Chinese firm moves from adult nappies to face masks

A Chinese firm specialising in adult nappies – also known as diapers – is to provide protective masks to the UK.

Daddybaby has just been certified by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the EU to offer personal protective equipment (PPE).

It is one of many companies to have switched to medical supplies and equipment during the virus pandemic.

Daddybaby is one of the China’s best-selling nappy brands, becoming the first to be publicly-listed in 2015.

The company normally specialises in a very different line of products – including baby nappies, adult nappies and sanitary towels – but it has now modified six production lines, increasing its output to 1,100 mask pieces per minute, or 4.5m a day.

Reacting to the approvals by the BSI and EU, the company said it will allow it “to break new grounds”.

Daddybaby first started making masks for Chinese citizens when the outbreak started in late January, and has since begun exporting them to other countries.

“Daddybaby has provided more than 30m civilian masks to the people of China and donated over two million masks to people around the world,” it said.

Since the Chinese firm retooled its production lines it has been exporting more personal protective equipment (PPE) overseas.

“The demand for high quality, certified equipment will continue to soar,” said Shanghai-based Shaun Rein, founder of the China Market Research Group.

“This gives good opportunities for better run factories with large scale manufacturing capabilities to get certified and ship globally.”

Despite being a successful company, nappy sales are flat in China so this change “is an enormous opportunity for them to grow”, Mr Rein added. “This will also be part of China’s mask diplomacy. I expect China to help poorer countries especially with masks and other protective equipment.”

There have been a number of high-profile companies that have pivoted towards protective equipment and medical devices during the pandemic.

In March, Louis Vuitton owner LVMH said would use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak.

And a handful of firms including Siemens, Airbus, Ford and a number of Formula 1 teams, worked with Penlon, a medical device maker, to adapt its ventilators so that they could be mass-produced at speed.

The BSI was established in 1901 and has become world-renowned for setting business standards.