9 November 2010

Posted by DMC on 9 November 2010 in Diary |

My regular readers may well be wondering what has happened to all those allegedly wonderful inventions I mentioned some months ago. You may recall that the first of five was being developed by HDTI, Coventry University. It was a health care product which they refined and for which they produced a presentational DVD. Up to now I have not been able to disclose the precise nature of this product despite having taken out an intermediate patent on it. Having just received my third rejection, this one from Boots the Chemist, I will now disclose the nature of this idea. It is a Mitt Wipe and I can do no better than reproduce the description sent to the various companies whom we hoped would be interested in producing and marketing it.

The Mitt Wipe


Elderly, disabled and very young people often have difficulty in effectively wiping their bottom. The elderly usually through weakness in their hands and arms and the young through inexperience. Both have difficulty in holding a piece of lavatory paper in their fingers and executing an effective wipe  without soiling their hands. The young think nothing of yelling for Mum, the elderly find a third party involvement undignified. I know, I am one of those elderly.

My answer to this problem is my design of what I call a Mitt Wipe. This is quite simply what we all know as a moist baby wipe in the shape of a mitt that completely covers the fingers and half of the palm of the hand, up to the joint of the thumb. With this in place the process of wiping becomes a much less hazardous process, with little or no possibility of soiling one’s hands. Having completed the procedure, the hand can then be shaken over the lavatory bowl, and the wipe released.

My design for this product is illustrated on the attached CD, the illustrations of which, together with the explanatory notes, are self evident. It is very important that this Mitt Wipe is  biodegradable, so that it can be either disposed of in the lavatory pan or in a rubbish bin.

I do not have to spell out how potentially huge is this market,  both for the elderly, the disabled and the very young learning to lavatory themselves. However, beyond the elderly and the very young there are a great number of fastidious people who are concerned with germs and, if we believe the television advertisements,  spend their time wiping up messes but always with the possibility of soiling their own hands in doing so. Witness the latest handwashing steriliser which you no longer have to touch. No doubt, the all-round protection afforded by the wipe, might well appeal to such people. I also wonder perhaps if the main licensee could sublicense this to someone like Dettol, just for their own ‘germ eliminating ‘ product.

The other aspect of this product, which I believe could well be exploitable, is the potential of advertising on the large flat surfaces of the box itself. Perhaps other products produced by the licensee or, other healthcare products which they do not produce themselves, or in the case of the wipes for the  “Little Ones”, cartoon characters or advertising the latest collectable craze. For example, in the case of cards, a free gift could be included in every refillable pack. Similarly, a box could be specifically designed for little girls, again perhaps with some sort of gift included. But here I am impinging upon marketing, of which I have little experience, except so far as my own books  are concerned and undoubtedly the licensee themselves will have their own ideas.



You can see a visualisation of this product by clicking Mitt Wipe DVD

The product was first offered to Proctor and Gamble who have worldwide interests in such things and would have been the ideal partner. They turned it down, so we then tried Lloyds Pharmacy, not such a large company but  one which would certainly have been able to have distributed it fairly widely. Finally, after receiving a rejection from them we tried Boots, who initially seemed very interested, but in the end, like the other two turned it down. As a matter of interest I give the reasons for the rejections.

Procter & Gamble

I do not bring good news.

The relevant panel at P&G has reviewed the opportunity and concluded that it is not of interest.

They report having reviewed several similar concepts recently.

Sorry I don’t have better news 

Lloyds pharmacy

Initially, it looked encouraging when Lloyds Pharmacy came back with the following;

The buying team and the Independent living team raised the following queries and concerns.

  • Firstly, the wipe sector is very keenly priced and whilst there is a USP to this product, if it is too far out from the standard wipe market, it would seriously limit the mass appeal. So first query concern was price related… this product needs to have a good cost and retail price

-        In the baby sector retails should be around the £3 price bracket.

-        In the inco market, retailers could be slightly higher, between £3 & £5. 

Secondly, it seems this is quite a crowded market with a number of wash mitts and wipe mitts available. Granted these are not exactly the same but it does highlight that it will be competitive and a clear USP with a good retail price is needed.

-For example in our Independent living range we already stock “bath in bed wipes “&. “wash mitts” that are disposable and can be treated for “maximum freshness” and “wash. gloves” that are used with soap and water but are also disposable.

So we still want to explore butt wanted some feedback as to whether you think our price expectations are realistic and I wanted to raise questions that have come up internally.

A week or so later the following comments were received.

‘I have canvassed the category managers responsible for baby and independent living in the business and received their feedback which I have summarised below.

  • This is a nice concept
  • But in a competitive market we don’t see it is unique enough to stand out or command a price premium.
  • It is also likely to be more of a niche product. It commands a price premium, and the future market size doesn’t feel large enough given the time we would need to invest to get  to market …

            … baby wipes market is mass and price dependent

            … Independent living market is smaller and already has wash mitts and wash gloves,

So I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t feel right for us at the moment..’..

Boots the Chemist

‘The Mitt Wipe opportunity was reviewed by the Innovation Board and unfortunately the value was not sufficiently large to take this forwards. The idea was considered from a baby and also an assisted living perspective.

