P&G Re-entering the Incontinence Category - Updated July 22

P&G getting back into incontinence?
What's in the box?  No one seems to know, except perhaps some of the big box stores. 

It is strongly rumored that Proctor & Gamble (ticker #PG) will re-enter the disposable incontinence category, a category they helped create in 1978 along with Kimberly-Clark (Depend and Poise).  Their brand was Attends.

On April 3, 1998, P&G threw in the towel on their Attends incontinence line in the North America to focus on its ‘bigger brands’ according to Scott Betts, the then general manager of P&G’s U.S. Adult Incontinence business. This decision was made after a failed attempt to relaunch the Attends brand.  The amount they invested in  marketing during the relaunch year was actually more than their sales.  After that, they sold the brand.  Domtar, the current owner has been able to keep the business going, albeit as a price brand with no real marketing support.

10,000 Boomers Turn 65 Everyday.  For The Next 20 Years.
P&G can't ignore the incontinence category any longer.  They know how to make products that absorb (Pampers, Always) and they have a very strong (global) sales and marketing team.  What other category can they enter with such strong growth metrics that leverages their core strengths?

Most in the incontinence business ask:  "What's taken them so long?"

The big dilemma for the current manufacturers is that P&G usually doesn't introduce me-too products and they aren't going to settle for a small share.  Assuming the rumors are true and they begin shipping this summer or early fall with a full line of 24 items (pads and pull on underwear for women in different pack counts), I expect they will target at least 25% of the market.

"In The Next Six Months, We're Entering a New Category"
In a June 18, 2014 presentation at the Duetsche Bank Global Consumer Conference, P&G CFO Jon Moeller said that in the next six months P&G will be entering a new category.  He didn't divulge the category but also eluded to the fact that they will introduce a new and far superior method of addressing a chronic consumer issue.  Here is a link to his presentation - see slide 14.

We think its possible the brand will be announced at their August 1 earnings conference call that is being attended by Chairman A. G. Lafely.

Branding Under Always Umbrella
The brand name is Always Discreet.  The use of Always branding precludes marketing the line to men, but we think its smart.  Women represent about 70 percent of the dollar volume and the Always brand is a $1 billion plus brand so clearly Always branding a strength for P&G.  The feminine care section is where women want to shop (if they shop in a store, that is).  Being in the feminine care isle helps address the discretion issue.  And, according to research, 40% of Always maxi pad volume is already being used for light bladder leakage so the transition to a targeted product (Always Discreet) will be easier for a woman using a period only pad.

Manufacturing Synergies & Efficiencies
CFO Jon Moeller recently announced a concerted effort in the area of 'asset efficiency' to help drive total shareholder returns (TSR).  This will be accomplished with fewer, multi-category plants and common manufacturing platforms.  This plays well into manufacturing Always feminine care pads and new Always Discreet in the same plant(s) and perhaps on the same converting equipment.  Baby diapers and pull-on incontinence products share many of the same materials and processes.  Manufacturing talent can be utilized across all the product lines.

Driving Revenue Growth
This introduction may drive growth in the light end segment as an increasing number of women transition from period only pads to a targeted product.  This will serve to drive more revenue dollars per unit into the incontinence category, at the expense of the feminine care category.  Comparable products targeted for incontinence retail at prices 50% to more than two times the comparable sized feminine care pads.  If P&G is able to trade up current maxi pad customers to new Always Discreet, that will help drive their overall revenue growth.

The Always branding strategy helps solve the issue of identifying shelf space as well, although at least one big box store says that space in the incontinence section is an issue (hence the comment about TENA's ability to hold onto any shelf space in the U.S.).  Inventory requirements for retailers will be steep as P&G is introducing 24 SKU's. Certainly, not all retailers will stock all SKU's.

P&G has used the descriptor 'discreet' in conjunction with the parent brand 'Always' for some time.  Below are two examples.

