Group of girls holding sanitary pads in the air

Background

Lilypads Group Ltd is a mission driven company that manufactures and sells reusable sanitary pads and provides menstrual health education. Founder and CEO of Lilypads, Alison Wood, strives to end period poverty and stigma by providing affordable reusable sanitary pads and education to communities around the world, they currently work in Malaysia and Kenya, with preparations to start working in Cambodia and Nigeria.

There is a growing market opportunity for natural, sustainable, durable, and reusable sanitary products in the UK and current reusable sanitary pads are limited by several factors including leakage, lack of absorbency and the very high price point.

The company aim to develop a product suitable for the UK market, with the long-term aim that profit from this product can subsidise the cost of their international pads, ensuring they are affordable to all.

Challenge

During the product development phase, Lilypads trialled their product and learnt that the consumers found it more comfortable than their conventional sanitary pad. However, for these women the pads thickness was imperative, ideally the women could wear the pad all day and it be no thicker than standard disposable pads. With the current materials available on the market this looked unlikely and therefore the pad would need to be much thicker, limiting its attractiveness.

The company were also keen to look at ways to make reusable pads more affordable and environmentally friendly.  They recognise that absorbent textiles are key to this development along with being able to ensure the current attributes of pads are maintained. 

Lilypads approached Interface in the hope of undertaking a feasibility study with a research team to establish initial options and the key design principles for absorbent textiles that would offer the following attributes:

  • High level of absorbency / not leak / keeping the user feeling dry / fast drying
  • Do not need to be treated with chemicals
  • Ability to be washed at 60⁰C for many cycles
  • Compatible with body fluids
  • Lifespan of two years

Solution

Following a search of Interface’s academic partners, Dr Danmei Sun, Associate Professor of Textile Materials & Engineering at Heriot-Watt University was introduced to Lilypads and undertook the initial feasibility project. The results identified two materials – a quick drying fabric that was soft and felt like underwear and an absorbent middle layer than holds the moisture so even when pressure is applied it does not leak. The constructed pad is discrete, easy to use and wash and fits the user needs perfectly.

Benefits

Lilypads have tested the product and identified a manufacturer. The pad was launched to the market in July 2020 by Crowdfunder with sales in the UK subsidising Lilypads work internationally to ensure no one is limited by their period.

Working with Interface was amazing; Siobhán went over and above to ensure she understood Lilypads’ needs before finding our academic partner, Heriot-Watt University. Danmei Sun worked hard to find and test suitable fabrics and present the different options available to us. Without both of their help, Lilypads would not be the product it is today

Alison Wood, Founder and CEO, Lilypads Group Ltd
Dr Danmei Sun

Through working with Lilypads we now have a better understanding of the relationship between materials, layering and end use requirements. The research will also enrich the knowledge base of functional textiles. Lilypads can greatly contribute to issues such as environmental sustainability, and I believe this would be able to attract more environmentally-conscious consumers to buy Lilypads products.

Dr Danmei Sun, Associate Professor of Textile Materials & Engineering, Heriot-Watt University

Follow-On Activity

Following this initial project Lilypads returned to Interface to undertake a consultancy project around Strategy and Business growth. Working with a student at the University of Stirling, Lilypads have explored: the potential of targeting the pads at a specific demographic, behavioural attitudes towards buying sustainable products, analysing the sustainability of the whole business, not just the product, and optimising supply chain opportunities.

To learn more about Lilypads please visit their website: www.lilypads.org.uk