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Traders now push for zero-rating of baby diaper products

By Winsley Masese | Nov 9th 2014 | 3 min read
By Winsley Masese | November 9th 2014
Baby Banda Sarit

Nairobi; Kenya: Manufacturers and marketers in the disposable baby diapers market are calling for zero-rating of the products. They say heavy taxation is making personal care products expensive for many parents. Disposable baby diapers currently attract 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) apart from the other government taxes like Import Declaration Fee (IDF) and railway development levy.

“Considering that products like sanitary pads are zero-rated, it would only be fair to zero-rate baby diapers since they are bought by many parents who may not necessarily be well off,” Mega Importers Limited director Boniface Muiru says. Muiru, whose company imports Mamy Poko diapers and is eyeing a 10 per cent market share by 2016, says the sector needs more incentives.

With at least 20 brands competing for space in supermarket shelves in Kenya, the battle to win hearts of Kenyan mothers and their babies can only get tougher as more new players join the fray to claim a slice of the lucrative disposable diapers market. Since its launch last year, Muiru says despite market challenges, Mamy Poko pant-style diapers hope to ride on its unique features to further grow its market share.

He says they launched Mamy Poko pull-up diapers in an attempt to give consumers a break from the common tape-style diapers. While admitting there is no level playing field in the disposable baby diaper market in Kenya, Muiru is optimistic of the future. “Some prayers use unethical business practices to block the entry of new prayers into the market. Some dictate the shelf space that should be reserved for them in leading retail outlets hence blocking all other competitors,” Muiru says.

Fewer changes in a day

As competition in the sector stiffens, value addition is defining as continued innovation becomes the new battlefront in the wake of price wars and aggressive marketing. Pampers is the market leader in Kenya but fierce competitors such as Huggies, Bouncy, Bebedou and others are also angling for a piece of the business. Muiru says customers were excited by the product during a recent baby banda at Sarit centre, Nairobi due to its features. The product is easy to wear unlike the common open tape style diapers and is available in singles and packs of 5, 10s and even 20s. The price range is from Sh30 per piece.

Mamy poko product is among the three most popular diaper brands in Japan, Singapore, Malysia, India and China. It is manufactured by Unicharm, a company in Japan that deals in personal care products.

“They are easy to wear, even for men and greenhorn house girls. They absorb up to 6 glasses of urine so the baby can stay with the diaper for up to 12 hours. This means you need fewer changes in a day,” Muiru explains. “We want to make consumers happy by supplying diapers for all babies in all sizes.”

According to available data, out the 700,000 babies born in Kenya every year, only four per cent use diapers but by last year, the market for disposable diapers hit the $30 billion (Sh2.58 trillion) mark and dealers would not let the promisingly rising demand go unnoticed.

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