Kimberly-Clark takes hit on Huggies

Kimberly-Clark-brand Huggies diapers sit in a shopping cart

Kai Ryssdal: Here's today's commodities story: diapers. Setting aside all scatological references, inflation's probably not the first economic phrase that comes to mind when diapers are mentioned. But today, the consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark reported a steep drop in quarterly profits. It's been clobbered by rising costs of commodities like wood pulp and oil.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins has more on the diaper index.


Jennifer Collins: Nine out of 10 babies in North America wear disposable diapers.

Luvs commercial: What happens in diapers should stay in diapers.

What happens in diaper prices goes far beyond babies -- to commodities.

Andrew Urban is a diaper consultant. He's been in the business for 30 years, and he's got the punch lines to prove it.

Andrew Urban: My career reached a new bottom right?

Urban explains:

Urban: The absorbency in a diaper is really due to super absorbent polymer, which is a petroleum-based derivative.

In other words, it comes from oil. Diapers also contain polypropylene and polyethylene -- also from oil.

Ian Butler: Every one of those things, the price is going up.

Ian Butler is an oil products expert.

Butler: They're slamming increases through as best they can.

Kimberly-Clark says the cost of raw materials will more than double this year. So that big box of Huggies will cost a few extra dollars. Butler says Pampers and Luvs are likely to get more expensive too.

Steven Chercover: The fact is, inflation's back.

Steven Chercover covers wood products for D.A. Davidson & Company. Fluffy wood pulp is also a staple in diaper production. And its price has been spiking as well. But Chercover says consumers will take the hit.

Chercover: Assuming you love your kid, you're just not going to scrimp on that.

He says even if parents switch to cotton diapers -- cotton, too, is at record highs.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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