Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) spills the details on its new category launch: Adult incontinence

Expert: Kimberly-Clark will defend its turf

CINCINNATI - Procter & Gamble Co. will begin shipping three new Always brand incontinence products to North American retailers on Monday, making good on the company’s promise to enter a new category by year end.

P&G will sell light pads and liners, moderate pads and underwear under the Always Discreet banner. P&G said the products are different than what it offered with its Attends brand in the 1990s and will be supported with “the full marketing complement” of TV, digital, print, public relations and product-trial campaigns, said Steven Bishop, group president of P&G’s global feminine and family care units.

“The pads are 40 percent thinner than the leading brands today and yet they absorb two times more than a woman may need,” said Bishop. “They have unique dual leak guards that are only found on this product and very importantly they’re designed to be more feminine.”

P&G's return to the adult incontinence category was predicted by industry observers, but details on the launch strategy and the products to be offered have not been confirmed by P&G until now.

Bishop said the company has patents on the new product that “relate to how we meet the varying needs with unique product construction.” He said the company has a pipeline of follow-up innovations that will be introduced on a regular basis.

Bishop said adult incontinence is a $7 billion category that is growing 7 percent annually. Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj has estimated that P&G can garner 5 to 15 percent market share and up to $800 million in new annual revenue from the product in the next few years.

P&G Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller told analysts in June that the company would enter a new product category within six months with a product that would “move the needle” on sales. 

“Always is the leader in the feminine market,” said Bishop. “It’s a brand that women often use for 30 years. Also, this is really a very logical way to serve the women we’ve already served for decades and serve them for the rest of their lives.”

Monday’s launch sets up a battle royale between P&G and Kimberly-Clark, whose Depend and Poise brands are the U.S. market leaders. The two companies are long-time combatants in what some have called the diaper wars and a former Kimberly-Clark executive predicts the incontinence category will be hotly contested as well.

“They’re going to defend it to the hilt,” said Tom Wilson, who blogs about the industry and sells incontinence products through his Wisconsin–based company, The Caregiver Partnership. “Kimberly-Clark is in a super-strong position. They have a good product lineup. Their marketing is cutting edge. It’s building their business.”

Wilson said P&G faces a risk of cannibalizing its Always brand. He’s been told that up to 40 percent of the brand's revenue comes from women who use menstrual pads for incontinence.

Bishop said the number is much smaller than 40 percent, and any risk of lost revenue is more  than surpassed by the opportunity to win new consumers.

“One in three women today experience some bladder leakage issue or incontinence,” Bishop said. “Only about one in nine actually use a product specifically designed for incontinence.”

Wilson has also reported that P&G has promised retailers $150 million in marketing support and a three-year launch strategy to support the new brand. Bishop wouldn’t confirm any numbers but said P&G is prepared to “support the business in an ongoing way.”

“It’s a significant launch,” he said. “Our intent is to be the market leader over time.”

Always Discreet products were introduced in the United Kingdom in July. Next week, the rollout moves to North America, including the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. By September, Bishop expects the product will be introduced in France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

P&G expects the products to be priced in line with competing products. Its suggested retail prices range from $3.49 for a small count pack of panty liners to $19.99 for its largest pack of underwear.


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