Health Care

We’re peeing in our pants. Lucky for the diaper industry

Sales of incontinence projects are booming as the 65 and older population grows.
Sales of incontinence projects are booming as the 65 and older population grows. AFP/Getty Images File

Diaper sales are booming, but the customers aren’t young parents swaddling their babies.

Baby boomers are buying more absorbent hygiene products than ever, helping a beleaguered paper industry that has seen its fortunes plummet as information grows increasingly digital and paperless.

U.S. retail sales for incontinence products are projected to increase 9 percent in 2017 and 8 percent in 2018, according to Svetlana Uduslivaia, the head of industry research at Euromonitor International. In 2016 sales adult incontinence products racked up almost $2 billion.

And as retail sales grow so does the demand of fluff pulp, a moisture-absorbing fiber made by such paper companies as International Paper Co. and Domtar Corp. That’s provided a boost for the paper industry, who can thank what demographers call “the silver tsunami” for their good fortune.

Between 2012 and 2015 the world population age 65 and older grew by almost 10 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That pace will accelerate as more members of the huge baby boomer generation begin to reach 65. By 2050, the 65-and-over set is expected to number 1.6 billion.

“The fastest-growth market is adult incontinence,” Kevin Mason, the managing director of ERA Forest Products Research in Kelowna, British Columbia, told Bloomberg. “That baby-boom generation, that demographic is moving into that area, and it’s going to help boost the overall demand.”

The incontinence market also has continued to grow, partly because innovation has made its products less bulky and easier to use. Almost a third of Americans suffer from urinary incontinence, according to the Urology Care Foundation.

“People don’t necessarily feel like they’re old,” Uduslivaia told Bloomberg. “They want something that not just helps them to get that level of protection, but is really sort of discreet and dignified.”

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