Are adult diapers the sleeper success story? Depends on whom you ask

The market for adult diapers is growing, and marketers are trying to make sure their customers buy them with a sense of humor.


October 23, 2019

LAURENTIU GAROFEANU / BARCROFT MEDIA LTD /Barcoft Media via Getty Images

We’re all getting older. To paraphrase someone much wiser than us, there are a few things in life that are inevitable: death, taxes… and adult incontinence products?

This is a market poised to take off

As Boomers age while Millennials and Gen Z-ers put off zeh makin’ of bebes, we might be approaching a time when more adults than infants need diapers. The market for adult diapers, disposable undies, and absorbent pads grew 9% last year to $9B. 

And that number will likely grow. Some manufacturers estimate that only half of the more than 400m adults likely to be affected by bladder weakness are buying appropriate incontinence products. The issue? Embarrassment. 

Maybe this IS a laughing matter

In Japan, adult incontinence products have outpaced baby diaper sales since 2013. Advertisers have adopted the euphemism “choi more,” which means “lil’ dribble.” But even if cute phrases don’t translate to sales, there are ways to normalize the discussion and help consumers feel more comfortable shopping for these products.

Ditching the word ‘diaper’ helps…

So does placing incontinence products in personal care aisles rather than with baby products. And at the risk of sounding like a daytime talk-show host, did someone say maaaaakeover?

Kimberly-Clark has revamped its Depends, making them softer, thinner, and better-fitted so they can be worn discreetly. Essity’s TENA brand, meanwhile, features a line of trendy, black disposable briefs called Silhouette Noir. 

It also helps to emphasize that incontinence isn’t associated only with aging. Women are 2x as likely as men to experience bladder issues — and, as more of them start speaking openly about them, brands hope they can laugh about them, too.

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