Clifton-based Anthem, as a company that had already established itself as a leading disinfecting wipe manufacturer before the pandemic, had predictable growth last year: 500% of it.
Don’t call it a spike, however. Because that might imply Raj Prakash, CEO of Anthem, which manufactures sanitizing products as well as skincare wipes, anticipates a rise and fall of demand.
The manufacturer doubled the size of its warehouse space and added nearly twice the amount of New Jersey employees last year. Prakash wasn’t making investments to meet a temporary surge before an eventual backslide — instead, he expects to maintain the same level of business.
“I’m betting on this for the long term,” he said.
According to him, demand for disinfectant wipes hasn’t fluctuated downward as COVID-19’s caseload has dipped in some areas. Despite what one might expect, the more cases dip, Prakash expects it to have an inverse relationship with the demand for these products.
“As more places open up and people are on the go again, they’re going to want to have more of these products to take with them, as well,” he said. “So, we’re investing in travel packs that people can take in their bags or purses and wipe surfaces down on the go. People want to do that. It will be part of the new norm.”
Cosmetics purchases overall might have tapered off some in a work-from-home economy, but at-home skin care products specifically have gone the other way. Anthem saw a jump of 36% in this segment, which it expects to continue building on as well.
Skin care was one of the company’s first big breaks. A year after its founding, Anthem started manufacturing Korean face sheet products in 2016 and quickly became one of the prime businesses in the market for what became a recognized trend in beauty products in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Anthem is currently one of the biggest names in the supply chain of personal care items, and has manufacturing contracts with brand-name companies. Prakash said the company is one of the only ones of its size even with the same portfolio of products, which also includes baby wipes and makeup removers.
And the company has a totally U.S.-centered manufacturing base, with a major presence in Florida as well as New Jersey, at a time when the winds of global trade trends are blowing in that direction.
“We’re investing more into more local capacity all the time, as well as more sustainable and efficient ways of manufacturing and applying these products,” he said. “And more companies are looking at bringing manufacturing out of places it was done before the pandemic, such as Asia.”
Others have jumped into this niche during the pandemic, as the market demand and shortages enticed manufacturers.
Prakash might believe in long-term future demand for these products, but he’s also expecting some new competition to get wiped out.
“Compared to the industry’s other players, our thinking hasn’t had its basis in on-the-spot decisions, but longer-term strategic decisions with long-term clients and long-term contracts,” he said. “We’re not in this overnight, trying to make a quick buck.”