Always discreet incontinence liners sold in the UK

In the U.K. P&G has been selling Always Discreet pads for 'sensitive bladder' on their super savvy me website. They claim they are up to 40% thinner and can absorb more than two times the average womans need. Other features include a unique DualLock core, exclusive OdourLock (tm) technology that neutralizes odors instantly and continuously (lots of happy talk).  They are lightly scented, have full length leak guards, are thin and flexible even when wet and fit discreetly.  They come individually wrapped for discreet disposal and have been dermatologically tested.

Always Discreet in the U.K. - 40% thinner and can absorb more than 2 times what is typically needed
We don't believe this is the product they will be leading with in the U.S. based on what we've picked p from a range of sources.

Globally, P&G will likely market this new line under the brand names of Whisper (Japan, Singapore, India, China, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan; Lines (Australia and Indonesia); Orkid inTurkey and Evax and Ausonia in Spain and Portugal.

In the U.S. they will gain this share with a uniquely positioned brand and bombardment level awareness and trial generating advertising and promotion of a reported $150 million, the largest outlay in P&G's history.  They will continue shifting the marketing mix into digital, social and mobile media.

A claim 'absorbs in seconds' is all we are aware of at this point. They're also telling trade customers that the launch will be a sustained 3-year commitment.

Pessaries: A New Segment In The Incontinence Category?
Up to 50% of women occasionally leak urine involuntarily, and approximately 25% of women will seek medical advice at some point in order to deal with the problem.  P&G has been filing patents on a new technology - a disposable incontinence pessary.  The product is designed to help stop light bladder control due to stress incontinence.  It is inserted with an applicator like a tampon and its benefit is comfortable insertion and removal.  The patent filing refers to the product being easy and discreet to use, transport and dispose of.  At least one analyst believes pessaries will be the product form P&G leads with, but The CareGiver Partnership feels that they must enter the category with known product forms before introducing a new to the world product style.

Drawing from one P&G filing on a pessary

Dialoging satisfied customers in the incontinence category can be tricky - they need a strong sales pitch (a highly differentiated positioning with a tangible benefit) and lots of trial incentives.

Always Envive - for sensitive bladder.  Is skin sensitivity the next big unmet consumer need?

Who Wins.  Who Loses?
The result?  Its impossible to know if P&G will be able to achieve 25% of the market after the first year or two.  However, if they do, Depend and Poise will lose 10 to 15 share points and most in the industry feel that SCA's TENA and Serenity brands will be all but extinguished in the U.S. as retailers use the TENA and Serenity shelf space for Always Discreet.  Private label and store brands may lose some share temporarily, but P&G's line up will likely be premium priced (to store brands) and not attract those who primarily purchase on price.  Further, over the past quarter century, the share of private label just hasn't changed much in either good and bad economic times.  It always seem return to dead center at about 20%.

More Deals and Lower Prices For Consumers... At Least For a While
For customers of The CareGiver Partnership, this may be good news with more competition resulting in more incentives and lower prices, at least initially.

Unfortunately... More Consumer Confusion
A major issue with incontinence products is consumer confusion.  Research shows that new category entrants waste on average $130 in trial and error mode trying to find the right product for their needs. That means that 8 to 10 bags of product are purchased before the best option is identified.  This is caused by a lack of standardized naming nomenclature for product styles and absorbencies.  The incontinence category is a clear example of the Paradox of Choice.

That's why The CareGiver Partnership created the Incontinence Product Finder, a free tool to help simplify the decision process for consumers.  With it, a consumer can sort through over 650 incontinence products in under a minute and pinpoint the ones that will best meet their needs.  Or, they can call 1-800-985-1353 and talk to a knowledgeable product specialist who all happen to be women.

Having competed against P&G since 1974 across a wide range of categories including detergents, cleansers/cleaners, bar soap, dish liquid, baby diapers, adult diapers, and feminine care, this impending introduction is the most secretive and anticipated in P&G's history that I have seen and I've seen some big ones including Pringles, Bounce, Always and Olean.  Two of those didn't pan out. 

By Tom Wilson, Co-Founder and President of The CareGiver Partnership.  You can reach me at tomw@caregiverpartnership.com


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