It Pays To Keep Babies Comfy
Disposable nappies have changed a lot since their beginnings in the late 1940s. Their main purpose, however, remains the same: to minimise leaks and keep babies dry and comfortable.
The demand for convenience has fuelled the growth of the nappy industry in South Africa. According to Euromonitor, it’s valued at R6-billion despite concerns about disposable nappies being the third-largest consumer item in landfills.
National Pride, a proudly South African company, which supplies the largest number of private labels to retailers and wholesalers, has been a key player in making nappies more affordable across different consumer segments. Each year, National Pride sells between 50 and 60 million nappies across their Cuddlers brand, Private Label, and Baby Panda, which is the company’s export brand that leads the market in other southern African countries.
“Pull-up nappies for toddlers, convenient underwear-like pants, have been a hugely successful innovation in the last three years,” says National Pride CEO Mark Russell. “We also recently introduced Cuddlers dual stretch with an elasticated waist and sides for a better fit.”
Based in Parow, The Nappy Warehouse supplies agents nationwide and focuses on quality at an affordable price. “The nappy market is extremely competitive,” says Raees Parker, head of marketing and communication at The Nappy Warehouse. “Consumers are facing tough times and pricing is a critical element. The market for eco-friendly nappies remains small because they are expensive to produce.”
The eco-friendly option
Bamboo-based nappies are soft and absorbent, but are the most costly. New plant-based polymers and nanotechnology can further improve absorbency and decrease the environmental footprint associated with disposable nappies.
“Disposable nappies are becoming more breathable and absorbent, and new technology results in less waste,” Parker says, “but ones made from a natural material that decomposes faster than traditional disposables are too pricey to attract cash-strapped consumers.”
Local companies are monitoring overseas trends and looking at compostable options. However, global trends show that parents everywhere are more interested in comfort and affordability than green technology.
“Even though National Pride has the capability and capacity to manufacture these products, biodegradable nappies will not decompose effectively in landfills and require specialised composting,” Russell adds. “Unfortunately, South Africa currently does not have the infrastructure available to make this a viable option.”
Next-gen feminine hygiene products
Before the disposable menstrual pad was invented, rags, cotton, wool, and even grass were used by women in their underwear to manage the flow of blood. Thankfully, the feminine-hygiene industry has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last 30 years.
Today, sanitary napkins are made of cellulose, plastic, and cotton. More absorbent materials and better designs have led to more comfortable and practical products. According to the Sanitary Napkin Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2018–2026 report by Transparency Market Research, new super-absorbent polymers and non-woven materials absorb fluid faster compared to traditional sanitary napkins. These materials also minimise the thickness of the sanitary napkin.
Other major innovations include wings that keep pads in place, fragranced pads, quilted linings for greater absorbency, and panty liners that provide protection during a spontaneous discharge or unanticipated periods.
Greener, healthier and safer
To make more menstrual care products plastic-free, the industry is also introducing green alternatives. According to sustainable feminine hygiene products company DAME, tampon applicators are a safe way to ensure that tampons are inserted properly. More recently, reusable tampon applicators have been introduced, which are BPA- and leak-free and long-lasting. Menstrual cups, which have been around since the 1930s, are cost-effective as they can last for up to 10 years.
The Looncup is currently in development in New York. Branded as the world’s first smart menstrual cup, it promises to predict women’s health and disease through quantifying menstrual blood. It measures menstruation volume, colour, cycle and body temperature automatically. It also notifies you when it needs to be emptied.
The unfortunate reality is that millions of young girls and women around the globe can’t afford sanitary products, but there is some hope that more empowering solutions are becoming available to give women greater freedom and choice.