Spanning from make-up removal and deodorant wipes in personal care to floor and furniture cleaning products in household care, disposable wipes have gradually expanded to offer a wide range of new applications, replacing the traditional combination of cloth, cotton and cleaning solution.
Six years ago, the flourishing baby wipes market dominated, accounting for 82 per cent of total personal wipe sales. Cosmetic wipes - still emerging at the time - represented a mere 4 per cent of the market.
While baby wipes still remain the most established category, it is starting to display signs of maturity with increasingly competitive private label products and a decrease in birth rates across many major markets.
Higher margin cosmetic wipes have become a key driver as a result, reports the study.
Whereas baby wipes - passing the $2 billion mark in retail sales for the first time in 2003 - still account for 65 per cent of personal care wipes, the more dynamic cosmetic wipes category has now grown to account for 20 per cent.
"Gradual advances in technology have spurred a number of product launches by key players in recent years claiming specific extra benefits, such as exfoliation, moisturizing properties and vitamins. It is these benefits, over and above the cleaning function of the product, which justify price premiums and make cosmetic wipes less price sensitive," said a Euromonitor spokesperson.
Procter & Gamble's Olay Facial Cleansing Cloths, which claim to deposit anti-ageing ingredients on the face while cleansing, Beiersdorf's Nivea Visage wipe for dry and sensitive skin, and Kao's Bioré Blemish Fighting wipes are just a few examples of the most recent launches.
According to Euromonitor, Olay, Nivea and Bioré accounted for almost a third of the $691 million global cosmetic wipe sales in 2003.
"The mature regions of North America and Western Europe, which account for the lion's share of global sales are likely to see even further diversification of wipes. Driven by convenience, increased segmentation and competition among brands, wipes will continue to appeal to cash-rich, time-poor consumers in a number of developed markets," said the spokesperson.
Euromonitor also anticipates other geographical areas - most notably Asia Pacific - that are set to follow suit, as higher disposable incomes and Western influences increasingly shape consumer lifestyles and purchasing behaviour.