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Cocoro Advanced Lingerie, the ultimate reusable absorbent underwear

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COCORO (Cocoro Advanced Lingerie, the ultimate reusable absorbent underwear)

Reporting period: 2016-12-01 to 2017-04-30

Problem being addressed
Half of Europe’s population uses menstrual products five days a month on average for approximately 30 years (5,6-6,4kg of non-recoverable waste per women every year). Also, many women suffer from blood or urine losses due to operations, childbirth, medical problems or simply old age. The need for highly absorbent products which are comfortable and sustainable is therefore obvious. However, the current product offer is not broad enough and the products are not fully satisfactory in terms of comfort, absorption and particularly, sustainability. Although several innovative and sustainable solutions in hygiene have reached the market over the past decades, this progress has not had a significant impact on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). The only exception is the menstrual cup, which is slowly gaining acceptance in Western countries. However, menstrual cups are internal solutions, and most women choose an external product to manage their menstruation and/or urine and blood losses. Even a widespread use of cups (sustainable internal option) would not significantly reduce the use of disposable pads and panty-liners.

Cocoro Advanced Lingerie (developed by Femmefleur sccl) is the first absorbent and reusable underwear made in Europe. It is manufactured with cotton and polyester (PES). The polyester is treated with two technologies and the resulting technical fabric is finished with a water repellent function (hydrophobic) on the outside, and an absorption of perspiration function (hydrophilic) on the inside. Cocoro panties offer an innovative and sustainable alternative to standard external products in MHM. Cocoro Advanced Lingerie is effective in reducing the ecological impact of MHM-related products. Similar solutions are recently being developed in the US, Canada and Australia but, they are still not a clear alternative to pads especially in Europe.

Society implications
Some 90 million pads are consumed every year in Spain, which leads us to assume that about 1 billion pads are yearly used in Europe. This means that around 1.6 million tons of raw material are consumed and 200.000 tons of waste are produced by the European manufacturers of MHM products on a yearly basis. Reducing the amount of non-biodegradable waste generated by MHM products is a must. Also, we believe that action needs to be taken to provide the feminine hygiene sector with incentives to create alternative solutions that are both comfortable and economic. Cocoro Advanced Lingerie is effective in reducing the ecological impact of MHM-related products. Similar solutions are recently being developed in the US, Canada and Australia but, they are still not a clear alternative to pads especially in Europe.

Objective of the project

More specifically, after the work carried out, the overall objective of Cocoro Advanced Lingerie has been confirmed. The objective is to commercialise sustainable, absorbent, comfortable and fashionable underwear to address menstruation and other fluid loss. After successfully testing the solution, comparing it with others and analysing the market, the specific objectives of the innovation project have been confirmed:
→ To move from a proven technology (TRL6) to a fully marketable line of products (TRL9).
→ To further optimise the absorption capacity and durability of the technical fabric (during the technical feasibility study, some possible improvements have been detected and will be implemented in the following months)
→ To set up a successful industrialisation of the product (the technical feasibility study has helped us gather information about the needs to design a successful industrialisation process)
→ To improve model designs.
→ To disseminate knowledge about the product and to commercialise Cocoro Advanced Lingerie internationally (information gathered with the survey and the market and desk research has contributed to a better understanding of the steps to follow).
→ To explore several manufacturing processes and materials in order to improve the sustainability of the product.

With the studies and tasks carried out during phase I of the SME Instrument we have confirmed the impact a product such as Cocoro would have in the European market and worldwide.
T.1 Technological feasibility study to ensure optimal fabric performance: this task was performed in collaboration with a department of Eurecat, which is specialised in innovation related to textile. Together we designed a study to analyse the characteristics of our product and other products in a controlled environment. It also included the development of some specific tasks to confirm the technical and financial viability of the conceptual design, and detect possible improvements of the product and its materials.
Different materials and fibre structures have been studied to find the best option to accomplish the desired functionalities. While Cocoro’s actual solution is ready for the market, the study was designed to give us insights as to how the product can be further improved. The study included:

a) Definition of the requirements of the product
b) State of the art, benchmarking
c) Functional validation of the samples
d) Design of the conceptual proposal
e) Technical and financial viability of the conceptual design

More specifically, Eurecat conducted tests with:

1) a Cocoro sample as initially built;
2) a sample of a pad and;
3) other fibres in the market and new combinations of fibres.

