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Ginnymarie Mendis & Shashika Wijesinghe
Ginnymarie Mendis & Shashika Wijesinghe
Chief of Innovation & Technology Lead
TT: MAS Holdings is known for innovations. Which are the main ones with which people associate your company?

As one of South Asia’s leading apparel tech companies, with a business portfolio of over $2 billion, innovation is an integral part of our business. With 30+ years of manufacturing for some of the world’s leading brands, MAS has unparalleled knowledge of the human body and biomechanics, as well as fabric wearability and material science, which has enabled us to stake claim to over 50 disruptive technologies across materials, lighting, heating, odour-protection, and aqua-repellency. If we shift focus to the FemTech industry specifically, we have developed a variety of proprietary patented tech solutions for pain points women face at different stages of their lives, from menarche (that’s a girl’s first period) through to menopause and everything in between. The main technologies associated with FemTech include our range of: Reusable/Washable Absorbent Underwear which incorporates advanced absorbency to manage menstruation, urinary incontinence or vaginal discharge; Advanced Absorbent Nursing Pads to help avoid breastmilk leakage;  Antiflush thermoregulation technology that helps manage the dreaded hotflush during menopause and finally our Active Heating technology which incorporates Rechargeable, Portable, Breathable and  Washable heating  technology woven into surfaces that help relieve menstrual pain.

 
TT: Can you explain us the testing process?

With increasing demand for reusable absorbent underwear, we have seen a lot of products come into the market, which is great for the industry as it transitions from disposables to reusables with more access and choice to consumers as well as the positive impact on our planet. However, this has also made it important to ensure that the products entering the market adhered to a standard to ensure the integrity of the product and thereby the market was protected so that consumers and brands are able to make this transition with greater confidence. This was evident in the disposable market, where we realised there were strong global standards governing traditional single-use products, however, not in the new Reusable Absorbent Underwear category. 
MAS, as a thought leader in this space, wants to put consumers first, ensuring claims are properly validated. And so, we partnered with Hohenstein Laboratories GmbH, an independent lab based in Germany, to develop this Global Test Protocol for Reusable Absorbent Underwear.
  • The aim was to establish a standard and benchmark testing for certain key product functions. Thus, making it simple to execute by any lab, as well as be able to utilise low cost, inexpensive tools instead of costly mannequins. This makes it a whole lot more affordable for small companies as well as their larger counterparts. And finally, MAS wanted to provide this free of cost.
  • Currently, absorbency claims refer to total saturation capacity on a flat surface. However, MAS’ new test protocol is based on body curvature and how the underwear would be positioned on the body while wearing – be it sitting or standing. We’ve looked at putting together a new definition of maximum absorbent capacity as the point where it starts to leak or penetrate around the narrowest point of the gusset. Ultimately, the test standard requires the application of body weight/pressure to the absorbent area to mimic real life.

TT: What makes it more efficient than the ones available in the market?

What makes our range of reusable absorbent underwear more efficient compared to those available in the market is that our patented solutions offer a unique sealing mechanism to provide 360-degree leakproof security. Additionally, the functional materials in our products are designed and crafted with special knit structures to offer high quality superior performance.

TT: How did you come up with idea of FemTech for MAS?

As an innovation organisation we are and have always been curious about new trends and technology that could disrupt the norm. When we started exploring solutions to improve women’s health and well-being in 2014, the term FemTech did not even exist (it was only coined in 2016). If we dial it back a bit – it’s quite obvious that women’s health and wellness needs are unique, and often under-represented in mainstream healthcare. We, at MAS, wanted women’s health to take on a higher position in society (as it should have always) and so we were committed to improving women’s lives through our solutions as part of FemTech. We were determined to offer superior functionality and performance without compromising on fashion and so everything we do, started with our consumers best interest in mind. As a result, ‘FemTech’ for us at the time, was all about satisfying women’s unmet needs and helping them live their life as normal as possible through all stages of life, using wearable technology.

TT: What were some of the major triggers for coming up with FemTech?

If you think about a woman’s life – starting from menarche to pregnancy, childbirth and finally to menopause, we can safely say being a woman is never dull. One of the biggest triggers for MAS to focus on FemTech was our deep understanding of the body, and how different types of materials drape to provide the best fit. Being a lingerie and performance wear manufacture for three decades, MAS has acquired a great deal of information on fit and drapeability. So, when we looked at consumers wearing disposable liners and pads to avoid leaks, we realised it was a massive opportunity. When it comes to menstruation, a woman roughly goes through a total of 450 periods throughout her life. Additionally, our research also revealed that Urinary Incontinence is the fifth biggest health related problem that has the highest negative impact on the quality of life for women. A staggering 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 experience episodes of leaking urine at some stage in their life. In men, urinary incontinence increases with age, and the incidence of it is thought to be underreported and undertreated. As a whole, this affects more than ~400 million people worldwide – if Urinary Incontinence was a country, it would be the third largest in the world! 
Taking all of this into account, we wanted to help people around the world live their lives confidently and as normal as possible without having to think about any condition, which is why we started engineering a functional in-built absorbent underwear that looks and feels just like regular underwear.

TT: What is MAS’s reusable absorbent underwear for women made of?

FemTech at MAS has designed the reusable absorbent underwear keeping our consumers health and safety at the core. Our solutions are free from all harmful chemicals (PFAS). Our patented product contains a moisture wicking layer, that keeps a person dry all day long, liquid acquisition layers, anti-odour, anti-microbial properties as well as a leak proof barrier layer that is breathable and leak resistant.

TT: Which are your major markets for feminine hygiene?

The feminine hygiene market is growing rapidly and the demand for reusable alternative solutions are increasing globally driven by the consumer shift and preference for sustainable alternatives. We work with big brands both in the fashion as well as in the hygiene and health industry and so our products are sold around the world across both e-commerce and retail stores. We envision demand for this category to increase globally.

TT: How much time did it take to come up with a standardised system for testing reusable absorbent underwear?

It was no easy task; however, it took us close to about a year to create the Global Testing Standard. We carried out several rounds of testing and validation using MAS solutions as well as products in the market to understand optimal user-case scenarios together with Hohenstein Labs, based in Germany.

TT: What kind of innovations and technologies are you currently working on when it comes to feminine hygiene?

FemTech at MAS is focused on innovating solutions for all stages of women. Today the reusable market is very active in the menstrual category, but many other segments are becoming more relevant. We believe in offering functional and lifestyle-oriented solutions to help people live their life as normal as possible as they experience different stages of the feminine journey from menarche through to menopause. Our portfolio comprises reusable absorbent underwear for all types of body fluids, nursing pads, bras, solutions that address period pain, products that help manage hot flushes experienced during the menopause, and much more. We are continually assessing new areas within the FemTech space and are working towards developing innovative products that bring normalcy to people’s lives. We are determined to find breakthrough wearable solutions to uplift people’s health and well-being.

TT: How big is the market for reusable feminine hygiene products? At what rate is it growing?

The global retail sales for disposables (sanitary pads, daily liners, tampons) is approximately ~$25 billion. The reusable absorbent underwear market is expected to reach $2.8 billion retail sales globally by 2026. However, reusables have the potential to be much bigger than is being expected.

Published on: 28/07/2022

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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