The launch is the diaper brand's first foray into wash products, with disposable washcloths that come both in dry form and a version impregnated with a mild soap. Huggies also will sell the baby-wash product, positioned both as a shampoo and body soap, separately in liquid form, with the wipes helping keep soap out of babies' eyes.
A spokeswoman confirmed the rollout, which she said should hit stores by Jan. 1, but was unable to provide further details. WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, handles the brand.
The launch will be backed by what retail executives estimated to be $15 million to $20 million in marketing support, including TV, print and online advertising, sampling and newspaper coupons.
Entering the baby-wash business pits Kimberly-Clark, already locked in a struggle to stave off recent erosion shares of its Huggies and Pull-Ups brands, against a formidable new foe in Johnson & Johnson, maker of Johnson's $100 million baby shampoo and wash products. Johnson's launched a baby-bath wipe of its own earlier this year.
While Johnson's is a well-established brand, it has had relatively light marketing support over the years and could be vulnerable to an extension from the bigger, better-supported diaper brand, said Al Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries, Atlanta. Huggies also has the advantage of being able to market the wash products through its existing direct-mail and sampling programs, he said.
"It makes sense in the short run," Mr. Ries said of the Huggies launch, "because I think the competition is relatively weak. But I would not want to take my eye off the ball in diapers when I'm competing with Procter & Gamble."
Since the launch of its high-end Pampers Baby Stages of Development line in early 2002, including a new entry into Pull-Ups, P&G has been consistently picking up share in diapers and wipes. According to Information Resources Inc. figures from Deutsche Bank Securities, P&G's led Kimberly-Clark in diapers with a 46% share to Kimberly-Clark's 37%. In training pants, Kimberly-Clark leads with a share of 72% to P&G's 14%. In baby wipes, Kimberly-Clark has a 37.6% share as compared to P&G's 26.9%.
Huggies recently has joined Pampers in an effort to expand its brand from diapers and wipes to a broader baby-care position. Huggies launched changing mats earlier this year. Pampers in recent years has extended into disposable bibs and, through licenses, into diaper bags and baby clothes.
Evidence indicates the diaper brands travel well. A recent survey by DSN Retailing Today of mass-merchandiser shoppers listed Pampers close to such mainstay baby-apparel brands as Carter's and Osh-Kosh in shopper loyalty in children's apparel.