A general review of the business idea was carried out to address the other three tasks of the project: T.2. Definition of a commercialisation strategy, T.3. Market study to detect other potential sectors, markets and clients, and their needs and T.4. Study to ensure a successful commercialisation.
The project business idea review was structured as follows:
Part 1: the problem to be solved
Analysis of the main pains and gains of the clients, the market fit of the product, the description of the client and the value curve. Part 1 also included an analysis of the value chain and its main actors. The analysis was carried out through a value proposition canvas, qualitative interviews, a value curve workshop, an analysis of the potential market (desk research) and professional interviews.
Part 2: market quantitative analysis
An exploration of the market reality in Spain from the point of view of the consumers was carried out. We obtained significant numbers to be able to size the market while detecting behavioural and cultural tendencies of our customers. Also, interviews with stakeholders were carried out to better understand the sector.
Part 3: business model
This part of the project consisted in designing the complete Business Model, paying special attention to the production and distribution channels. With the help of an external group of consultants and after having interviewed some stakeholders of the sector, a Business Model Canvas was designed. This was done at the end of phase I of the SME instrument to be able to take into account all the results of the work carried out (market quantitative and qualitative study, segmentation, market needs, value proposition, among others).
Part 4: financial plan
At the end of the project, and after the Business Model was reviewed, an adaptation of the Financial calculations of the company was carried out. This task consisted in establishing a new plan and reviewing the projections of Cocoro according to the insights and decisions made during the process described above.

The technical study has provided new ways to improve our product in order to achieve extra functionalities (especially more absorption). It has also proven that our product is technically ready to reach the market for certain uses. While preparing the commercialisation of our product and brand, we will work in parallel to design new versions of the product to compete in new market segments. This will result in different versions of our product that will meet various user needs (actual product to address: vaginal discharge and light periods / new products to address: strong periods, light urine loss).
The business analysis has provided us with information regarding possible positioning and commercialisation strategies we could use for our product. With these findings, we have not changed the vision of the project but we have been able to better understand the needs of our potential users.

The main advantages of Cocoro Advanced Lingerie exposed during the proposal have been confirmed and will continue to be analysed every time the product needs to be positioned in a new market. These advantages are:
→ It reduces waste generation: it may lead to a reduction in the usage of disposable MHM-products and, therefore, a reduction of the waste generated by the products.
→ It provides an alternative for women that do not want or cannot use internal products.
→ It can be used on its own or together with internal products, as a complement.
→ It requires a minimum change of habits and no learning effort.
→ It is clean and comfortable

To this list, we have added three issues many women have mentioned as something they worry about:
→ Health: although the threat is not clear, there are many users that are worried to use internal products, try to avoid using them at night, or avoid using pads and panty liners to ensure breathability.
→ Breathability: many women feel breathability is an important attribute on its own, not just as a health factor.
→ Antibacterial: many interviewees mentioned they worry about the smell. Being antibacterial, Cocoro prevents the smell.

Regarding the commercialisation strategy, the studies carried out have shown that even though women buy on-line, for new products many prefer to see the product first. As a reaction to these findings we are studying new channels to commercialise the product and communicate with users.

With all these findings in mind and the strategic decisions taken throughout the process, we will continue to develop our business idea in order to be able to reach the market with guarantees.
With the studies and tasks carried out during phase I of the SME Instrument we have confirmed the impact a product such as Cocoro would have in the European market and worldwide.
→ Reduce highly pollutant (non-biodegradable) raw material use in the female hygiene sector: we have confirmed the feminine hygiene sector, at least the traditional one (which takes the vast majority of the market) is only innovating to make their one-use products more effective in terms of absorption and comfort, but they are not working on reusable solutions. It is the task of new innovative companies to introduce this line of work in this sector, to increase reutilization and reduce waste.

→ Women, more than half of the world’s population, use MHM-products regularly, normally around 5 days per month, every month, for over 30 years. The most common MHM-products (pads and tampons) constitute the second largest market worldwide of disposable hygiene products after nappies and diapers. This is a multi-billion-euro industry that has grown more than 3% in the last 5 years, according to Euromonitor International. This has two immediate consequences:
o Women do not have much of a choice when it comes to MHM products, even if they are not completely satisfied with the current solutions. At the same time, our quantitative market study showed that in Spain over 80% of the feminine population would be willing to try Cocoro. Even though the shift would not be immediate, there seems to be a very high interest in the product and the idea behind it.
o The majority of the traditional solutions are disposable products, which generate a tremendous amount of waste all over the world. As an example, some 90 million pads are consumed every year in Spain. If women swap the disposable product they are using nowadays in favour of a reusable product, the amount of waste would decrease.