Japan is one of the world’s richest and most developed countries, and is also known for its unique approach to child-rearing. It encourages children to be curious, to be fully part of society and to explore the world from an early age. It is also traditional to maintain a close relationship with the mother: for the first few years of life, it is she who takes care of the child every day, not the parents or grandparents. There is also a very strong physical and spiritual bond: the mother carries the child with her everywhere (in a pram or carrier), and cuddles her baby close to her, to minimise the stress.
These values are also reflected in Japanese children’s products: they should provide the child with complete comfort and allow them to explore the world around them without disturbance. The main objective of our study is to introduce you to Japanese nappy manufacturers, their products and the overall nappy market.
In recent years, this Japanese product has become very popular worldwide due to its exceptional quality: many parents say that Japanese nappies are much more durable, comfortable and pleasant to wear than similar products made in Europe or the US.
In other words, we would not be wrong to say that Japanese quality or made in Japan are qualities that ensure brand prestige and a great consumer experience. Although the nappy manufacturers themselves do not emphasise it, Japanese brands have an excellent reputation among customers, which is built on peer recommendations, personal experience, etc.
The main features of Japanese nappies that make them unique in this market are:
- According to 2018. According to a study, as many as 14.3% of children under 4 years of age living in the USA have a history of skin-related allergies. It’s worth noting that nappies made in the USA often do not have anti-allergenic properties.
- Japanese manufacturers take the sizing of nappies very seriously – they are made to suit the individual needs of the child. Because babies come in all shapes and proportions, nappy designs are developed to adapt to any body shape.
- While the emphasis is on naturalness, high-tech is not forgotten. Japanese manufacturers are developing nappies that are even patented for their unique systems that ensure fluid impermeability and excellent absorption of excretions.
Because of these unique features, Japanese children’s nappies tend to cost slightly more than conventional nappies and are therefore targeted at families with higher incomes (middle or upper class). However, it is worth noting that even within this niche, prices vary: you can find moderately priced products (e.g. Mamy Poko) and premium products (e.g. Moony Natural).
Japan ranks 5th in terms of annual revenue generated in the nappy market, behind China, the US, India and Brazil.
Interestingly, Japanese nappies are extremely popular in China, accounting for as much as 70% of exports to that country alone. It is thought that the demand for Japanese products is driven by social family policies, where parents strive to give their only child the best and highest quality. Also in China, parents don’t always trust local producers, whose products are not of the same quality when distributed domestically. Due to their huge popularity, counterfeit Japanese nappies are also abundant in China.
Japan’s market leader, with recent ambitions to compete with world-famous brands such as P&G and Kimberly-Clark. If successful, Unicharm will become one of the TOP3 nappy manufacturers in the world.Unicharm is a hygiene products company founded in 1974. It soon became very popular throughout the Asian region. Among the most popular mass-produced nappies, Unicharm produces Mamy Poko and Moony. Compared to other export regions, these brands are the most popular in the Western world. Mamy Poko is a moderately priced nappy that is considered to be in a more affordable category than Moony. This may be the reason why they are popular in developing countries – for example, they were the first Japanese nappies on the Indian market. In addition to the regular design line, Mamy Poko is also available with Disney characters.
Moony is a brand of nappies that is further divided into several segments (Regular, made from organic materials, and the more expensive Natural, made from premium cotton and natural fragrances). Moony is considered the ideal nappy for those who want the best balance between air permeability and absorption of excretions. In addition, all Moony nappies have an Air Silky layer that works in two ways: it gives a soft feeling and protects against allergies.
The company was founded in 1887. Originally a manufacturer of various cosmetic products, Kao Corporation is now also a household name in the nappy market.
Merries produced by this company are very popular in Japan and the rest of Asia. In recent years, demand in China has been growing rapidly, taking Kao’s lead away from P&G’s former position in this market, which has been declining in popularity at the expense of the Japanese product.Merries Japanese nappies are known on the market for their excellent air permeability and are highly recommended for babies with skin allergies (only 48% of the total volume of the nappy comes into contact with the skin). These nappies are designed so that any secretions go into the absorbent layer and do not come into direct contact with the skin. The brand is also very popular with buyers in Japan, but is also quite popular abroad.
Founded in 1873, the company‘s main product is paper (napkins, toilet paper, etc.). The group also owns Nepia, one of Japan’s best-known toilet paper brands, but its Whito and Genki! nappies are just as popular, based on the exclusive triple-vented category, which is not available elsewhere. The product is in the more moderately priced nappy category and the target audience is active and playful children. These qualities are reflected in the design of the nappies: they have ultra-soft yet firm stickers for comfortable movement, and the brand’s symbol is the traditional cartoon character Anpanpan and his friend Melon Panna.
While the Japanese market for local producers is strong and competitive, franchises of foreign brands are also gaining ground. For example, Pampers nappies distributed in Japan (a product of the American company P&G) are produced in this country to very different standards than in the West (i.e. the nappies produced in Japan are for the Japanese market only). With the predominance of lightweight and breathable nappies, the Japanese version of Pampers is much thinner and more elastic than in the Western world.
When P&G entered the Japanese market around 1970, it initially sold regular Pampers nappies. However, after a while, they became unpopular precisely because of their heaviness and discomfort compared to local products. Imported nappies also cost much more. The low quality and inadequate price led to a change in production strategy to compete with Japanese producers. This seems to have been a success – today Pampers is among the top 5-6 most popular nappy brands in Japan.
While Japanese nappies remain extremely popular and loved by parents and children around the world, their market growth is currently slightly declining (around -0.8% p.a. 2016-2019). One possible reason for this is the falling price of Japanese nappies. For example, since 2012, the average unit price of Japanese nappies has fallen by as much as 9% (see table below). In addition, the Japanese nappy market is projected to grow in the near future, reaching the -0.7% mark as early as 2022. This may mean that the change in nappy pricing will pay off in the long run and help the market grow even faster.
Japanese nappies are a premium product that is extremely popular and available for mass consumption. The target audience for Japanese nappies has a wide variety of brands to choose from, each with unique characteristics. That’s why these nappies are suitable for children with different needs who can’t wear regular mass-produced nappies: they can be adapted to allergies, non-standard body shapes or extremely mobile babies.