To talk about the future of an industry is always a challenge for anyone. During my 21 years in the diaper industry I had the chance to attend many seminars; something I noted is that the common denominator whenever somebody talked about forecasting the future was that the average Speaker spent 90% of the time talking about the past (as you know present becomes immediately part of past after the first nanosecond). They spent all this time to present information with great detail, with many tables and beautiful graphs; but when it was time to talk about the future, less than 10% of the session was dedicated to this topic. The reason is quite obvious, no one knows the future! Every time you try to make a prediction about the future you take the risk of being dead wrong. Sales people are very much aware of this fact, especially now! A combination of variables such as extremely limited working capital, ever growing number of SKU’s and small margins, are forcing diaper companies not only to have good forecasts but excellent ones. As diapers markets are maturing, I predict the need to differentiate will create even more pressure on the small diaper companies. They will have to keep adding more SKU’s in the future in order to serve niche markets.
I expect most diaper factories in the future will have to be connected with their clients to exchange electronic information regarding SKU sales and inventory volumes, just the same way the big companies are already doing it. This will happen within the next 3 to 5 years in all of the developed markets; those that fail to be connected with their clients and suppliers will probably perish due to higher inventory costs, production planning conflicts and lack of service to their clients. Sales people will always need a “magic ball” or at least a reliable fortune teller; the size of the ball will be in direct relation to the efficiency of the data exchange system, a data exchange system that may also need to be connected in real time.
Predicting the short term future does not need to be so difficult, as we have seen, being able to look years into the future is a bit more complicated. Well, I am planning to break the tradition. I will spend less time talking about the past, and a larger amount of time talking about the future of the diaper industry. As a personal reminder of this challenge, I changed the color of the ink every time I talk about the future. Because this is a written document, for sure you will know how ignorant I was (a fair chance), or if at least if I could have a good career at selling fortune cookies.
Let us start with a quick review of the past: The need for diapers has always existed. In America there were many old civilizations that used them; the Incas, the Aztecs, Native Americans and even the Innuits in Alaska used some primitive version of a diaper. There are also a few references about the use of diaper predecessors in Europe and Asia. Mass production of cloth diapers started by mid 19th century; mass production of disposable diapers officially started until 1961 that is only 44 years ago when P&G started the disposable diaper business. Of course we have all heard about the great contribution of Vic Mills, however even when it is much less known, it is important to also mention PauliStróm (the company from Sweden), Marion Donovan (the housewife inventor), Stanly Mason (another inventor), Billy Gene Harper and Carlyle Harmon (from the Dow and the J&J companies), and many others, all of which have contributed to the development of the modern disposable diaper. A lot has happened since 1961; however I believe the most important events in the evolution of the disposable diapers were:
Introduction of the fastening system integrated with the diaper, 1970
The use of fluff instead of creped Tissue, 1972
The use of Superabsorbent polymer, 1986
The use of Frontal Tape and Hook and Loop systems, 1987
The addition of leg cuffs anti-leak barriers, 1989
The introduction of cloth-like back sheets, 1994
The training pant diaper for larger babies, 1994
As I have already promised not to talk too much about the history, let me mention as a courtesy for those interested in this topic that you can read more about the history of the disposable diaper visiting my link at: www.richernet.com/history.htm
Let us talk about what is happening today to the diaper market (baby and adult):
If you are a raw material supplier for the diaper industry, I am sure you are aware that the industry in general, with some exceptions, is not in good shape. Probably more than half of the players are either at break even or loosing money. I believe the disposable diaper industry is going through one of its most difficult and challenging cycles. I call them “purging cycles”, the natural occurring events that every once in a while force a world price war in the market. Many times we have regional price wars but very few times we have a globalized international world price war as the one we are experiencing. Similar price wars as this one had happened already a few times before, last on record was during 1994 to 1996. Contrary to popular belief, global price wars are not started as a result of a telephone call between “Procter and God” and the guys from “KC and the Sunshine Band”. It is not that they are deciding on purpose when it is a good time to start a “world price war”, it is not even their decision when to clean the market from the small “evil competitors”.
