In a Lather

October 28, 2005

A slip in personal cleanser sales has all looking for the next big trend.

Consumers want a selection with their suds, that’s why the days of washing up with a single utilitarian bar of soap are long gone. Personal cleansers in a variety of scents, textures, colors and styles have taken over the market. Products that replicate the spa experience are hot stuff, both in prestige and mass markets, as exotic fragrances and ingredients even make their way into old favorites.

Still, sales of bath and shower products continued to decline in 2004, continuing a trend first recorded in 2001, according to Euromonitor International, Chicago. Sales of bar soap, the best selling bath and shower product, slipped by nearly 9% in 2004. In contrast, liquid soaps and body wash/shower gels enjoyed significant gains, mostly as a result of consumers’ switching from bars to washes and gels. In 2004, however, liquid soap sales fell slightly as interest began to fade.

Battle for the Bar

Bar soap is among the most basic components of Americans’ personal hygiene regime, and thus already has a high level of household penetration. This leaves very little room for significant value gains, even considering higher priced prestige and mass-market varieties. Moreover, because bar soap is considered such a basic necessity, many consumers are loath to spend significantly more for cleansing products.

Bar soap has also suffered growing competition from liquid hand soaps and body wash and shower gels. While bar soaps are mature and considered increasingly mundane by many consumers—despite reformulations with vitamins, moisturizers, antibacterials, botanicals and other value-added ingredients—liquid soaps and especially body washes are perceived as more innovative and dynamic, owing to their non-traditional liquid format.

But soap is far from forgotten. On the contrary, Cara Feldman Hunt, product development specialist for Twincraft Soap, insists there is a shift away from liquids toward bars. 

“Bar soaps are more performance driven, tactile and have visual appeal that liquids do not have,” she said.

Indeed, far from just cleansing, bar soaps now have a variety of applications, including SPF bars, self-tanning bars, and anti-acne, anti-aging and anti-cellulite bars. Mukat Gupta, director of technical sales and product development, Valley Consumer Products Group, agreed that consumers still love their bar soap, and look for innovation all the time.

“Consumers are becoming more conscious about their health, their looks, the ingredients in bar soaps and the effects on their skin,” he stated.  “In the past, they purchased soaps based mainly on the shape, color, smell and packaging. More are demanding that soaps should be free of animal fat and are requesting organically certified soaps, even though they cost more. Soaps are also being used as a delivery system for the active ingredients.”

The Shape of Things

Who can resist soap in fun shapes? No one, says Primal Elements of Garden Grove, CA. The company’s latest holiday-inspired offerings called Season’s Greetings, Christmas Wreath, Santa Duck and Holiday Lollysoaps, are scented with orange peel, dried fruit, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and winter mint.

Ruby’s Ruby Slippers are scented with Ruby’s floral and amber fragrance and are presented in a red shoe box.
Ruby’s new line of bath and body products includes two whimsical new soaps called Little Black Dress with Pearls, described as a 4-oz. sexy, slinky soap and Ruby Slippers, a sassy, classy soap. Both are scented with Ruby’s signature floral and amber fragrance.

Say goodbye to soap on a rope and hello to soap in a stick with the Peppermint Stick Bath Soap from Davies Gate. Peppermint can reportedly invigorate the senses and soothe irritated skin. The stick also contains the light exfoliating properties of jojoba oil beads and retails for $10.

In August 2004 SpongeTech Inc. launched a new combination sponge and shower gel product called Spongables. This innovative product takes the applicator sponge and gel soap of most shower gel systems and combines them with a glycerin and olive oil soap-laced sponge.

The soap is released during showering and the sponge is good for up to 30 showers. Originally released in upscale merchants, Spongables have recently extended into more mass market stores. Spongables are offered in many different scents, such as peony Passion, Fresh Lavender, Lemon Berry, Sweet Jasmine, Spicy Mango and Marine Surprise. They can be cut into shapes for children, furthering their broad appeal.


Germs Continue to Worry Consumers

According to Euromonitor International, U.S. consumers will show greater interest in liquid soaps, especially antibacterial formulations. Americans view antibacterial solutions as more effective than soaps that simply remove dirt and grime from hands.

Dial soap’s antibacterial properties have traditionally resonated strongly with consumers who are concerned about the spread of colds, and general cleanliness. Even after all these years, the Dial franchise remains the best-selling antibacterial soap. The latest new product from Dial is the Citrus Sensation bar soap.

