P&G Looks to ‘Pure’ Branding to Refresh Products, Answer Amazon

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P&G Pampers Pure diapers

Chased by Amazon, criticized by Nelson Peltz and staying in step with consumer demands, Procter & Gamble is introducing Pampers Pure Protection diapers and Aqua Pure wipes in a major foray into the “natural” baby-care category with Pampers, its largest brand.

“Parents rightfully expect it all, and yet when it comes to the diapers and wipes category, many have been forced to compromise,” said E. Yuri Hermida, P&G NA VP Baby Care, in a press release.

“We’ve talked to thousands of parents and heard that while today’s natural category diaper and wipe options provide certain qualities parents desire, they struggle to find a product that delivers the leak protection, style, and features they’re looking for in one complete package. In fact, of the 57% of moms who use natural products for their babies, only 3% buy natural diapers most often. We’re excited to extend our product offerings with our new Pampers Pure Collection to provide parents another trusted option for their babies.”

P&G is also refreshing the Always feminine care line by rolling out Always Pure and Clean, which adds “and Clean” to the Pure logo, showing how Pure is almost becoming its own sub-brand across P&G’s brands to refresh products with “better for you” features and messaging about being free of chlorine bleaching, dyes and fragrances.

P&G Always Pure

As noted by Bloomberg, the diaper race is critical for P&G’s growth. Pampers Pure Protection diapers are free of fragrance, lotion and chlorine, so only natural fibers contact a baby’s skin. They also cut the number of ingredients (from 12 to 7) in traditional Pampers diapers and offer features such as pH buffers and preservatives, absorbent gel and a wetness indicator.

Fast-Tracking R&D

Perhaps most importantly for P&G, they’re in the vanguard of a new supply chain ethos and production innovation. The Pampers Pure Protection line was developed in about 18 months—about half the time of a typical launch for P&G, which is streamlining its product launch approach across its brands.

In speeding up its concept-to-market cycle, it’s not only inspired by Peltz and by consumers, but also by competitors and author Eric Ries, whose book The Startup Way (as Fortune notes) is mandatory reading at P&G and other CPG giants these days.

Ries’s “most viable product” concept deserves credit for helping fast-track the Pure Pampers line to market—along with two new lines of feminine-hygiene products—by jumping to the consumer market-testing phase in just one year where it once took up to three.

Pampers Pure logo

The Natural Diaper Market

So-called “natural diapers,” with fewer chemicals and using natural fibers, have made a huge impact on a North America diaper market that long has been dominated by Pampers and Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies brand. Nelson Peltz, the P&G-critical shareholder and activist investor who now sits on its board, has been lobbying P&G to make a bigger play for this segment.

Millennials have driven the CPG industry’s shift to purer and more “natural” ingredients, helping startup brands such as Jessica Alba’s Honest diapers, which are made without chlorine processing or synthetic fibers, capture significant market share.

“Health and wellness is beyond a trend; it’s a movement driving huge changes,” David Garfield, a managing director at AlixPartners, told Bloomberg. The diaper category can drive “very meaningful growth” in an industry where it has been elusive, as consumers have shifted to private and upstart brands, he said.

P&G is also learning from its own missteps, such as when a major update of Pampers brand in 2010—a new technology called Dry Max in Pampers Swaddlers—generated skin irritation in some babies and gave the company a major social-media headache.

‘Mama Bear’ Growls

Amazon Mama Bear diapers

Besides social media pressure being even more pronounced today, when one person with a phone can share a photo or video and bring a brand to its knees, nimble competitors are also keeping P&G’s execs on their toes.

Consider the re-appearance of Amazon in the diaper market, after pulling its line of diapers sold under the Amazon Elements name in January 2015.

Last year Amazon launched a new private label diaper and wipes line called Mama Bear, which may not have “Pure” in its name but has the advantage of owning the direct-to-consumer distribution network—a cozy relationship with customers that puts its owned brands on the warpath with those produced by P&G and other CPG companies.

The Naturals Consumer

P&G Naturals brands - November 2017

As Vice Chairman and CFO Jon Moeller said at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail Conference in November, the “Naturals” consumer is growing worldwide (he cited China as an example) across segments, adding that:

“Millennials do have different needs and preferences versus their parents in some areas. One example is the affiliation with Naturals products across the categories in which they shop. We continue to develop new Naturals offerings to increase the relevance of our brands and products with the Naturals consumer and the increasingly environmentally concerned shopper, whether she is a millennial or a baby boomer.”

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