What starts a new cycle? As you know, every product is associated to a complete chain of separated processes. We call it the “supply chain”. In the case of a diaper you start with basic raw materials used by the suppliers of the industry, such as propylene gas, acrylic acid, pine tree logs, hydrocarbon resins, etc. Then these basic components are transformed into raw materials used by the diaper factories to convert them into finished products and then continue to the distribution channels until you reach the consumer. I believe whenever there is a disruption from one of the links of this supply chain, if the event is important enough, the conditions could result in the start of a new world price war cycle. For example, let us assume that there is a large company who was able to negotiate a fixed price for a raw material with a long term supply contract. Let us assume this is an important component in the cost of the diaper. Let us also imagine that they were clever enough as to not negotiate based on the fluctuation of the material but forced their suppliers to negotiate the basic raw materials that affected this component forcing the next link on the chain to also have a fixed cost over a long time. Now what happens when there is an imbalance between supply and demand? Everyone without this fixed cost provision will be forced to buy the material at a much higher price; on the other the company with the fixed cost supply contract will have substantial advantage in comparison to the rest of its competitors until the purchase contract expires. This is one of the ingredients that start a purging cycle. You have imagined only the left side of the supply chain, when you add the other side (distribution channels) you can create an even more explosive situation. This is what happens when the mega stores add pressure to purchase diapers with fixed price contracts. I believe past price wars were basically based on the imbalances in the supply of the cellulose, I believe this is the first time a price war is started by something else, petroleum derivatives, and more specifically on the SAP.
How can you prepare for the next cycle? The name of the game is information! Even if all small diaper companies were able to purchase with long term supply contracts at fixed costs, still no one can assure them that the contract is a good idea. For example, what happens if the price of the basic commodity went down instead of going up? You will end up paying more than the fair market price. Believe it or not this could even happen to the big guys, but only as an exception. You need a lot of common sense in order to anticipate if a particular commodity is moving in a trend and estimate the probability of this event creating a disruption in the supply. It is extremely important to keep an eye on the whole world and not only on your local market. The best alternative for the small companies is to join forces with other small factories. There is an old Israeli saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This is true for war as it is for commerce. Many things can be shared between independent diaper producers, from intellectual property issues to technology exchange, including keeping an eye on raw materials. For this idea to work you have to make sure you share common enemies, but it is dangerous and will never work if you also share common markets.
In the next 25 years we will continue to see the same “purging” cycles. The reason: it is very difficult for the smaller companies to have fixed prices based on large supply contracts. I believe some companies will improve their current situation as they are beginning to understand these phenomena. They will probably improve by negotiating some kind of supply contract but most likely indexed to the variations of some basic raw materials; going all the way through the supply chain will continue to be outside of their negotiating power. The duration of the effect of each cycle will last between one to three years and they will repeat again every 7 to 11 years, just based on historic trends. If you are planning to be in this industry for the long run you better start preparing for the next cycle, it is not an issue if a new cycle will happen again, the issue is when exactly it will happen. Smaller companies need to learn how to adjust to “survival mode” very quickly and wait patiently for the good times. Those companies interconnected with other “friendly enemies” will suffer less than the ones totally independent. Considering the natural jealousy between the small companies, very few of them will ever understand and appreciate the benefits of this practice of sharing, helping without knowing it the big guys.
The name of the game is information, who will provide it? In addition to better connections with other independent companies, you also need good sources of information. There are several available, many of them are free in the Internet but they are difficult to find and to filter from all of the huge amounts of data. Another alternative are the many publications made for the industry. Reading them and being updated about general raw material price trends and technology should be a regular activity for a successful company, however I believe something has to change.
