitely nice to pick out adult diapers to wear," Foster said. "You feel like you're in the old ladies section."
Sweden's Essity, the global industry leader, is also trying to reach a younger audience with its TENA brand and a new line of black, low-disposable underwear called Silhouette Noir.
The ad's tagline reads: 'The secret is out: 1 in 3 women have incontinence'.
Around 12% of all women and 5% of men experience some form of urinary incontinence, although conditions vary from mild and temporary to severe and chronic, according to the Global Forum on Incontinence, supported by Essity.
Essity said it is trying to package and market its products in a way that avoids associations to aging.
"Designing products and packaging it as feminine and discreet as possible for women and as masculine and discreet as possible for men helps," said Ulrika Kolsrud, president of Essity's health and medical solutions.
Passing the message on to potential customers can sometimes be a difficult way to tread. A few years ago, SCA ( sent SCAb.ST ) – which Essity was spun off in 2017 – sent samples of its products to Swedish men over 55, only to receive a complaint.
But the effort is starting to pay off. Five years ago, adult incontinence products were used by about 13% of the female target groups in France and the UK, and it is now almost 20%, according to research firm Kantar.
Of course, this offers huge potential for further sales growth. As Kolsrud puts it: "If incontinence were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world."
For the interactive graphic, click here: here
Further reporting by Siddharth Cavale in London; Editing by Vanessa O & # 39; Connell and Elaine Hardcastle