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Tena stir market with urinary incontinence products

By James Omoro | July 20th 2016

NAIROBI, KENYA: Demand for personal care products continues rising, with growth of the middle class creating a revolution in a market that was once a preserve for women.

Manufacturers in this sector have equally raised the stakes with constant value addition and aggressive marketing.  In Africa, Middle East and India alone, personal hygiene and beauty products are expected to reach a market size worth USD 1.9 million by end of next year, with babies in these regions using up to 8 billion diapers, according to a recent transparency market research. 

Innovation has also triggered price wars but offered an opportunity for many consumers to get a variety of essential beauty and health products in supermarket shelves.  

But competition in the diaper market has been particularly vicious. While traditional household disposable diaper brands dominate these regions, new players are mounting a serious onslaught. 

Among baby diaper makers, the current market giants in Kenya are Pampers, Huggies, Bouncy, Bebedou and Mamy Poko. Annual sales for some of these manufactures have been climbing by 30 per cent annually. Consumer Insight’s recent Reja study revealed that Huggies, Bouncy diapers, launched just seven years ago, now command 18 per cent of the market, after Pampers’ 32 per cent.  

But Tena, one of the latest entrants, is causing ripples in the sector with the introduction of underwear-like adult briefs (diapers), which aims to break the taboo around bladder weakness in adults. 

Dr Boniface Muiru, a director at Mega Importers Limited, says the Tena brand was launched in the Kenyan market because it offers value for money for consumers with urinary incontinence. He says the decision to introduce it in Kenya was market-driven. 

Mega imports, distributes and markets incontinence care products in the Kenya and East African, with various demonstration centres.

Comfrey, Agacare, Sanicare are among the other brands in the adult incontinence category.

“Most of these brands, unlike Tena, come and go. You see them today and tomorrow you cannot get it. Tena is available in more than 100 countries. Locally, it is available in all leading hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets,” Muiru says.

Muiru, a senior pharmacist, says the company has been educating consumers to end the notion that bladder weakness is a taboo subject. Mega does outreaches in hospitals, clinics, health centres and dispensaries to raise awareness of the condition. 

Muiru says the idea behind Tena was to create a unique brand for customers who suffer incontinence so that they can experience the ease and convenience of tailor-made absorbent diapers. The products come in the forms of Tena Ultra Mini, Tena Lady Mini, Tena Lady Extra and Tena Lady Normal. Other brands are Tena Men and lights by Tena.

The new brand, just like the big ones, is now available in leading stores and hospitals.

In anticipation of increasing demand, Muiru says they will endeavour to make the prices as affordable as possible. It is retailing at an average price of Sh100 per piece.  

When baby diapers were beginning to hit supermarket shelves two decades ago, the medium packet was retailing at around Sh250. Today due to rising demands and escalating cost of production, it costs at least Sh700. The smaller packs of 6 to 8 diapers cost Sh270.  

Besides being sold in major supermarkets, marketer Caroline Oyugi says Mega Importers also supplies the pads for charity.

Muiru is confident the brand will become the highest selling health brand in Kenya. “We see a situation where Tena will be the highest selling intimate hygiene brand,” Muiru told said.  

With partnership from the world's leading company for incontinence care, SCA of Sweden and the International Continence Society (ICS), Mega says it will continue addressing incontinence concerns in Kenya.

“The issues we identified from the start included the fact that incontinence is viewed as a taboo, lack of purpose made products to help manage the problem and little knowledge on the proper use of these products. We began by holding seminars with medical personnel on the need to talk freely about incontinence. Hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets were encouraged to stock purpose made products for urinary incontinence,” Muiru says.

He says initially, most outlets were reluctant to stock, but with time, they came on board and began stacking Tena adult briefs, pants, ladies pads and a guard for men.

Some products were donated to needy cases like fistula camps at KNH. With the opening up of this category, many Kenyan businessmen have now started importing products but Tena believes it is ahead of the pack.

It’s popularity is riding on the fact that the products are research-based, with innovative features that include high absorption capacity, skin friendliness, availability of a wide range of products for different user groups among others.

Incontinence affects more than a million Kenyans and the problem could rise by 50 per cent in just 10 years. Major causes include age, diseases, pregnancy, childbirth, accidents among others. Most sufferers are ashamed of the condition and suffer in silence. They have little knowledge about the problem and much less knowledge about available solutions. Mega and SCA are working towards solving this predicament.

Tena Lady, sold under the slogan ‘for enjoying life without worrying about leakage’, Oyugi says, can be used in combination with treatment or where treatment has not been successful.

Going by its slogan “We are dedicated to empowering people. We never trivialise, we de-dramatise. We don’t patronize, we encourage people to take action. We don’t overpromise, we reassure because life is full of opportunities,” Tena dealers are confident of a sure future. 

The firm hopes to join the league of personal care products players such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and L'Oréal with constant value addition and by setting ambitious growth strategies.

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