If you are making disposable hygienic products, who the heck wants to know about what happens with car filters, with pillow covers, huge nonwoven slitters or even re-winders or extruders? We all want to know about the absorbent products we make. I forecast time will come before the next 10 years, when it will be finally understood that the hygienic industry by itself, is large and mature enough to be treated as an independent industry; after 44 years the baby is all grown up now. We want a magazine focused only on disposable absorbent products (baby, adult, sanitary napkins, etc). Our current references in the hygienic industry go by the names: Nonwovens World, Nonwovens Industry, Nonwovens markets, Nonwovens International report, etc. If you do not know it, let me tell you that nonwovens are only a small component in the construction of the disposable diaper; in most cases no more than 15% of its integrated cost. I believe at least one publication will make the switch to a new name before 2015: Disposables World, Disposables Industry, Disposables market, who will be the first? I believe the trend has started, at least at some technical forums. Jim Hanson has been a pioneer with short seminars dedicated exclusively to the absorbent disposables. He was also moving in the right direction a few years ago by dividing the Insight Conference into two events, until his competition forced him to return to the original idea in order to avoid dilution of the audience. Edana is also giving specialized absorbent seminars; in fact, I am not really sure who started first.
What is the size of the world diaper market today? Calculating the maximum size of the baby diaper market is a very simple process, you only need to know the total number of babies and multiply by the number of average diapers used per day (the representative average according to each stage used) and finally by the time they will be using them during their life as babies. This seems simple enough. Now let us talk about some issues. There are significant differences between the diapers used every day in Japan in comparison to America due to cultural reasons and basically a “more dedicated” mother. On the other hand, no one takes longer at potty training than American babies, probably also due to the same reason. When you take into account this fact, more diapers are used per baby in the US in comparison to Europe or even Japan. As a matter of fact, American babies use diapers much longer than they used to do a decade ago. Probably the result of the “psychological stress” campaign associated to the practice of potty training. It is also a very convenient excuse for not having to pay much attention to your baby and let him learn when he pleases. Of course if we all can sell more diapers we can tell every parent that they should not rush the baby’s development to avoid a permanent “psychological trauma”
I forecast that this trend of extending the use of the diaper will continue in the near future in the USA, probably the winner of this strategy will be the training pant, but it could also mean increased sales and maybe even the launch of a size 7 diaper. I believe this trend will remain mainly in the USA and maybe a few of the Western European countries. For the rest of the world, “the psychological stress argument” will have no impact as disposable income will force every parent to become their own baby’s therapists, but they will push the baby to learn quickly with potty training and save the money.
Once you take into account all available data, we can estimate a total number in a range of 3,700 to 4,200 diapers used during the entire life of the baby. There are many regions of the world that use less diapers than the USA. China and Russia are good examples as they are probably the very best at potty training. They are able to achieve this goal before the age of 20 months, instead of 33 or more required in the USA. The rest of the world is somewhere in the middle.
A good estimate for the total potential market for baby diapers in the world is to add the total number of babies between the ages of 0 to 2.5 years old and multiply by 4.2 diapers per day and a total of 365 days per year. The number 4.2 may seem small at first but you have to take into account that it is the average over the “whole life” of the baby and not the typical consumption when he is less than a year old. Babies use more diapers per day when they are small and much less when they grow older. When you do the multiplication, this is the amount of diapers that all of these babies will use in a year. There are 321 million babies in the world with ages in the range of 0 to 2.5 in year 2005. This means the world requires 15,600 diapers per second if every single baby in the world used disposable diapers. If a typical diaper machine runs at 6 diapers per second then you will need 2,600 machines to satisfy the need for the world. In reality, I estimate the total number of baby diaper machines today to be around 550 (not counting the 100’s of “home garage” micro machines).
