Could a Disposable Diaper Company Also Sell Cloth Diapers, and Should They?!

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Should a disposable diaper company buy out a cloth diaper company, one mom asked recently.

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Why not indeed?

It is clear that disposable diapers see cloth diapers as competition to their hefty bottom line.  If not, why would they market in such a way that is now about eco-friendliness (less packaging, less materials), “cute” designs (to compete with much cuter prints on cloth diapers), use marketing phrases like “blanket like softness (like… cloth…. and cloth diapers are….. CLOTH!), and spend a lot of money on funding studies meant to make cloth diapers out to be the bad guys.  Over the last 4 years I have caught Pampers blatantly makingfalse claims about the benefits of disposables over cloth diapers.  I’ve even seen the studies, funded by P&G (makers of Pampers and Luvs) that intentionally use old fashioned cloth diapers to, in all likelihood, make disposables out to be the better choice.  They see the writing on the wall that cloth diapers are increasing in popularity.

The old saying goes…

“If you can’t beat them, join them.”

It would be very easy for Kimberly Clark (makers of Huggies) or P&G, even smaller brands like Seventh Generation to buy out an established brand.  Rather than trying to stop the trend they could profit from it!

What if?

If this happened, what would be the result?  Well, a number of things could happen.  Potentially the makers of disposables would buy out a brand and dissolve it.  Bye bye!  Plenty of big corporations buy competitors simply to 86 them and get rid of the competition.  In the case of cloth diaper brands there are plenty left so I don’t see this as the best option.

They could also buy out the brand and the patents along with it in order to create their own line.  The cloth diaper industry, like any other, has a myriad of patents out that prevent competitors from making anything similar.  Buying the brand and getting permission to use the patents would mean that they could make their own line with features the same as the popular brand.  When it comes to things that work and work well you would think that a huge corporation would want the best.  This would mean that the brand no longer exists but the technology behind it would, under a new brand.

Or, they could buy a brand silently and let it continue to exist but under new ownership and management.  Consumers might not even know about the changes.  The large corporation could put their advertising dollars behind this brand and crush all cloth diaper competitors, even make national commericials.  They could expand into new markets overseas.  Bigger dollars mean better selections, a larger presence in the marketplace, placements in nationwide chain stores, and a larger audience for cloth diapers.  The science behind diposable diaper marketing is scary- they know exactly how to hook consumers and they spend big bucks doing so.  This could be useful for helping the cloth diaper movement…  For non tech-savvy mothers just looking for a way to save money on diapers seeing a commericial on TV or a well developed end-cap at Target could be a tremendous help.  I would hope an extensive guide to laundering and care was included.  Concerns would be how the money sharks would feel about sticking to quality materials.  When it comes to profts disposable diaper companies are willing to do what it takes to cut costs (think- Pampers Dry max and the chemical burns resulting).   There is even the potential for them to buy the majority of the company and still have it run by the same CEO, but be the majority shareholder so that their board has the final say.  There are many options here…

As much as we cloth diaper moms like to think it, we are not the only people deserving of cloth diapers.  You might be thinking “I don’t think that way!  I want everyone to use cloth diapers!”  You might be surprised to know that you don’t if that means selling out to “the man.”  Many of us don’t like the idea of a big corporation behind the wheels of our beloved mom run companies.  We LOVE knowing that our money is supporting a family, multiple families even, and that these companies are still being run by the mothers who invented them in their garage or basement.  It makes us feel good!  If, for example, a well known cloth diaper brand to P&G our community would be shocked, dissapointed even.  I can already see the outrage from mothers saying that they sold their soul to the devil.

Even when brands make it big enough to be carried, on their own merit, in stores like Target or Whole Foods, the community has mixed feelings.  Did they “sell out?” to get there?  Are they undermining the hard working WAHM’s behind the small online and brick and mortar cloth diaper shops?

Let’s face it- business owners can’t win.  I myself don’t know how I would truly feel.  A win for cloth diapers could mean the destruction of this amazing little community.  Or not.  I’m not a psychic.  Still, the mothers outside of this community would see cloth diapers in the store and just be happy that they were there, not knowing how or why, just excited to learn about a new way to save money and the environment.

Update: Just found the original patent I was looking to post- a resuable cover from P&G- looks like there could be competition some day?

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.
  • http://www.blacktating.com Elita @ Blacktating

    I think one of the biggest benefits to a major brand like Kimberly Clark or P&G selling cloth diapers is that the price would (most likely) come down significantly. I live in a very middle class area and I’ve seen the Charlie Banana end cap at Target but it looks the same every time I go in. No one is buying them and they’re not cheap. The average family is going to find the initial investment for cloth diapers to be pretty steep, especially for the super simple ones that are most like disposables. I don’t see what the big deal is about a big brand selling cloth.

