Diaper manufacturers shift focus in China from infants to the elderly

China is poised to pass a great, discreetly discussed demographic reversal, as diaper producers begin to prioritize a rising army of active seniors over dwindling infant ranks.

The projected crossover, affecting marketing and manufacturing investments for some of the world’s largest consumer product groups, comes as forecasts forecast that China’s population over 65 will reach 365 million by 2050 – equivalent to the world’s fifth largest country. .

Nappy producers, analysts and investors have said the Chinese market for adult diapers may exceed baby products by 2025, underscoring the rapid pace of demographic and societal transformation.

The moment of crossover “could be early,” said John Cato, an analyst at CLSA, given the rapid growth rate of the adult segment compared to infants, which is “hardly growing.”

This trend in the world’s most populous country reflects the changes seen in japan A decade ago, when diapers began to be sold more often than those for adults.

In 30 years, one in four Chinese will be elderly, compared to one in 10 in 2020, according to research by French bank Natixis.

International investors are also fighting to capture a share of China’s elderly industry, with private equity groups vying for it Chinese sellers of burial plots and funeral services.

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In response to this demographic change, Unicharm, one of the largest sellers of diapers and hygiene products in China, has in recent months made an implicit shift in its marketing, according to analysts and investors.

People close to the company told the Financial Times that for the first time the Tokyo-based company is allocating more of its marketing budget to adult nappies than to baby diapers.

“You’re switching from marketing to consumers who can’t actually talk, to consumers who don’t want to talk about the product,” said another consumer products analyst in Tokyo.

Unicharm declined to confirm the switch in its advertising budget, but a spokesperson said that compared to its previous promotional policies, it was no longer actively investing in the Chinese diaper market.

The spokeswoman added that since last year, profits from her highly profitable women’s care business in China have been invested in promoting adult diapers.

A worker in a diaper production line in Jinhu County, China © Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty

CLSA predicts that in just over eight years, the adult diaper market in China could be worth $16 billion, from less than $1 billion last year. By 2040, the market size may increase to $30 billion.

At a recently opened diaper factory in central China’s Hubei, a factory owner bet early on to switch. His company’s major new products are made for the elderly, not children.

The business, who asked not to be named, said there was already “strong demand” from online sales by aged care facilities and hospitals.

A growing number of Chinese companies such as New Sensation pose a threat to the dominant foreign diaper producers, including Unicharm.

While foreign companies have enjoyed Plus local diaper brands For years, there were signs that quiche might not apply to the adult diaper market.

“A great deal of trust in Japanese brands is associated with scandals related to [the] The safety of locally produced infant formula. . . But now many years have passed since then [those incidents]Kato said.

“Chinese [consumers] They increasingly feel that their brands are getting stronger. New products are discussed as soon as they are released – word spreads very quickly if the product is good.”

Additional reporting by Mikey Ding in Beijing

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