The Supply Side: Walmart, Unilever team up for multicultural baby product

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 809 views 

Walmart continues to look for ways to increase its share of the baby products market, shifting more toward online sales. The Bentonville-based retailer recently launched a new baby product with the help of Unilever, a long-time Walmart supplier.

Rather than rethink a private brand, Walmart sought to partner with Dove, a Unilever stalwart, and expand the scope to reach the underserved market for multinational families. Baby Dove hit Walmart stores and became available online last month.

Ralph Clare is the vice president of baby consumables at Walmart U.S.

As a parent of multicultural children, he said that he knows firsthand the frustration parents can feel trying to find products formulated for babies with darker skin and textured hair that are naturally prone to more dryness. Clare said half the babies now born in the U.S. are diverse, and that number is expected to increase in the coming decades, but retailers have been slow to fill the product gap for this demographic.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the non-Hispanic white population will shrink from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million by 2060. The people of two or more races are projected to be the fastest-growing ethnic group over the next 20 years. Children of two or more races are projected to more than double in the decades from 5.3% in 2016 to 11.3% by 2060.

Clare said Walmart is the first retailer to introduce a multicultural category in baby care with the Baby Dove launch. It includes products to meet the specific needs of babies with melanin-rich skin and textured hair. The new products from Baby Dove are a Walmart exclusive, a deal the retailer worked out with Unilever. Other Baby Dove products are sold at multiple retailers and online.

“Through our strategic partnership with Unilever, we were able to speed to market a solution for diverse families to better meet the needs of our customers. We collaborated with Unilever during the product development process and are proud to help bring for the first time to Walmart shelves and Walmart.com this kind of product at scale,” Clare said.

Walmart said Unilever was the perfect partner for the venture, given the supplier’s work to sell products to diverse ethnic groups with other skincare products.

Clare said that with the unique composition and distribution of melanin, dryness is more visible on the melanin-rich skin of multiracial babies. He said textured hair is also more prone to dryness and an increased number of spontaneous knots due to its hair follicle’s structure. The new products in the Baby Dove line seek to solve these issues. He said “Melanin-Rich Skin Nourishment” products include a hypoallergenic wash, hypoallergenic cream, soothing baby oil and help prevent baby skin dryness. The Baby Dove Curl Nourishment hair products have a hydrating shampoo, softening conditioner and detangle cream to nourish textured hair.

While many predicted a baby boom during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021, that has not been the case. The birth rate for the U.S. this year is 12 births per 1,000 people, a 0.09% increase from 2020 and flat against 2019, according to MacroTrends.com. What has changed in recent years is the number of products consumers are buying online, including baby care items.

Lauren Uppington, an omnichannel merchant for baby care at Walmart, said the retailer has worked to expand its product lines over the past two years to try and meet the needs of modern parenting.

“The next generation of parents continues to navigate life and parenthood through a pandemic, and they — more than anyone — understand the delicate balance of doing it all. … To meet the specific wants and needs of Millennial and Gen Z parents, Walmart has expanded its baby assortment, introducing 600 new baby products and brands in the last 12 months alone,” Uppington said in a Sept. 1 corporate blog post.

Aside from the Baby Dove products, she said Walmart has also expanded its baby care assortment with Hello Bello, Zarbee’s Naturals, and Live Clean, among the most popular with customers.

Uppington said smarter nurseries are also resonating with new parents. Walmart has expanded its assortment of tech-focused baby items to include wearable baby monitors, sleep trackers and wireless sound machines. She said Walmart has also added brands in the postnatal care area and on-the-move products such as strollers and car seats. She also noted that it could cost new parents nearly $20,000 in the first year of their child’s life.

She said Walmart has seen baby e-commerce explode in the last year, with online sales accounting for more than 50% of the total baby market. Uppington said Walmart’s online order for at-store pickup or delivery also resonates with new moms who are breastfeeding at 3 a.m.

The latest move from Walmart comes as Amazon and Target have also made a more significant push for baby care market share along with The Honest Co., a consumer goods business founded by actor Jessica Alba in 2012 that has grown to $300 million in annual sales.

U.S. online baby product sales are roughly $10 billion annually, with Amazon having the largest market share, followed by Target and then The Honest Co., according to IBISWorld.com. A report from NPD found that six out of seven categories for juvenile products saw dollar growth last year. NPD said sales of juvenile products reached $7.35 billion last year, up 6.5% from 2019. The most significant growth area came in safety products like baby gates and baby entertainment. In the first quarter of 2021, NPD found the juvenile products industry grew by 24%, with four of seven categories registering the most extensive growth with car seats, strollers and other mobility items as families began to go out again.

The global baby care market is projected to be worth about $88.72 billion by 2026, which would increase from $67.35 billion in 2020, IBISWorld.com reports.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

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