Considering its consumers are so cute, the world of baby products is remarkably cut-throat. A whopping 95% of new products are delisted within six months according to one supermarket buyer, while the major players are reluctant to experiment with new ones in case they flop.
Yet the lack of category innovation also means fresh thinking can be remarkably successful. Take Dry Like Me. It launched its first product, a potty training pad, in 2011, after initial investment of £30,000. Far from being axed, it’s now listed in all the major grocery multiples, as well as Amazon, Wilkinson, Superdrug. So why have they succeeded where others have failed? And what prompted them to dream up the product in the first place?
“We were mums,” says co-founder Judith Hough. “I had trouble potty training my youngest child, I’d be on the phone to the Health visitor in tears saying ‘I’m having a nightmare! What do I do?’ I went to try and find this product - something that’s not a nappy but offers extra protection. And it just didn’t exist.”
The training pads act in a similar way to a sanitary towel, absorbing moisture but - crucially - allowing the child to sense it has wet itself, a fundamental part of potty training.
“You have to have an accident,” says co-founder Diane Titterton. “It’s the last thing anyone wants but it has to happen. The first step is your brain understanding you have wet yourself so it learns to hold on. This teaches children the cues but reduces the mess.”
The response from early focus groups was “amazing”. “Everyone said ‘why hasn’t anyone else done it?’” They had, it emerged. Only they had marketed it as a special needs product. “It wasn’t sexy enough for the marketing departments,” says Hough.
The original Dry Like Me patent was registered in 2008; by 2010 they had a prototype and in 2011 it won its first listing in Asda Living. Now there are three lines.
That’s meant rapid volume expansion. In 2011, it was doing 500 units a week. And today? “I don’t want to be too specific in case Huggies is reading but last week we did in excess of 5,000 units and we’re not even fully ranged yet,” says Hough. “It’s astronomical, it’s exponential.”
The increase in demand saw the Worcestershire-based company restructure its original deal with Wakefield-based own-label manufacturer Toiletry Sales in 2012, and secure private equity cash (the exact figure remains under wraps) to boost marketing spend and develop the brand. A large part of the marketing effort is conducted via social media, offering support to mums in a similar position to Hough’s.
“We can speak directly to our customers and huge corporates can’t necessarily do that,” says Titterton. “We’ve got a small budget but we can play to our strengths and make it go far.”
Sales are up 174%, to about £750k, and new listings should maintain growth. They would be in profit already, but are “investing heavily” to take advantage of the “massive expanding market across the globe,” adds Titterton.
Not that they are getting ahead of themselves. “The main focus is the three core products and we get emails from parents saying ‘you’ve saved my life’”. As reviews go, they don’t get much better than that.