Will growth of wet wipes market be hampered by mounting evidence of pollution?

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Will growth of wet wipes market be hampered by mounting evidence of pollution?
A new report indicates that the global wet wipes market is set for significant growth, but mounting evidence that the material causes pollution may cause consumers to think twice about buying them.

World demand for wipes is set to reach $13.5 bn by 2018, represents 5.2% annual growth, according to the latest market research from the Freedonia Group.

An estimated 60% of this figure is attributed to consumer wipes, which have been rapidly incorporated into baby care, beauty and health care routines in the space of the last decade.

Growth is showing signs of trailing off, slowing from an annual rate of 5.7% in the period 2008 to 2013. The question has to be asked whether or not that slowdown will be more pronounced if consumers latch on to growing evidence that the wipes are a potential environmental hazard.

UK and US authorities report wet wipes pollution problem

Only last week a report in the British newspaper The Guardian, highlighted the fact that the number of wet wipes washing up on beaches in the UK had increased more than 50% during the course of 2014.

The report highlighted the results of the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach cleanup, highlighting the fact that 25 of the non-biodegradable cleaning cloths were found for every kilometer of beach.

It is the non-biodegradable nature of the wipes that has proved to be the big problem. Consumers associate them as having the same biodegradable properties as regular toilet paper when they dispose of wipes, with pollution data increasingly pointing to the error of this judgment.

Similar evidence of the pollution is coming to light across the world, with a recent report by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection indicating that the authority is now spending around $3 m a year just to deal with cleaning up wet wipes from beaches and waterways in the New York City region, alone.

Wet wipes growth set to come from developing markets

If the environmental issue does not impact the wet wipes market, Freedonia researchers believe that the market growth for the consumer category will be focused on developing markets, where existing adoption is still relatively low.

“Developed countries have higher per capita incomes so intensity of use and overall market penetration of more basic types of consumer wipes is higher than in developing countries,”​ said Katherine Brink, Freedonia analyst.

The report also highlights how sales gains in developing markets through to 2018 will likely be due to the introduction of application-specific wipes that incorporate high value features.

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