According to birth rate trends, it is estimated that for year 2025 the whole world will have 328 million babies at the same range of 0 to 2.5 years of age. Assuming the consumption of diapers per day is further reduced by another 5% due to diaper performance improvements during this time (a very realistic number); then the total increase for baby diapers in year 2025 will be actually reduced by 2.9%! Of course these numbers are just a fantasy, as not every baby in the world uses a disposable baby diaper and obviously the market is not saturated yet, this is also the reason why we do not have 2,600 machines in the world. Today less than 1 baby in every 5 uses a disposable diaper. The actual number of baby diapers required in year 2025 will be in direct correlation to the economic indicators for the world at that time. Estimating world economics for each country for year 2025 is beyond the scope of this presentation, I doubt it can be done accurately, however I will provide a technique on how to calculate diaper consumption based on world economics if you have a good “magic ball”. However my personal estimate is that in year 2025 one in every 3 babies will use a disposable diaper, doubling the current size of the disposable baby market of today.
How many baby diapers are needed in every country of the world today? This could also be a question for a market specialist. I believe however, it is possible to get an approximate number of baby diapers needed per country using direct economical data already available in the Internet; at least it is possible for most of the countries. I looked everywhere for free data available regarding market share per country; there are a few references from Euromonitor, John Starr and Nielsen, but all for a fee. I think I am the first guy to ever attempt such an approach. Please do not expect a high precision number, also do not forget that at least it will give you an indicator of the order of magnitude and most important that it is FREE. I defined a mathematical model that takes into account the number of babies in each country, the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of each market segment of the population (data already available), and my own equation that correlates PPP with the probability of a parent to buy a diaper based on the percentage of the disposable income left for diapers (Look at Table #1). The PPP already takes into account the differences in the standards of living of each country and adjusts the disposable income based on these differences. This way when you have the same PPP it means it would be an equivalent disposable income in dollars as compared to the United States.
The only missing data is the one that has to do with cultural barriers. In addition, for those countries without a Purchasing Parity Power segmentation data, I had to relay on my own filtering criteria. In summary, it is possible to know the total numbers of diapers needed by country if every baby used a disposable diaper (this is quite simple); the total number corrected by the actual economic indicators for each country (potential market share); and finally, a revised correction of the market share based on cultural resistance and unemployment data, this one relaying on my own subjective adjustment. All three data points are listed for each country in Table # 2. If you want to know more about the math model I used to calculate market penetration, please contact me directly. If you want to look at a list with 75 countries please visit the following link: www.richernet.com/diaperspercountry.htm
What can we learn from this data? The table lists all countries in descending order according to the total number of babies in each country. Interesting to note is that India has about 45% more babies than China and almost 6 times more babies than the USA. India alone has about twice the number of babies that all American countries combined, from Canada to Chile! Even when India appears at the top of the list in terms of its potential market, its current PPP prevents it from being a large consumer of diapers in terms of current market share. The potential market share is large enough; however, when you combine it with the unemployment it is clear why India has an extremely low level of market share today. Why would you spend $40 dollars per month in diapers if you can have a maid with $100 per month to wash cloth diapers, prepare meals and also clean the house? Pakistan is another example of a country with similar potential and more babies than the USA.
I believe within the next 25 years India will be the largest consumer of baby diapers in the world. The reason: They have been growing in PPP every year and it is a solid trend, their disposable income is at the level where a large group of the population could purchase a diaper. Their wealth dispersion is also good enough to create a large middle class. I believe the current success of the diaper inserts, such as those sold by J&J today, will help to pave the way and break the cultural resistance the same way as it happened in Latin America a few decades ago. Diaper prices in India are extremely high today; even a small reduction in price will create large volumes of sale. You should be thinking of moving to India or Pakistan in the next 5 years, this is the time required to reach the threshold PPP needed for a dramatic diaper explosion. I believe Pakistan is already ahead of India in market share even when they have a smaller disposable income; this is probably due to the influence of the proximity of GCC countries. Pakistan as far as I know has more installed diaper machines than India.
China is the second largest country in terms of babies in the world today; however it has the highest short term potential growth in comparison to all other markets in the world. Why? If you look at PPP, you can see that a large segment of the Chinese population could actually afford to buy a diaper. According to the last census on record China’s PPP is even higher than Venezuela or the Philippines. Then why is the market share for baby diapers so much smaller in China than in these other countries? Maybe because of cultural barriers and also the lack of familiarity with the product. But it will not continue to be for long, China is already making the jump, the problem is whether or not you are ready.
