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In the past few years, retailers have had a chance to compete with national brands for baby business and prove their products are comparable to national brands—and sometimes are national brand better (NBB) options.
The recession and subsequent recovery years have had a substantial impact on the disposable baby product market, especially in how parents shop for products, according to Mintel’s April 2013 “Disposable Baby Products—U.S.” report. In an effort to save money, especially on disposable items, parents have switched to private label disposable baby products (especially diapers), and they are shopping at retailers that offer discounts and low prices.
“The most important driver for the market is the number of babies that are being born each year in the U.S.,” noted the report. “Though some baby personal care products are used by adults in their personal care routines (i.e., baby powder and baby shampoo), the number of babies in the U.S. determines how strong the demand is for disposable baby products.”
Private label baby wipes are one example of products adults use daily, regardless of family status. Private label baby wipes grew more than 4 percent to almost $457 million with a 24 percent share, according to SymphonyIRI data for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 6, 2013.
The overall baby wipes and moist towelettes segment grew by slightly less than 9 percent during the two-year review period, the highest sales increase of all of the product segments, according to the report.
“Baby needs usage is down,” said a spokesperson from U.S. Nonwovens (USN). “But baby wipes usage has a slight uptick because consumers are down-trending away from more expensive targeted wipes such as facial or feminine wipes and using baby wipes in this economy.”
When it comes to baby wipes, most retailers are looking for NBB products, noted USN. “Innovation is asked for, but not often executed on.”
With private label baby wipes in demand, retailers can help drive sales by improving their offerings and merchandising. Retailers can best allocate shelf space by having less clutter and more focus on winning SKUs, as determined co-jointly with your vendor partner, suggested USN. “All sorts of shippers and trays and club pack pallets should be worked in throughout the year.”
Scent can prove a differentiating factor. “Progressive retailers push progressive scents—that seems to work,” said USN, noting that conservative retailers tend to stand behind scents that emulate traditional brands.
In addition, when it comes to packaging for baby wipes, USN suggested more streamlined graphics, but also fewer graphical updates. “Too many updates confuses and disenchants the consumer.”
Recent efforts by Walgreens to optimize its private label portfolio brought along the new Well at Walgreens brand. This year, Walgreens also introduced Well Beginnings for baby care products to allow the Well at Walgreens brand to focus on health and wellness products, while keeping the overall vision by extending its “Well” branding in the baby care line.
Eye on the National Brands
Kimberly-Clark said in October it plans to reduce the number of Huggies diapers in most packages in North America by about 7 percent starting in the first quarter of 2014 without changing the price, a move that will lead customers to pay more per diaper. The change comes as Kimberly-Clark tries to get its Huggies package sizes more in line with competitors, CEO Thomas Falk said on a conference call.
Diapers, wipes, baby oil, baby wash, baby powder and more have moved under the new line, although the old “W” brand diaper packaging still appears on the Walgreens website for some diaper options.
Notably, the retailer is now offering Well Beginnings Organic Baby Food. Options include sweet potatoes, applesauce, carrot, and a combination of apple, pear, and banana. The baby food is packaged simply in clear 4-oz. jars to showcase the product, with labels presenting photos of the fruit or vegetable inside and the USDA organic logo. Product information appears in both Spanish and English.
Walgreens also sells formula under its Well Beginnings line, with Well Beginnings Infant Formula Soy with DHA and Walgreens Well Beginnings Advantage Infant Formula both falling under the “best sellers” category on Walgreens’ website.
Sam’s Club offers private label baby care under its Simple Right line, formerly Member’s Mark. The retailer’s Simply Right Infant Formula has a new package with several features, and a video on the retailer’s website explaining them. The new built-in mess-free scoop holder attaches inside the package so it won’t get lost, while the built-in scoop leveler allows parents to level off the amount of formula inside the package to avoid spillage. In addition, the easy-open zip top reduces fumbling with the package.
Sam’s Club also offers a Simply Right savings calculator online, which compares the store brand formulas to national brands Similac and Enfamil, calculating savings by year, month and week.
“Growth in private label diaper sales has had a significant impact on this segment, as a number of consumers have switched to private label, seeing little difference between private label and premium brand products,” said the Mintel report.
Private label brands continue to fight for diaper market share with improved and new lines. Grocery retailer Wegmans, for example, recently introduced new store brand diapers, noting on its website: “We’ve designed these diapers by investing in patented technology to provide your baby with a soft, cuddly, cloth-like feel with a super-absorbent core. Our new Wegmans diapers are hypoallergenic and latex-free with no added fragrances, so they’re ideal for your baby’s sensitive skin.”
“Growth in private label diaper sales has had a significant impact on this segment, as a number of consumers have switched to private label, seeing little difference between private label and premium brand products."
Walmart has added White Cloud Diapers to its private label lineup, under the same brand as its bathroom and facial tissue. The diapers are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free for babies with sensitive skin. Their stretchy sides are enhanced with cotton, and they include a wetness indicator that changes color.
Working to improve your existing private label lines is just as important as introducing new products. Sam’s Club has updated its Simply Right diapers with faster absorbency, driven by modifications made to the blend of materials utilized in the manufacturing of the core of the diaper (primarily super-absorbent polymer), noted Debbie Serr, a spokeswoman for Walmart. Enhancing the properties of the elastic materials allowed for better stretch and flexibility of the diaper and a “better fit” claim.
“The Simply Right brand is also making a change in packaging to increase sustainability,” said Serr. By switching from corrugate to poly packing for baby diapers, she noted the following benefits will be realized:
• Eliminated 1,575,823 pounds of packaging material annually
• Reduction of 44 trucks annually needed to ship product
• Reduction in overall truck mileage by 39,468 miles
• Reduced transportation carbon footprint by 58 metric tons annually
• Reduced overall carbon footprint by 304 metric tons annually
After all, overall value for today’s store brand consumer extends well beyond price per diaper.