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The Bottom Line: Diaper Duty is Big Business and Growing Fast in Developing Markets
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The Bottom Line: Diaper Duty is Big Business and Growing Fast in Developing Markets

When it comes to keeping babies comfortable and clean, diapers are a top priority for parents—and one for which they spare no expense. In fact, Nielsen estimates diaper sales around the world will exceed $29 billion in 2015*. North America and Europe together account for 51% of diaper sales around the world (34% and 17%, respectively), while Asia-Pacific and Latin America each claim more than one-fifth of sales (23% and 21%, respectively).

The fastest growth is happening in developing markets. In terms of value sales, between December 2013 and 2014, the category grew fastest in Latin America (15.5%), fueled by a combination of rising prices—which increased 4.4% over the previous year—and strong volume growth in Venezuela and Mexico. Growth is likely to continue in developing markets, but manufacturers also face a unique challenge in these countries. In many developing markets, the diaper market is still in its nascent stages, and manufacturers must convince consumers to not only buy their brand but to purchase diapers of any kind. For example, diaper use in India has traditionally been limited, primarily for special occasions outside the home (although this is changing).

Penetration rates (the percentage of households purchasing diapers) are also higher in developing markets. Of the countries examined, category penetration is highest in Brazil, where 26% of households purchased diapers during the previous year. Penetration is lowest in the U.S. (6.2%), but there’s some good news for manufacturers: the U.S. is the only country in the study where penetration increased (+1%) in the past 12 months.

“Penetration growth in the U.S. reflects the small uptick in births that occurred between 2013 and 2014, the first increase since 2007,” said Liz Buchanan, director, Global Professional Services, Nielsen. “As the economy has improved, consumers may feel more financially stable and confident in their ability to provide for a baby. We expect to see moderate growth in the diaper category as consumers who delayed having children during the recession play catch-up.”

Diaper pants popularity is on the rise

Within the diaper category, which segments are growing most? We analyzed a subset of countries to understand directional growth in the category. While open diapers (traditional taped diapers with high absorbency) are the largest segment and experienced strong growth in 2014, rising 7% over the previous year, the strongest growth came from diaper pants, which slide on, but have absorbency closer to an open (taped) diaper. The diaper pants segment increased 20% over the previous year, with sales largely concentrated in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

In Asia, the tremendous growth in the diaper pants category has been driven by their convenience, comfort and competitive prices. Diaper pants are extremely easy to use and they’re also airier and can be more comfortable than regular diapers, which need to be taped and, hence, are tighter than pants. In addition, sales in traditional trade and smaller stores have been strengthened through the introduction of smaller packs of diapers (one or two diapers per pack). As these packs cost less, they are a popular option for consumers.


Other findings include:

  • 49% of baby food value sales come from Asia-Pacific, 27% from Europe and 19% from North America.
  • 44% of global respondents say they learned about baby food from loved ones, and 38% say that recommendations from friends and family had the most influence on their purchase decisions.
  • Asia-Pacific leads global respondents who say they purchase baby care products online.
  • Organic baby food value sales increased 26% over the past two years in 16 select markets, while non-organic products declined 6%.
  • Skin protection and comfort are the most important diaper purchase considerations among global respondents.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Baby Care Report.

*Based on Nielsen sales data for baby diapers and wipes in 63 countries, which account for an estimated 90% of global value sales.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Baby Care Survey was conducted Feb. 23 – March 13, 2015, and polled online respondents in 60 countries who have made a baby care purchase in the past five years throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.