I forecast that China will have the largest diaper growth in the next 5 years or so, they will grow with double digits every year. After 5 years they will start to see a small but steady increase. Later in the future after 10 years or so they will have to fight with a shrinking market due to the reduced birth rate and a maturing market. At that time the largest growth for baby diapers will be in India, Pakistan and Indonesia. Also at that time China will have the largest market for adult diapers in the world as we are going to se a bit later.
Indonesia and Brazil deserve their own mention, having the 4th and the 8th largest population of babies in the world at this moment. Indonesia is a country with a PPP larger than Pakistan and India.
Indonesia is a time bomb waiting to explode, even a small increase in disposable income could create an explosion in baby diaper sales, the difficulty is to know when this will happen. Brazil on the other hand, should have a much higher market share considering their current PPP, unfortunately the reason why their market share is low is because Brazil is one of the countries with the worst wealth distribution in the world, 10% of the people get half of all the wealth of the country (just like Russia). Unless there is a better distribution of the wealth, Brazil will not grow as quickly as their PPP would suggest.
The other three countries with large population of babies are Nigeria, Ethiopia and Congo; their PPP is so low, specially for the 80% middle range of the population (making less than $600 per year), that disposable diapers are still far away in their future. Quite a different story in the Northern part of Africa.
North African countries, especially those located near the Mediterranean Sea will experience large growth in baby diapers in the next several years as all of them have passed the required minimal threshold PPP. Countries like Morocco, Algeria and Libya are already experiencing double digit growth and they will continue for the next 5 years or so. Egypt will also have a good growing trend.
Almost all of the Latin American countries have passed the minimal threshold required for diaper sales to grow; in particular Colombia is growing very fast. Also Argentina has been recovering quickly from the past devaluation. Mexico and Brazil have not been growing as fast. There is little cultural resistance to accept diapers in Latin America today, with only about 50% market share average; in México market share is already close to 60% with a poverty level of 40% there is no place to grow other than exports. Latin America still has a long way to go once the PPP improves. How fast will it grow will be in direct relation to the PPP of each country.
The adult incontinence diaper market today and in 25 years. A good estimate for the total potential market for adult diaper consumers is to look at the population above 70 years of age. Then we can see the growth of this age group for the next 25 years and predict weather or not the market will grow in every region of the world.
Table #2 shows the population of adults above 70 in different countries of the world in year 2005 and also in year 2025 in descending order according to the number of people in this age group. There are 316 million adults over 70 years old in the world today. By the year 2025 this number will grow to 563 million, a 78% increase! (Compare this against the 2.1% for baby diapers). From table #2 we can see that China is by far the market with the largest amount of people above 70 years of age, followed by India with less than half of them and then United States and Japan. It is interesting to mention that Indonesia and Brazil both will have a very large growth in this market in 15 years or so and they will be significant players by the end of 2025. Another interesting data is that Italy, Japan, Greece and Germany all have the highest density in the world of Senior citizens in relation to their own population. We can generally say that Europe is the “old continent” not only because of the age of its buildings but also because of the age of its people.
Calculating the quantity of adult diapers that are required it is also possible to do with a mathematical model, however it is a bit more complicated than with baby diapers due to the fact that only a fraction of these adults require the use of a diaper. Cultural differences create an even higher effect in comparison with baby diapers. We know there is a correlation between the age of the adult and the need of incontinence protection. I will not attempt to estimate the actual size of diapers needed as this is a work that requires a market specialist. Maybe I will do it in my next seminar if I am ever invited again.
Now let us talk about the diaper, how do you imagine the diaper of the future?
