Diaper makers do due diligence
The cheerful, teal room packed with babies and watchful grownups could be a daycare center anywhere in America — except for the lab-coated researchers sticking plastic tubes into toddlers' diapers.
This is Procter & Gamble Co.'s baby-care research center at the Winton Hill complex north of the company's Cincinnati headquarters, one of five such facilities around the world. Researchers are pushing the boundaries of diaper science and style. In this experiment, they're injecting warm saline at precise “pee points” in the diaper, which differ for boys and girls, and weighing the nappy to determine absorbency.
The research is designed to protect the Pampers brand, P&G's biggest, and maintain a technological edge over generic diaper makers and Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies. P&G is constantly seeking ways to extend a brand that generated more than $10 billion in sales last fiscal year, or about 12 percent of revenue.
“We're trying to build a diaper that is zero leakage, ultimate dryness, ultimate comfort, with an underwear-like fit,” said Al Maingot, who oversees baby-care research from Singapore.
While U.S. birth rates have slowed, developing markets in Asia and Latin America are generating millions of baby bottoms a year. Only 11 percent of total diaper sales came from America last year, according to researcher Euromonitor International.
The disposable diaper has come a long way since 1961, when it was dreamed up by a P&G engineer tired of cleaning his grandson's cloth nappies. The company replaced pins with tape fasteners in the 1970s and added absorbent gel in 1986. In 2010, P&G introduced Dry Max Pampers, dubbed the biggest diaper innovation in 25 years because they were 20 percent thinner and twice as absorbent as before. It's nothing like the bulging packages of yesteryear, more like a pair of padded underwear.
For all of P&G's advances, branded diapers have lost ground to generic brands, often sold at a discount.
Private-label diaper share, which includes brands from Target Corp. and Kroger Co., has marched upward in the past decade, to 18.6 percent last year, according to Euromonitor. Although its share has declined, Huggies has been the leading brand in North America over the past decade, followed by Pampers. P&G has the leading share when sales of Pampers and its Luvs brand are combined.
“It's a very, very competitive category,” said Donny Chi, an analyst with Euromonitor in Chicago.
Competition from rivals is hardly P&G's only challenge. Parents can be finicky customers, especially if they believe the latest version of Pampers isn't as good as the last or may be hurting their child.
The Pampers brand is critical for P&G because it connects the larger company to moms, the “core consumer,” said Virginia Morris of Daymon Worldwide, a product-development and brand consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn. If moms are happy with their babies' nappies, the halo effect may benefit P&G's other products, Morris said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tech giants lead rush for profits in foreign countries
- Hotels, restaurants lead job additions in Pittsburgh region
- Hiring in shale industry shifts to engineering, construction workers
- U.S. Steel’s 2Q loss beats analysts’ estimates
- GNC revenue, sales drop, but vitamin retailer says plan in place
- Consol Energy posts $25 million loss despite gas gains
- Fed to keep cards close to the vest
- Jimmy Dean moves beyond breakfast
- Market in neutral, awaiting economic news
- Pittsburgh Brewing tries to reconnect with region, return to glory days
- Consumer confidence jumps to 90.9 in July