Babies’ needs are paramount, recession or not. Still, cashstrapped parents must consider prices when purchasing those seemingly endless supplies of diapers, wipes and other incidental items their little ones require, although most shoppers are loath to trade quality for lower cost when it comes to their precious infants and Toddlers.
What to do? The trusted brands in the category are providing a simple answer: keep buying their products. “Parents are currently looking for value,” affirms Joffrey Mendoza, diaper category associate director at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble (P&G), which offers a variety of baby and toddler care products under its Pampers and Luvs brands, including disposable diapers, training pants, bed-wetters, swim pants, nighttime diapers and baby wipes.
“They are looking for products that perform well and that are worth every penny they spend on them. Even in these difficult economic times, we see that parents are less willing to take risks, and they continue to stick with brands that they have come to know and trust for their performance.”
“Following the recession, moms are giving more thought to everything they purchase,” notes Craig Wanous, brand/category manager for Huggies, a division of Dallasbased Kimberly-Clark Corp. that offers baby wipes, diapers, Little Swimmers swim pants and Pull-Ups training pants, as well as Goodnites absorbent underwear for older children. “They are looking deeper at what they are getting for their money, asking what features/benefits are they getting for the price.”
Despite this economy-driven focus on value, though, “[m]oms are still willing to pay more for products if they truly believe the products offer some meaningful benefits over less expensive options,” Wanous points out. “In addition, after seeing declines in birthrates (vs. prior year) for both 2008 and 2009, we are forecasting a return to growing birth rates in 2010.” The recent declining birthrates no doubt contributed to the 4.2 percent dip in dollar sales experienced by disposable diapers for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 23, 2010, according to Nielsen, which further found that, during the same time period, the baby needs category (consisting of such items as pacifiers, nipples, bottles, powders, lotions and oils), which it breaks out separately from disposable diapers, fell 5.9 percent..
Expansions and Introductions
To provide some of those meaningful benefits Wanous mentions, both companies are introducing new products and implementing creative marketing approaches. “Our research shows that Mom is looking for dryness and fit for [her] baby,” says P&G’s Mendoza. “We are responding to this need with one of the biggest innovation news from Pampers … in the past 25 years”: Pampers Dry Max. On March 15 of this year, P&G debuted Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers with Dry Max, a high-performance diaper line that Mendoza describes as “our driest ever, and 20 percent thinner than before.”
Replacing the previous lineup of Pampers premium diapers, the new Dry Max products offer “significant innovation without a price increase,” according to Mendoza. Also in March, the brand expanded its line of Swaddlers sensitive diapers to sizes 3 and 4, “as moms have told us that they have a need to protect their babies’ sensitive skin after six months of age, especially as the baby starts to eat solid foods,” explains Mendoza.
“In 2009, Huggies launched a new line of diapers called Pure and Natural,” recounts Wanous of Kimberly-Clark. “These diapers use gentle and more natural materials, including reduced pigments, aloe and vitamin E, and renewable materials in the liner, and an outer cover that includes organic cotton.”
They’re also hypoallergenic and fragrance- free, and come in packaging made from 20 percent recycled polymer. Pure and Natural items are line priced with all other Huggies SKUs, adds Wanous, who notes that “[m] oms have responded well to these diapers, with especially strong responses from moms of new babies.”
Forming Strong Bonds
Beyond the Pure and Natural line, Huggies has striven “to deliver products that have truly unique features from the competition that are meaningful to moms,” according to Wanous, who cites such examples among the brands’ diaper lines as Little Movers’ shaped sides for an improved fit and Little Snugglers’ oversized umbilical-cord cutout for gentle protection of new babies, as well as what he terms “the thickest branded wipes on the market to help clean up big messes.”
As far as marketing goes, forming strong bonds with mothers is the chief aim of the two major brands. “We are winning with new moms who we reach via extensive digital marketing, and by being the diaper of choice at more than 90 percent of hospitals in the U.S.,” says Mendoza. “We are [also] seeing explosive growth in the e-commerce channel.”
Huggies, meanwhile, is finding success with a loyalty program, “Enjoy the Ride Rewards,” which bowed last year. “This program includes more than just giving moms points for purchasing products,” explains Wanous. “It has been very successful at building a deeper relationship with consumers and driving purchase loyalty.”