People like to fantasize that the diaper of the future will be full of electronic gadgets; you know, a diaper with sensing devices to detect wetness, maybe with flashy lights, or even with a pH indicator to avoid potential dermatitis, especially in older people, before the skin is in contact with dangerous pH environments; the most sophisticated diapers may transmit the signal wirelessly or even send an E mail or an MMS message on the phone to alert the parent or the caregiver that the baby or the patient are wet; maybe even showing an estimate of how much liquid they have with a graph. They could send the signal wirelessly avoiding the Pavlov’s natural response; that is, the response that has to do with the baby associating the sound every time they pee. Can you imagine a baby that has grown up as an adult peeing every time they hear the sound of their Cellular phone. Well, I am sorry to disappoint you but I do not believe in any of these futuristic science fiction fantasies. Why not? First, anything that does not promote brand recognition will not be promoted by the diaper makers. What is the sense to promote a sensor device if you can use it in any diaper you buy? Just take it out from one diaper and put it in the next one. I believe such fancy gadgets will find their way in novelty stores but will never be mass produced. Second, because it is the need that moves the market, and not just the technology. Parents, if the trend continues as it is today, will probably spend even less time wanting to change diapers to their babies than what they are willing to spend today. No need to remind them there is a need to change a diaper. It is interesting that many diapers use wetness indicators, when we all know that parents do not wish to increase the frequency of diaper change! This is why diapers continue to improve performance, because parents do not want to wake up at the middle of the night to change a diaper, even when this could be the best for the baby. A better diaper keeps the baby dry for a long time before they need to be changed. This is the need I am talking about.
There have been interesting improvements for the removal of salts in sea water treatment plants that use osmosis, unfortunately very high pressures are needed. One possibility for the future could be the use of a light wait membrane that may enable the partial removal of salts from urine before it gets into the absorbent pad; if this technology is ever possible, diapers would be much more efficient and also hunger in the world could be eliminated just by using treated sea water for agricultural irrigation.
Regarding performance, how much better leakage protection are we going to see?
Every diaper design has its own mathematical correlation between probability of leakage and total retentive capacity (which is at the same time directly related to cost). This mathematical expression is not linear, actually it is almost logarithmic. This means that as you are trying to approach 0% leakage in a diaper, the cost of the diaper goes to the sky. I believe there will be better chassis design in terms of elastic components and these improvements will increase the seal between the products and the users and reduce the leakage. The very best baby diapers in the world today have a 1.5% leakage level, I believe this may go down to about half in the next 25 years to close below 1%; this improvement will further reduce the frequency of diapers changed per day between 5 to 10%. This level of leakage will be adjusted to the disposable income of each market. One difference between global brands and the diaper business is that lack of consistency. When you buy a Coca Cola you would expect it to be the same everywhere in the world, actually the same brand Pampers or Huggies is quite different according to each market. For example, a Pampers or a Huggies from Saudi Arabia has much less performance and also less features if you compare it with the same Pampers made in the USA. I would say it is 2 generations old. I believe this will continue to be the general practice as each brand makes adjustments related to each market. The average diaper for the developing markets in the future will be targeting a leakage level of around 4% in order to be attractive to markets with reduced purchasing power. Mature markets will have diaper leakage levels around 1%.
What about the absorbent pad? The diaper pad of the future will use either natural fibers such as cellulose (reclaimed cotton or similar natural fibers) or synthetics. Am I eluding the question? No! In fact very little has to do with technology, it is a simple economic equation. Many people predicted that diapers were going to shift to air laid before the end of the century. Why has this not happened? Well, because the economic equation is in favor of cellulose at this point in time. Now, what will happen next time the pulp goes above $1,000 dollars per Ton as it did in 1995, guess what is going to happen with the economic equation between pulp and air laid and you will have your answer. If the equation is in favor of airlaids, you will see airlaids used in super Jumbo rolls, a few may even produce airlaids directly in line. Of course there are a few uses where air laid has an advantage, especially in some niche markets where active adults are willing to pay for the extra cost in order to reduce the volume of the diaper to new extremes, the same happens already with sanitary napkins. Many ladies prefer discretion above cost. On the other hand, it is also true that the new high performance hot melt adhesives have helped improve pad integrity dramatically even with extremely thin pads highly loaded with SAP, of course this goes in favor of extended used of the cellulose. This trend will continue with next generation hot melts that will improve pad integrity further. There will be a niche market with adult diapers made with air laid synthetic fibers where consumers will pay whatever is needed in order to wear a diaper that is practically invisible. Who cares if it ends up costing a dollar a piece when the people that are going to use it can afford whatever they want. I just tested an adult diaper a few weeks ago in my lab that had 40 grams of SAP and 120 grams of fluff, enough power to hold as much as a half gallon under your legs.
