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Beyond the Bale : September 2011
Health and safety are paramount in parents' minds when it comes to making choices about what products to use on their infants. Babies need lots of rest and care to develop and grow into healthy and strong children. For centuries, mothers and carers have been wrapping and swaddling babies in natural fibres to keep them warm and comfortable. Unfortunately synthetics made a significant impact on the market in the past 50 years. However, the emergence of the rapidly growing consumer demand for products consistent with a Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability -- the "LOHAS" consumer -- means that the mother and baby market is now an important growth area for Merino wool. Merino wool's natural attributes make it a sensible choice for infants' apparel and sleepwear. In particular, because babies are far more prone to heat loss or heat rises than adults, maintaining a healthy skin and body temperature is critical. Merino wool has moisture and temperature management properties, and naturally assists regulation of body temperature. The inherent breathability and active moisture management properties of the fibre also helps prevent the skin from becoming clammy, which can provide a more comfortable environment for better sleep. The natural attributes of Merino wool are attracting new companies to set up business manufacturing and selling Merino apparel for babies. One such business, established in 2009 and using 100 per cent Australian Merino wool, is Australian company Ewenique. The company sources its fabric from Woolmark licensee Charles Parsons, and recently chose to become a Woolmark licensee itself. "We have been focusing our business on baby sleepwear and wraps as this is where the benefits of Merino are most apparent," co-owner Monique Harper says. "Merino is the most worry-free fibre on the market today. Parents can sleep easy knowing Merino garments are breathable and will respond to temperature change, meaning baby is more likely to settle and sleep through the night -- and a sleeping baby makes a happy parent! "It is an ideal fibre for babies all year round, it keeps baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It's a miracle fibre that breathes." Other benefits of Merino wool for infants include it being naturally soft, smooth and comfortable against sensitive young skin, due to the fineness of the Merino fibres. Merino wool is also odour resistant and therefore requires less frequent washing than other fibres. In modern times most Merino wool is completely machine- washable and it dries quickly so it's very convenient for frequent household use. It is also a very safe fibre; it is naturally flame resistant which means it doesn't ignite when it come into contact with open flames. Monique says that Merino wool is also well placed to take advantage of consumers' growing preference for eco- friendly products. "I think customers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of renewable and natural products in all aspects of their life and are actively seeking out these products." More information: www.merino.com www.ewenique.com.au FAST FACTS l The market for babies' and infants' apparel and sleepwear is an important growth area for Merino wool. l Merino wool is naturally breathable, making it an efficient temperature regulator which is especially important for young children. l The fineness of Merino fibres makes them naturally soft, smooth and comfortable against sensitive young skin. Nurturing with nature September 2011 BEYOND THE BALE OFF-FARM 10 A critical part of AWI strategy is to find new markets for Merino wool -- especially those markets that highly value Merino wool's natural attributes, and in which consumers are prepared to pay premium prices. The market for baby and infant wear is an important example of such a lucrative market, and AWI's "Mothers and Babies" program has been set up to drive demand for Merino wool in this market. The program works in three main areas: funding scientific research into Merino's health benefits, innovative product development and creating awareness of the fibre's benefits. There is very little Merino wool used in this market at present, compared to the very large number of babies born each year. But there is a huge potential for growth in demand for Merino, plus it is an all-year-round market. A major focus of the program is validating and communicating the health and wellbeing benefits of Merino products in this area. The fibre's natural attributes make it well placed to become an integral part of each new parent's health regime for their newborns and infants. Preliminary studies have already shown that wool can contribute to a better health and well-being for infants such as better sleeping and therefore faster growth and development. There is also a strong trend in this market towards natural and environmentally friendly products. AWI'S "MOTHERS AND BABIES" PROGRAM 100 per cent Australian Merino wool 'blanky' and 'beanie' from Woolmark licensee Ewenique.