In fact, he notes, “After being in market less than one year, [Enmembers. And this program has awareness with first-time expectant moms [of] over 65 percent … Many retailers have found creative ways to tap into this program to help drive sales at retail.” As well as availing themselves of such initiatives from manufacturers, retailers have been getting in on the baby care act themselves, through new and improved private label offerings.
Minneapolis-based Supervalu recently revamped its Baby Basics diapers to provide better leak protection, improved fit and a more comfortable interior, at what the company says is a significant value compared with national brands. The Baby Basics line, which originally launched in 2004 and now consists of over 80 items, is available nationwide at the company’s retail banners, including Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s and Jewel-Osco.
The overhauled diapers, which hit Supervalu banner store baby aisles in February, “have shown in third-party testing that they offer the same quality and performance as national brands, but at a noticeably lower cost,” observes Baby Basics brand manager Kristin Parsons. “With so many families trying to make smart decisions in this economy, we believe that they will appreciate not only the cost savings that the Baby Basics brand provides, but also the convenience of shopping for all of their baby essentials at their neighborhood grocery store.”
Due this fall from the grocer are Baby Basics reclosable training pants, which will feature absorbent protection customised for boys and girls, designs that resemble real underwear,an extra-soft outer cover, and prominent wetness indicators that allow kids to track their progress. In terms of merchandising, more grocers, ranging from major operators like Supervalu, which, according to a company spokeswoman, carries food and nonfood baby items in the same aisle “in most cases,” to single stores such as Pomegranate in Brooklyn, N.Y., are opting to integrate various infant and toddlerrelated products in a single section.
At Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) in particular, the larger aim, beyond simple convenience, is to draw the primary shopper of baby items. “Moms are the overwhelming leader when it comes to making purchasing decisions within the baby categories and, as such, we take a holistic approach to attracting Mom … such as bundling baby needs with categories representing Mom’s needs as well,” explains Steve Delello, category manager-health and wellness at Tyler, Texas-based BGC, which also offers value-priced Top Care private label baby care items in its sections. Such integration is just fine with two of the major players in the category.
“Our research suggests that it makes sense to merchandise all baby care products in one location in the store,” says P&G’s Mendoza. “This enables Mom to have a one-stop shopping location for all her baby care needs, and enables the retailer to expand the shopping basket and grow share of wallet.”
“Huggies believes all of the products we sell should be integrated into the baby aisle encompassing food products,” seconds Wanous of Kimberly-Clark, which has worked with such grocers as Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway on reformatting their baby care aisles to maximise profits. “Moms with babies want to go to one location and find all of [their] baby care needs.”
As for the future of the category, P&G sees plenty of growth ahead, particularly in relation to a certain demographic. “The baby care category will continue to grow behind new technology that drives trade-up, population growth and expanded product offerings to take care of babies and toddlers,” predicts Mendoza.
“In addition, this category will continue to grow with the rapid growth of Hispanic consumers. While Hispanics are roughly 11 percent of the population, around 25 percent of babies in the U.S. are of Hispanic origin. This represents a significant opportunity for us and our retail partners.”
Infantino, which offers such functionally designed items as classic baby toys and puzzles, soft baby carriers and baby travel systems, has joined forces with U.K.-based culinary expert Annabel Karmel, an author of books on nutrition and cooking for children, to offer American consumers a new line of storage and feeding ware for infants and toddlers this spring.
Items in Karmel’s Make It Easy line include a masher and bowl, food mill and stackable food pots enabling parents to freeze fruit, puree vegetables and strain food, as well as store and take along meals to be eaten later or away from home. The suggested
price range will be $5.99 to $15.99.
“I know firsthand making food for an infant is not only economical,but also a heartfelt exercise,” says Colette Cosky, senior brand manager for San Diego-based Infantino, part of the Step2 Co. “By offering this system of products designed to all work together, we are helping to make parents’ lives easier in their ongoing quest to feed their children the best, freshest foods available.”
The mother of three children, Karmel is well known in the United States, where her books are available. Additionally, she has appeared on “Today,” “Live with Regis and Kelly”
and “The View.”
“Infantino and I share the same sensibility and knack for innovative design and pragmatic-but-fun features,” notes Karmel, adding that the new line would “help put fresh, natural foods into children’s diet[s] easily and inexpensively. Babies who enjoy fresh, healthy, and nutritious foods early on are more likely to keep those healthy eating habits throughout life.”
Karmel has the most popular product line of ready-made meals for young children in supermarkets in the United Kingdom, and has also recently launched in that country a line of healthy snacks for young children with Disney.
