Growing up naturally

Baby care manufacturers continue to introduce products with an eye toward using more natural ingredients.

By Barrie Dawson

Some baby care products have been on the market since Teddy Roosevelt was the U.S. president. Others have been around for less time then the babies they are trying to care for. Yet, many baby care products available today do have some things in common, specifically an emphasis on natural ingredients and sustainability.

babybathIndustry observers say that retailers that embrace and promote these types of products are bound to win over parents looking for less intrusive ways to care for and raise their children.

One of the buzzwords in baby care is homeopathy, the belief that the body has the ability to cure itself. This was the standard medical philosophy in the U.S. when Los Angeles pharmacist George Hyland founded Hyland’s in 1903. A signature item in the Hyland’s portfolio is its Baby Teething Tablets, which have been on the market for more than 85 years, according to Les Hamilton, the Los Angeles-based company’s vice president of sales.

“It’s just a true winner among moms,” Hamilton says of the tablet, which uses natural ingredients and dissolves quickly when it touches a baby’s saliva. “We’ve had great success with moms in the baby line because the dosing is down to the age of six months. Our products are safe, effective, all-natural in a homeopathic consistency or form.”

Although its teething tablets have been around for decades, Hyland’s reformulated the product slightly in early 2011 and took it off the market for a few months. “It came back on the market in July 2011,” says Hamilton. “By October 2011 we were the number one teething item again.”

There is more to the Hyland’s baby care portfolio than its teething product. It also offers a teething gel, remedies for coughs, colds, earaches and colic as well as vitamin C tablets and diaper ointment.

Hamilton says two baby products that Hyland’s has introduced in the past two years—its Tiny Cold Tablets, which dissolve the same way as the teething tablets, and its Cough Syrup—are rising stars in its portfolio.

“Both of those items have gained wide distribution throughout the industry and have gained significant sales within our baby portfolio,” Hamilton says. “Our products are safe down to the age of six months. They’re very effective at relieving those natural common-cold types of symptoms, and there’s really no other product on the market that does that—not that’s safe, natural, effective, homeopathic and can dose down to six months.”

When it comes to product display, Hyland’s is happy to let the retailer decide what is most effective. Hamilton says that one major retailer puts Hyland’s products in multiple locations—the cough/cold aisle and the baby care aisle. Others place Hyland’s products in one or the other.

“It really comes down to the retailers understanding their customers and where they think consumers will find our products,” he says.

Baby stages
Tino Reiser, founder of Expro3, has a very definite idea of how the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company’s BabySpa product line should be displayed. Officially launched less than two years ago, the BabySpa family includes 17 products for the skin and hair. What sets BabySpa apart is that its shampoos, body washes, lotions, face creams and massaging oils are marketed according to a baby’s age, says Reiser. Stage 1 is for newborns up to children of crawling age, and Stage 2 is for children of walking age up to age four. BabySpa also offers an All Stages line.

“We’re still in the process of education on the stage approach for the next 12 to 18 months for sure, so our products need some sort of shelf accessorizing, like a shelf-talker or a shelf-stopper,” says Reiser. “For example, buybuy Baby puts a shelf-stopper right next to the products so customers can really understand the stages approach before they purchase the product. Our product has been extremely successful when it’s used with our own floor stand as a free-standing display.”

Separate teams developed the Stage 1 and Stage 2 product lines, which were conceived in 2009 and were in the developmental stage for two years. Reiser says that the stage approach is necessary because the skin condition of a newborn or an early-stage baby is very different from that of an older child. Another difference is environment. While a newborn is most likely to be indoors or wrapped in clothing, an older child is more active and may be playing outdoors.

“The term ‘stages’ for parents has been around for a long, long time,” says Reiser, who offers diapers and foods as examples of other baby products marketed in stages. “Nobody addressed it in terms of products applied to the skin and the hair.”

The company’s philosophy is that it develops products that parents want and babies need. However its primary selling point is what Reiser calls the products’ “five-star ingredients,” which are derived from plants.

BabySpa’s products are based on ethnobotanicals, which are plants traditionally used by people of a particular culture and region for food, shelter and medicinal purposes.

