Lever 2000 extends into booming wet wipes

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Unilever will lend its powerhouse Lever 2000 brand name to a line of wet wipes rolling out in July and positioned as the first wipe specifically for general personal cleansing. The launch marks the fourth major entry in the burgeoning wipes category this year.

Though ad plans haven't been disclosed, Lever 2000 Wipes are set to reach retailers July 2, with advertising expected to launch sometime in the fall. The budget may be substantial, considering the Lever 2000 bar soap and body wash brand got $23.5 million ad support last year via J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

In keeping with Lever 2000's bar soaps, the new line will be promoted for use on "all 2000 body parts." That's a departure from the usual more specialized positioning for wet wipes -- for everything from cleaning baby bottoms to removing makeup. Plastic tubs will retail for about $3.19, with refill packs also available for under $3.


Lever 2000 Wipes have what one retail buyer described as "a baby oil scent," but Unilever is trying to convince retailers to carry them in the body soap and wash section rather than with baby wipes, where the product would run up against well-established competition from Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pampers and Luvs.

Lever 2000 is the latest in a recent explosion of new wipe products. In the first half of 2000 alone, there have been new household cleaning wipe entries from P&G's Mr. Clean and Clorox Co. as well as Always feminine hygiene wipes from P&G. P&G also restaged its Pampers baby wipes as One-Ups, which are packaged in a box and positioned as an alternative for cleaning babies' faces and hands as well as for diaper-related cleanup. P&G and Unilever last year also rolled out facial cleansing wipes under the Olay and Pond's brands to compete with Kao Corp.'s Biore brand.


Adding a new wrinkle to the category is Moist Mates toilet tissue towelettes on a roll.

Though Kimberly-Clark already has a moist towelette version of its Kleenex-Cottonelle brand, Petaluma, Calif.-based Cotton Buds hopes to build sales through the added convenience of its flushable Moist Mates, which comes in a coreless roll dispensed through a patented plastic case that hangs under regular toilet paper rolls.

Dispensers with one roll retail for $2.99, and 100-sheet refills retail for $1.99.

Cotton Buds President-CEO DeWitt Paul predicted moist toilet tissue can become a $1 billion category in the U.S.

Moist Mates will be backed initially by in-store promotion and retailer ads only, but stands to get media support ultimately if Mr. Paul's prediction comes true. He points to explosive growth for Kleenex-Cottonelle wet wipes, whose sales grew to $50 million last year, as a sign it will.

"It's just like with disposable diapers," he said. "Once people start using [moist toilet tissue] they're never going back." He says consumer research shows 35% of baby wipes currently purchased are already used by adults for themselves.

At $1 billion, moist toilet tissue would be about a quarter of the $4 billion U.S. bath tissue category, a market share similar to what the product already enjoys in Europe, said Terry Frome, VP-sales and marketing for Cotton Buds.


The whole multipurpose explosion of uses for wipes is so taking the paper industry by storm that Fort James, one of the major makers of the paper used in the products, is pushing capacity limits, Mr. Paul said.

P&G Chairman-CEO Durk Jager told analysts in March that sales of Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups are running ahead of P&G projections. According to Information Resources Inc., Clorox Disinfecting Wipes logged sales of $20.4 million from its January introduction through April 23, while Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups sold $10.8 million. It is Clorox's most successful new product ever, the company said.

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