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YOUR FEARS, THEIR PROFITS

Staph, bird flu, SARS: Sales soar for disinfecting wipes company.

Germs are the enemy at Nice-Pak Products Inc., which claims to make 80 percent of the world's disinfecting wipes and has products designed to clean everything from shopping cart handles to babies' bottoms.

The private company, 20 miles north of New York City in Orangeburg, N.Y., says its big break came 50 years ago when Kentucky Fried Chicken put in a big order for the original Wet-Nap moist towelette, apparently to wipe away whatever finger-lickin' didn't.

Now Nice-Pak makes 50-billion to 100-billion wipes a year at plants in Orangeburg; Green Bay, Wis.; Morseville, Ind.; Flint, Wales; and Osterweddingen, Germany. Expansion to Asia is under consideration. Led by chairman and CEO Robert Julius, son of founder Arthur Julius, the company makes wipes under its Sani-Hands brand and makes and packages wipes for some store brands and other private labels.

The company would not release sales or revenue figures, but said business has doubled in five years, in part because of concerns over such illnesses as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which sickens an estimated 90,000 people in the United States each year. MRSA, bird flu and SARS scares have made the American public more germ-conscious and increased sales of hand sanitizers and wipes.

Besides the familiar hand wipes and baby wipes, Nice-Pak makes wipes for face-washing, wipes for removing makeup, wipes for removing nail polish, wipes for eyeglasses and computer screens, wipes to clean floors and antistatic wipes to clean electronics.

Nice-Pak says its Professional Disposables International division is the leading supplier of wipes and other products for hospitals, doctors' offices, day-care centers, blood banks and school health offices. Its products include alcohol prep pads and iodine wipes.

A new category is the shopping-cart wipe, created in 2004 and offered to customers at more than 5,000 grocery stores around the country. The company said shopping cart handles could be contaminated by a leaky package of meat, a dirty diaper on a toddler riding inside, or just someone's dirty hands.

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