Coterie: Changing Everything about Changing

by Frank Yu

Coterie: Changing Everything about Changing

In just 4.5 years, Coterie has served countless households in America. Based on the best market share numbers that I could find from Euromonitor, we're approaching 3-4% of the US baby diaper market, an industry dominated by legacy CPG. I should also mention that the list of successful diaper startups is short: The Honest Company has yet to find a business model that works (their stock price reflects that) and Hello Bello recently filed for bankruptcy.

That leaves just Coterie. Our revenue surpassed 9-figures last year. We've been profitable for almost 2 years while still expecting 60% year-over-year growth. Our team has grown from a handful of scientists, designers, and engineers at launch in 2019 to a full-time team of 90 members. As organizations grow, it's easy for people to start rowing in different directions. I thought now would be a good time to articulate what Coterie is all about and what we are doing differently.

Our initial product is a high performance diaper called The Diaper (which has won countless industry awards). However, some users may not know that our long term plan is to create a fully compostable diaper that functions as well and feels as luxurious as our current version, which is still primarily made of petroleum-based materials. This is because the overarching vision for Coterie (and why I founded Coterie in the first place) is to accelerate the advent of sustainable diapering.

But why? I’m glad you asked. Most people are unaware of the significant environmental impact of disposable diapers. Most commercial products are up to 80% plastic by weight (including our current model). Despite industry greenwashing, used diapers sit in landfills for hundreds of years without changing shape. In fact, used diapers in the US alone can fill up sixteen Empire State Buildings every year and are the third largest consumer item in US landfills.

To make matters worse, since the mass introduction of disposable diapers in 1949, the average potty training age has increased from 18 months to 3 years. Legacy diaper companies have found ways to keep toddlers in diapers for as long as possible, resulting in more diapers being bought and used each year, leading to millions of tons of nonbiodegradable waste in US landfills.

By definition, we will have to switch to a sustainable solution, or we will run out of fossil fuel. I firmly believe that we're nearly at the end of the petroleum-based disposable diaper age and almost at the beginning of the sustainable one.

Here's what we plan to do to accelerate that transition:

Part 1: The Creation of the Coterie Diapering System

Our first step is creating the Coterie Diapering System — a holistic approach to babycare designed to support the natural development of babies and toddlers towards independence. Our innovative approach will help reverse the trend of delayed potty training by supporting toddlers in achieving this milestone at a developmentally appropriate age. This system includes:

  • The Simpler Diaper Model: Specific diapers intentionally designed for different stages of a child's growth
  • Baby Wipes and complementary products: safe, gentle, and effective, ensuring the well-being of delicate skin
  • Essential nursery products: high quality items that complement our diapering system

By reducing the number of diapers used and the duration of diaper dependency, we aim to significantly decrease the waste created throughout a baby's or toddler's lifetime, ultimately reducing the number of diapers in landfills.

Part 2: High-Performing, Fully Compostable Diaper

In our quest for sustainability, we are pioneering the development of a fully compostable diaper that does not compromise on performance. This involves:

  • The Change Lab™: A dedicated innovation hub to collaborate and build the next generation of fully compostable diapers (launching soon)
  • Open Innovation Philosophy: Collaborating with raw material suppliers and industry experts to develop materials that meet our high standards of absorbency, softness, and safety. We are also committed to share our learnings so that other nonwoven companies can adopt the best practices

By achieving this, we hope to set a new standard in the industry, proving that sustainability and performance can coexist.

Part 3: Circular Solution to Diaper Sustainability

Our vision for the future is bold and transformative. We plan to:

  • Develop at-home composters: Innovate in creating composters that can safely decompose soiled diapers, turning them into valuable fertilizers
  • Work with authorities to ensure our solutions are legally compliant and environmentally sound in all regions

In summary, the Coterie Vision is:

  1. Engineer the best performing diapers (so you use fewer diapers)
  2. Design a system of products to support toddlers in gaining independence (further reducing the need for diapers)
  3. Build a truly compostable diaper without compromising on performance
  4. Develop a circular solution by introducing at-home composters

At Coterie, we believe we are more than a high performance diaper. Through these three phases, we aim to accelerate the transition to sustainable diapering. That’s how we are changing everything about changing.

Frank Yu

Changemaker & CEO