Other diaper features The current trend of less diaper changes per day will continue. This means that skin care will be very important in the future, more than what it has been today. In addition to better skin protection with the use of lotions and topical additives, new features will concentrate on pH and better odor control. There are ways to control pH today, however most systems interact with the SAP properties reducing its performance. I believe diapers of the future will solve the problem of pH control by releasing special chemicals but only when they are needed; for example, using micro capsules mixed within the diaper pad that will open when the pH is above a certain preset value. Another use of microcapsules could be to reduce the space in the landfill; for example, releasing salt after being in contact with the liquid a few days, helping reduce the water retention and the diaper volume in the landfill.
I believe there will be specialty nonwoven fabrics that will allow high breathability when the diaper is dry, for true comfort, and then when the diaper is wet they will close down like a barrier in order to avoid surface condensation associated to the high MVTR. Before the next 10 years we will see new nonwoven fabrics made with micro and Nano fibers, capable of extremely high water barriers. This new generation of nonwovens will be used as diaper backsheet without the need for a lamination with film, creating a new revolution of “super soft” to the touch diapers.
Odor control will reach new highs, especially for incontinence products targeted for active adults. We all know that controlling flatulence may be a problem in many individuals and it is a problem typically increased with age. In addition to controlling the smell of urine, there will be niche adult diaper markets that will offer effective neutralizers to reduce the odor problem associated with methane leakage.
We have seen highly compressed diapers that help reduce the shelf space and reduce transportation costs, I believe the trend will continue and before the next 25 years we will see diapers using less than half of the space they are using today, maybe as much as one quarter reduction. Diapers will continue to improve in terms of the environment, and I am talking about a true improvement and not the current gimmicks of claiming environmental benefits simply because the diaper does not have SAP or because it has fewer particles per billion of Chlorine. A true revolution in waste management will come when technology will enable us to reuse most of the energy used to make the original raw materials.
The future cost of diapers You may think that current premium diapers are too expensive; you may think that they are much more expensive than in the past; this seems to be true. When you take into account the same 10 cents per diaper that you spent in 1970 with the effect of inflation, today you can buy a much better product for the same price. Actually 10 cents in 1970 is the same as 48 cents today. I believe in the near future we may see a small increment in the net cost of diapers (even at the same performance), however once the oil bubble pops out and new products start to replace the need for gasoline; we will return to the same historic trend of cheaper diapers as time goes by. At the end of the next 25 years, oil will be used mainly for the production of raw materials but not for transportation.
The only thing sure about the diaper industry is that it will keep changing; there is no time to get bored! I do not believe we have seen the end of the curve for the product, not even after the next 25 years! It is still a long way to go before the product is totally mature. The market is so big and there is just too much at stake in terms of market share and competition that no one can afford to get sleepy. In addition, the diaper has already too many features and every single one of them is subject to further improvements. Those companies that understand this market will spend time and money making sure they have updated products and machines. Those companies that understand and listen to their consumers will always look for product improvements. Those stubborn enough to disregard product improvements and continue with the same design will not be here for long. For sure not even in the next few years. In 25 years, you will know if I was right or if this will be the story of how a diaper guru ended up selling fortune cookies.
I can not wait to see an 80% market share in China, a 40% in India or a 30% share in North African countries. I hope I have the health and wisdom to help at least a few of those companies.