From a baby product point of view, mothers were more concerned about being able to get the wipe out of the packet quickly when they were trying to hold a squirming baby, gentle formulation, good cleaning power and reasonably strong material properties, rather than considerations of contact with a faecal matter. They were happy with the existing formats.

From an Assisted Living perspective the comments were that we had a number of devices that helped in the use of toilet tissue is and the market was not large enough to introduce another product.

Sorry this is not better news.’.

Well I cannot complain that this idea was not given a fair run.(I read USP as unique selling point.) It was not quite unique enough though, it seems, I certainly had no idea that there were other similar sort of products available in the shops. I certainly have never seen them. So I suppose it’s the end of the line for the Mitt Wipe and the money I speculated on having it patented is now lost. Still,’ nothing ventured, nothing gained’.

Having said that, with the greatest respect, I wonder if all three  missed the point. I saw the two big attractions as one, youngsters learning to toilet themselves,- the box decorated, perhaps, with popular cartoons – and two, the elderly, lacking the dexterity to wipe their bottoms effectively, not the Assisted Living market. All three firms seem to have concentrated on the baby market and that for the assisted living ie third-party attending the elderly..This was neatly summed up by the director of HDTI, Coventry University, when he first presented this, and repeated in the description sent to these various firms. I reiterate::

‘... the Mitt Wipe……. is designed for older, disabled and very young people who often have difficulty in effectively cleaning themselves after going to the toilet. Older people find this difficult usually through weakness in their hands and arms, and a young through inexperience. Both have difficulty in holding a piece of lavatory paper in their fingers and executing an effective wipe without soiling their hands. The young think nothing of yelling from Mum; older people find a third party involvement and dignified’.

I now have to decide what to do about the other ideas, in particular my favourite The Feeding Frame.for the elderly.



  • Tasia says:

    Dear Dr. Cato,

    I am following your informative and delightful blog, and I am quite enjoying the entries.

    While I otherwise would not clutter your pages with my comments, I would like to offer some (admittedly quite unsolicited) advice regarding proposals, primarily because I think that your product is of value and should be offered on the market (my grandmother would appreciate its availability!): do be acutely aware of your audience’s needs.

    When you write, “I wonder if all three missed the point,” you are in fact remarking on the proposal’s failure to _present_ the point adequately, not on your reader’s failure to understand it or to get it instead of miss it. Statements such as “I do not have to spell out how potentially huge is this market” demonstrate that your proposal is geared toward a writer-audience (that is, you, the one who has done and thus knows all the research) and not toward a reader-audience (that is, those reading your proposal, the ones that have not done and do not know the research). You do, in fact, _have_ to spell out, not how “potentially” huge the market is for your product, but how large it is via your informed calculations.

    It is a good idea, too, to keep in mind a tiered market for the product: a primary market (the elderly) and a secondary market (the otherwise mobility impaired). In this way, you can structure the proposal to identify and outline these markets succinctly and with purpose. Further, adding a child-centered demographic into the proposal works against your product in two ways: 1) it broadens the market beyond an easily understandable scope (from a marketing prospective); and 2) it makes your product compete directly with other, already quite successful and sufficient products such as baby wipes.

    I believe that there is real value in the Mitt Wipe. I also believe that your proposal needs a reader-friendly overhaul in order to convince manufacturers of the product’s value.

    Best of luck to you!


    • DMC says:

      First of all, Tasia, thank you so much taking the trouble to write at such length on this topic.

      When I say that the market is huge that is merely my perception not the result of research. I know how many elderly people there are in this country, many of whom by virtue of their age are lacking in dexerity,and, indeed, I know the number of small children under 5 or so who are probably going through some sort of lavatory training. But then the companies to whom I offer this product would have precise statistics on these two bodies of people.

      As to your point about structuring the proposal, I believe I did this in the simplest terms in the first paragraph under the heading of Mitt Wipe which formed part of the presentation. The problem is, as I hinted in my blog, that all three companies seem to have concentrated on the baby sector and be Assisted Living or incontinence market, none of which I had in mind as the primary targets. I have gone back to 2 of the companies concerned pointing out that, with the greatest respect, they may have missed the point and both have promised to have a further look at it. Have another look at the Mitt Wipe written proposal which I believe is already reader — friendly. If you believe you could put it in a more suitable form then, by all means, let me know.

      Once again many thanks for taking the trouble to write.

      Best wishes


  • DMC says:

    First of all, thank you so much, Tasia, for taking the trouble to write at length on this topic. When I write about how huge the market is this is merely my perception and is not based on research. We all know of the increasing elderly population and the number of young people there are. In any event the companies themselves would have precise figures on these two bodies of people.

    So far as the presentation of the proposal is concerned I believe that the first paragraph under the heading of Mitt Wipe is about as reader — friendly as it could be. If you have any ideas as to how it could be more succinctly worded then by all means let me know.

    In the meantime I have gone back to 2 of the companies and suggested, with the greatest respect, that they may have missed the point. My primary target was not the baby wipes or the assisted living or the incontinence market. Despite what they say I do not believe there is anything similar available on the market for the two areas that I had in mind. We must now wait and see what their response is but I’m not holding my breath.

    Once again thank you so much for taking an interest.

    Best wishes


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