Although BabySpa products have been on the market for less than two years, the healing properties of the plant extracts they use are centuries old.

“Until we spent all this money in development, nobody had been able to encapsulate such plant extract and put it in a bottle with a shelf life of 36 months,” says Reiser.

Diaper dandies
Valor Brands may not have any million-dollar words to throw around, but it does have a catchy slogan—“Changing the Future of Diapers”—and a keen interest in marketing eco-friendly, disposable diapers. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company’s pant products are designed to keep younger children dry during potty training and older children dry overnight. Its brands include Nurtured by Nature, bbtips, Classic and Munchkin diapers as well as Pure ‘n Gentle diapers, training pants and youth pants.

“The pioneering and leadership position that we’ve carved out in the eco-friendly segment is probably the signature of our brand,” says Kyle Tucci, senior vice president at Valor Brands.

In January, Valor celebrated its 10th year in the U.S. marketplace. It is part of a much larger company called Productos Internacionales Mabe, which Tucci says has been a leader in the absorbent-products industry for 35 years. The Puebla, Mexico-based parent company has an international presence with products designed for children and adults.

Tucci sees a trend in the diaper industry toward more garment-like products, which are thinner and better fitting, but just as absorbent. He says that is where Valor’s product-development efforts are focused.

“The other thing we’re doing, with respect to the eco-friendly segment, is specifically working to take materials that are in traditional products that are typically manufactured using petroleum-based or nonsustainable-based raw materials, and finding suitable, sustainably-based replacement materials that can improve performance, or at least keep performance the same,” says Tucci. “That’s really been a focus of our product development efforts and is something that I think separates us from almost anybody else in the industry.”

What separates Associated Hygienic Products’ (AHP) disposable diapers from the rest is the accordion-stretch fastening system that is created from material that is both proprietary and patented, according to Chris Ferdock, the company’s vice president of marketing. The material allows the diaper to stretch without sagging, he says.

“All diapers have Velcro now,” says Ferdock. “This is more about what the stretch or side panel is. Think about it as a belt, as if a belt would stretch or not.”

Whether AHP is about to stretch its product line beyond disposable diapers and training pants is in question. The big word often heard around the Duluth, Ga., company is “acquisition.” AHP, which had been privately held, was acquired in late May by Montreal-based Domtar Corp. for $272 million.

Until the acquisition, AHP was primarily a private-label manufacturer, but it also produced diapers for Fisher-Price as well as Seventh Generation and has had another branded line, Fitti, marketed in many of New York City’s bodegas. A Domtar press release states that the addition of AHP will allow Domtar to expand its personal-care footprint in North America.

Ferdock does not yet know what impact the sale will have on production, but he does know what impact the Internet is having on the company’s sales. He says online sales are one of three major trends driving the category and that mothers are now finding it convenient to purchase diapers online and have them shipped to their homes.

“We believe that 5% to 7% of all category sales now are purchased online, which is huge,” he says.

Another trend Ferdock sees is an increase in lower-income households, which is driving the sales of private-label diapers. The final trend is growth in both extremes of the category—a value-driven lower end and the premium-oriented higher end.

The difference between the two—marketing, says Ferdock. “All of these diapers are pretty much composed of the same materials; they pretty much function the same. On the premium end, you might use a little softer material. You might have more colorization on the diaper and you would clearly have more marketing.”

Baby wipes are the specialty of Nice-Pak Products. The company began manufacturing wet wipes in 1957. “We recently launched our Nice’n Clean Baby Wipes, a complete line of sustainable baby wipes that offer consumer’s premium quality at an affordable price,” says an official for the Orangeburg, N.Y.-based company. “Nice’n Clean Baby Wipes are made with Tencel, a softer, stronger, earth-friendly fiber that comes from 100% natural plant-based material from environmentally managed forests; for every tree cut down, a new one is planted.”

Nice-Pak officials also believe that providing consumers with innovative, quality products at an attractive price is integral to its mission of being a global leader. Its portfolio also includes facial, personalcare and household wet wipes in addition to its wipes for babies.

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