For instance, the diaper must be soft and comfortable, yet it must be strong enough so it does not fall apart when exposed to moisture. It must be tight to avoid leakage, but not excessively tight to cause discomfort. It must be highly absorbent to retain moisture, yet sufficiently dry to avoid rashes. Add to this, the broad range of baby waist sizes and the varying amount of fluid release, and you have a product that embodies a highly complex set of performance requirements. This paper discusses the invention and evolution of the disposable diaper, from its beginnings as a niche, luxury product in the 1940’s, to a mass-market onsumable.
In particular, we discuss the reasons why it took two decades for the disposable diaper to bridge the product adoption chasm, and specifically the challenges of designing a product that exceeded the performance of the cloth diaper, whilst achieving a cost structure conducive to its function as a disposable product. Finally, we explore the effects that product and process innovation and technology diffusion have had on the basis of competition, industry structure and consumer willingness to pay as the disposable diaper reaches maturity in the US. 3