Kimberly-Clark revamps Depend line for men, women

CHICAGO Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:23pm EST

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CHICAGO Dec 15 (Reuters) - Kimberly-Clark Corp (KMB.N) is overhauling its Depend line to offer disposable underwear tailored to men and women as it prepares for an influx of aging Americans who need incontinence products.

Depend has been around for nearly 25 years, but this is the first time it is offering separate versions of absorbent underwear for men and women.

The products, which look more like traditional cotton underwear than an adult diaper, will be available in North American stores in March and appear in Europe later in 2009.

While Depend is a smaller business than other Kimberly-Clark products such as Huggies diapers or Kleenex tissues, it expects an aging population will help boost sales.

Baby Boomers, the generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, are heading toward retirement with the oldest set to turn 65 in 2011. Many of them are already caring for parents who may use incontinence products.

Underwear currently accounts for about 75 percent of Depend brand sales.

Six unisex versions of Depend underwear will be replaced by six versions for women and two versions for men. The new products have different leg openings and other changes to fit men's and women's bodies. They offer 28 percent better leakage protection than before, Kimberly-Clark said.

Sales of incontinence products have risen every year during the past decade. Nearly $3.75 billion was spent on incontinence products worldwide in 2007 versus less than $1.48 billion spent in 1997, according to data from Euromonitor International. Euromonitor expects sales to reach $5.71 billion in 2012.

"We expect the category to continue to experience strong growth in the 5 to 10 percent range over the next several years," said Greg Fries, Depend senior brand manager.

The company expects Depend sales to grow at an annual rate of 5 to 10 percent as well.

Nearly 27 million Americans will more than likely experience incontinence by 2010, up from more than 19 million Americans who deal with it today, according to Kimberly-Clark.

Kimberly-Clark, which introduced Depend in 1984, is the market leader, though it has lost some of its edge recently. Depend's share of the incontinence market fell to 22.9 percent in 2007 from 23.3 percent in 2006, according to Euromonitor.

Still, the brand's sales rose more than 8 percent to $856.3 million. Kimberly-Clark's total sales last year were $18.3 billion.

The No. 2 player is SCA's (SCAb.ST) TENA brand, which controlled 21.2 percent of the market in 2007, up from 20.8 percent in 2006, according to Euromonitor.

A big marketing push for the new Depend product will start in April, including commercials, advertisements in magazines and online, and direct mail. Fries said Depend will also overhaul its website to offer areas for consumers to connect.

Pricing should be very similar to before, Fries said. Depend's price was raised during the second quarter to offset higher material costs.

Kimberly-Clark declined to give specific marketing spending plans, though Mark Cammarota, Depend brand director, said, "it's certainly the largest budget that we've had" and is a significant increase versus 2008. (Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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