Huggies Little Swimmers tests out a new niche

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Kimberly-Clark Corp. is testing a new version of its category-leading Huggies diapers designed to survive swimming without swelling to massive proportions.

Huggies Little Swimmers Swimpants have been "well-received" so far in a five-city test, the company said. National rollout is possible for next year.

Little Swimmers uses the same non-woven clothlike outer cover as Huggies diapers, plus leak guards and "a unique absorbent material that protects without swelling in water," K-C said.

TV AND PRINT SUPPORT

K-C has backed the test--in Tucson, Ariz.; Evansville, Ind.; Charleston, S.C.; Peoria, Ill.; and Savannah, Ga.--with TV, magazine and newspaper ads via Ogilvy & Mather, New York. Free-standing insert coupons offer $1 off.

The disposable swim pants retail for $6.88 in packs of nine, more than triple the unit price of ordinary diapers.

AcuPOLL Precision Research, a concept testing service, said its panel gave Little Swimmers a high purchase probability grade, and Tom Vierhile, president of Marketing Intelligence, a product tracking company, rates Little Swimmers as one of the most innovative new products of the year.

But industry analysts said swim pants appear to be too small a niche to grab a significant share of the $3.6 billion disposable diaper category, or even to get year-round retail shelf space.

TURNING TO NICHE PRODUCTS

Since launching Huggies Pull-Ups training pants in 1989, K-C has built much of its growth around niche products. In 1994, it launched Goodnites, for older children who wet the bed.

Training pants, originally spurned by rival Procter & Gamble Co. as too much of a niche product, are now a $400 million segment within the disposable diaper category, which K-C leads.

K-C had a 41.6% share of the total category for the 52 weeks ended July 27, according to Information Resources Inc., compared to 37.3% for P&G, which markets the Pampers and Luvs brands.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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