Japanese disposable diaper makers and producers of related materials are strengthening their production to sell more diapers overseas.
The diapers, which are rated highly for quality, are expected to become more popular in China and Southeast Asian countries as the living standards in those countries improve.
Japanese disposable diapers are said to produce fewer skin problems, as they have good absorbency and breathability. Diapers are often snapped up by foreign visitors during shopping sprees.
The companies are targeting Chinese and Southeast Asian markets, which are expected to grow economically. China, which has a huge market, has ended its “one-child policy” population control measure — a move that spurs the companies to think their business opportunities will expand further.
Unicharm Corp., whose well-known brands include “Moony,” plans to construct a factory in Fukuoka Prefecture to produce mainly disposable diapers. The company will also boost its overseas sales via the internet.
Oji Holdings Corp. will double the domestic production capacity of its tape-type diapers, which are mainly exported to China.
Diapers are increasingly being produced overseas, aiming to reduce both labor and distribution costs. Nippon Paper Industries Co. purchased a Vietnamese disposable diaper company last spring. Kao Corp. products made in China reportedly also sell well.
The same trend is spreading among materials producers. Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. increased its production capacity for breathable film by 60 percent at a factory in Thailand. In South Korea, Toray Industries, Inc. will increase the production capacity of the nonwoven fabric that is the raw material used to make disposable diapers. The company announced at the end of March that it would strengthen its development of nonwoven fabric in Japan.
On the other hand, according to the Japan Hygiene Products Industry Association, the production of disposable diapers for infants for the domestic market dropped by 6 percent to 13.9 billion units in 2016 compared to the previous year. This is the first drop in seven years.
Companies are trying to find a new path overseas because the domestic market is expected to shrink further due to the low birth rate, among other reasons.