In other feeding item news, El Paso, Texas-based Mark Industries, LLC has developed two versions of the Help Yourself Feeding Solution, one in teal with two removable white cups that retails for a suggested $14.99, and a heart-shaped model with one removable cup for a suggested $12.99. Devised by a mother of twins, the no-mess items suction to a flat surface for self-feeding, enable a single caregiver to feed two infants easily, and accommodate over 50 ready-made food containers, including yogurts, gelatins, fruit cups and applesauce cups. A percentage of the profits from the sale of the items goes to support the fight against infant cardiac disease, which afflicts 30,000 to 40,000 newborns annually.
According to Mark Industries president and CEO Debbie Munden, the company’s aim is for “our product to be positioned on the baby food aisle of every grocer.” To find out more, visit www.feedingsolution. Com.
The NUK Option
Two years ago, NUK, best known as a pacifier brand, decided to widen its baby care offerings by introducing a line of orthodontic nipples, BPAfree wide-neck bottles and toddler transition cups. Now, the Germanowned company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Hackensack, N.J., is further extending its stateside presence with the rollout of a broad range of accessories supporting and promoting the healthy development of infants and toddlers, including breastfeeding products, pacifiers, oral care items, nipples, bottles, cups
Among the new products is the NUK Genius pacifier, an innovative design made from extra-thin silicone for maximum softness that reduces pressure on a baby’s jaw and teeth. The BPA-free item is also the first silicone pacifier for babies 18 months old and up. As with all of the brand’s pacifiers, the unique orthodontic shape of the Genius replicates the shape of the mother during breastfeeding, thereby reducing nipple confusion. Also, the patented NUK air-vent system enables air to escape the nipple as baby sucks, ensuring continued softness and pliability. A $1-off coupon for the Genius, which expires May 31, 2010, has appeared in All You magazine.
Other New Offerings Include:
The Gentle Flow manual breast pump, featuring a compact, ergonomic design and soft silicone cushion to make expressing milk efficient and comfortable The Pacifier clip for pacifiers with and without handles, providing convenience and cleanliness for moms and babies anywhere, and easy to attach with just one hand The Healthy Start training toothbrush set, which contains a cleaning trainer and brushing trainer, as well as the new Teeth EZ cooling ring for massage and support during teething The EZ Cup sippy cup, which eases baby’s transition from bottle to cup with ergonomically shaped handles, and additionally features vibrant colors and a BPA-free silicone spout.
The Soft Bite feeding spoon, which has an extra-soft silicone bowl and edges to ease transition from sucking to feeding, along with a long, noslip, ergonomic handle The Ready to Feed bottle warmer, which comes with a ready light and detachable power cord, and warms any bottle or food jar in less than two minutes The Quick n’ Ready steam steriliser, which takes under eight minutes to fully sterilise baby bottles and nursing accessories, with no pre-heating time necessary.
NUK’s comprehensive research and development program combines ergonomics, comfort and convenience in its new designs. Further, the company’s recent acquisition of the Gerber baby care accessories division has given NUK a large number of products to integrate with its existing Designs.
Interestingly, in contrast with the current trend among baby care manufacturers and the retailers that carry such products to place the items in integrated sections encompassing both food and nonfood products, NUK prefers its products to be merchandised with other accessories, so as “not [to] get lost in the cluster of categories,” according to company spokeswoman Kristina Godfrey.
Fun with Packaging
When Hain Celestial Group’s Earth’s Best division developed its Tots Flushable Wipes to appeal to moms of potty-training toddlers, it turned to Smith Design to create a package design and shelf merchandiser under the natural and organic brand’s Tendercare Tots line. According to the brand development and communication firm, which has offices in Glen Ridge, N.J., and Carmel, Calif., the challenge presented by the project included creating graphics that would convey a sense of fun during an often difficult developmental Stage.
Another thorny issue was creating a graphic solution on a film bag with a plastic flip-top lid dispenser located directly at the center of the principal display panel. This problem inspired Smith Design’s creative team to come up with an innovative solution, notes the company’s VP, Martha Seidner.
“We used the flip-open dispenser as part of the design, using a whimsical jungle animal theme,” she explains. “We turned the cumbersome lid into the primary graphic – the alligator’s mouth.”
Plans call for the animal concept to be extended to other items in the product line, according to Smith Design.