    • Idigia

      how many companies that sell disposables do you know? can you name more than 5? (remember, Pampers and Luvs are both P&G). Now tell me 15 that make CD. How long would it take those 5 to remain 5 and get rid of the hundred orsço CD ones? it is a big deal

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=637802963 Shannon Green

    Oh my word…that’s a pretty open patent! Will they now go after and crush all the cloth diaper brands that meet that description?!?

  • http://www.facebook.com/juditupp Judith Martinez

    Back in the day a big brand did sell cloth, still does. Gerber has sold
    cloth for decades. Their quality went seriously downhill somewhere along
    the line but they are a big brand. When P&G and KC succeeded in
    converting most consumers to cloth Gerber probably decided not to invest
    in improving their cloth product to sell more and instead moved to
    other revenue sources. Now that cloth is making a comeback I think it
    would be interesting if Gerber got back in to the game and improved and
    expanded their line. I agree with Elita about price. I looked at the Charlie Banana display at Target but moved on because $20 a diaper is way over my budget. I tend to do my cloth diaper shopping on Craig’s list.

    • http://www.facebook.com/juditupp Judith Martinez

      Also, if I had $20 to spend on a cloth diaper I’d get a custom from an etsy store. I have 1 custom diaper that I won and her retail is $18. I figure if I’m going to spend that kind of money I may as well have exactly what I want. ;)

    • kimrosas

      Gerber is a big brand but they don’t make disposable diapers, though they do make disposable products. Several people have asked me if they are part of a conspiracy against cloth diapers because their products are so terrible. haha!

      • http://www.facebook.com/juditupp Judith Martinez

        LOL! Probably not since they’ve been selling them since before sposies were in common use but it does make you wonder. My oldest wore Gerber vinyl pants almost exclusively the whole time she was in diapers. We used a diaper service for the pre-folds. She’s 21 now to give you an idea of how long ago that was.

      • kimrosas

        Yes but I think the quality depreciating makes people wonder, but I know what you are saying.. The prefolds now have batting that isn’t even absorbent sew in between the two miniscule layers of cotton on eother side… they look absorbent but they are total crap. Burp cloths… yes….diapers….no.

      • Laura Graham

        I think the Gerber issue is my biggest concern about a diaper giant coming into the cloth diaper arena. Gerber has done an enormous amount of damage to the cloth diaper world over the years. After all, when the average person thinks of a cloth diaper, they think of a Gerber prefold, and those things are leaky and non-absorbent! I’m not sure what their true purpose is, but obviously it’s not for holding pee.. I’d imagine that many people jump into cloth (with no research) and grab a pack of “diapers” from the Gerber display – no wonder they hate cloth!

      • kimrosas

        I totally agree about the mark they have made on cloth diapers. So sad.

  • Idigia

    Are you sure that patent belongs to Kimberly Clark? I only see a couple of old patents of them in the citations, but it says that patent belongs to an inventor called Jason Yang. I don’t know much about them, so I may be confused, though. Anyway, both big giants are not into cloth, mostly because it doesn’t pay rent. You purchase a diaper and it will last until the baby is using the potty (unless a series of unfortunate events happens to it), you don’t go back to buy more every week, they don’t want that, they want rent, so they will fight the cloth industry and try to end it in any way they can (even bidding on as many small cd companies as possible)

    • kimrosas

      I updated the article- the original patent I was thinking of was from P&G and was a reusable cover, not 100% on the first I posted so I took it out until I can look into it more, but leaning to it not being KC. The P&G one is for a reusable cover for sure… 2010.

  • Sierra

    Charlie Banana are now in target and I think that is GREAT! gDiapers are in BRU and it appears that BRU has started making there own similar line. I think it’s great. Some parents will use sposies no matter what, but others just need to hear about it — or know that it’s okay and not over the top weird. I hope it continues. We will always have WAHM diapers for those who need that comfort.

  • In the Know

    I personally know of a company who holds several patents that has received offers for acquisition. Its not an if its a when at this point.

  • In the Know

    I’ve also spoken directly with P&G’s legal department who stated that their goal in filing these patents was not just to get into the market but to block others from getting into the market. And who would have a million or more dollars to fight them? Yeah patent lawsuits are expensive.

  • Aby Sadowy

    I would welcome the opportunity to see more cloth options at big chain stores. However I do appreciate being able to support small business and all the goodies real mom’s develop in their own challenges of cloth diapering.

  • Paige

    I love the idea of “the masses” being exposed to CD. Make it easier for parents to get started with CD, then later, they can buy from WAHM’s as they build their stash.

  • Runaru

    I was thinking about this too. That disposable diapers company would soon make cloth diapers. Yes! Why not? I just hope that everyone would be aware of the importance of taking care of our mother earth. And i hope companies like this would make a big switch.


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