Natural Products Still Popular

“Natural” products continued to be popular new product launches. Manufacturers used the term “natural” in their brand names and product descriptions to appeal to consumers who view “natural” products as being better for them. Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever and Avon all introduced new items under their Softsoap Naturals, Suave Naturals and Avon Naturals brand names, respectively.

In an effort to generate consumer interest and demand, natural additives such as aloe vera, vitamin E, tea tree oil and other vitamins and botanicals have increasingly found their way into soap formulations, regardless of format, according to Euromonitor International. Moreover, these value-added products command higher prices than traditional products, which in turn drove some value sales growth.

Mr. Gupta of Valley Consumer Products Group indicated that the most popular soap additives are shea, cocoa, mango and kokum butters commonly used as natural moisturizing additives.

“Natural botanical additives such as lavender flowers, lemon peel and rosemary leaves are used as exfoliants. Natural oils such as black seed oil and neem oil are used as healing additives, while exotic fruit extracts from grape seed, mango, papaya and kiwi passion fruits are used as anti-aging additives,” he explained.

Using pure essential oils with natural ingredients, 4mula has developed a bath and body care system that, according to company executives, is in perfect balance—proving that it is possible to put something good on our bodies, without putting anything unnecessary or unnatural into the environment.

4mula develops bath and body care using pure essential oils with natural ingredients.
The 4mula line consists of a total of 18 products, including body washes and fun and ergonomic soaps in one of four scents: a bright and uplifting blend of mandarin, grapefruit and petitgrain essential oils for clarifying the skin, building immunity, boosting confidence and reversing depression; a cool and energizing blend of peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus for use in soothing sore muscles, increasing circulation, clearing the sinuses and rejuvenating energy loss; a soft and calming blend of Moroccan chamomile, bergamot and clary sage for settling the nervous system, reducing inflammation, relieving skin irritations and promoting restful sleep; and frankincense and geranium for normalizing problems, easing aches, balancing emotions and inspiring creative thinking.

The Certified Organic Bar from Twincraft contains an opaque, 98.5% certified organic soap base of palm and coconut oils, rosemary powder and chamomile. It has calming aromatherapeutic attributes and serves as a mild exfoliant. It has advanced skin moisturizing properties through high organic glycerin content. Twincraft contends that the most popular soap ingredients currently are exotic butters from Africa, India and South America, natural botanical exfoliants, antioxidants such as teas and green coffee, vitamins, Dead Sea salt, mud and clay and certified organic ingredients.


The Spa Experience

To promote more rapid growth for liquid soaps, body wash and shower gels and even bar soaps, many mass market manufacturers are fortifying their existing brands with moisturizers, emollients and even ingredients claiming aromatherapy benefits.

Years ago, liquid soaps and body washes claiming moisturizing, emollient or aromatherapy benefits were primarily limited to premium and specialty brands, such as Bath & Body Works and The Body Shop, to be used only occasionally as a treat or as gift items. More recently, mass market manufacturers entered the scene with their own value-added offerings that they claimed to be similar in quality to the premium products, but cheaper. In turn, more consumers were introduced to body washes as a daily use product. Now, body wash/shower gel is used as an everyday replacement for bar soap.

The Pookamint body line is a combination of spearmint and peppermint oils.
Mass market body wash products have been among the most dynamic bath and shower products in terms of new product launches. As mass market body washes attempt to imitate premium brands in formulation and packaging, albeit at a lower price, they may expand the consumer base by attracting consumers with less disposable income.

Ms. Hunt-Feldman of Twincraft adds, “The spa market continues to grow as consumers look for products that work from the inside out and the outside in. They are looking for a holistic approach to health and beauty.”

Mixed Emotions’ Kiss Me body cleanser has a crème brulée scent that was designed to evoke feelings of sensuality and romance with a blend of passion flower and ginseng.  Retailing for $20, the refreshing wash, infused with aloe vera and vitamins A, C and E, thoroughly cleanses without drying skin.

Inner C Pleasure Shower gel and bath salts in effervescent cubes retail for $40 and have a pleasing scent and elevated content of mineral salts. The skin and body are remineralized, detoxified and effectively drained. Ingredients include atomized seawater squalane and silk powder.

The Davies Gate Perennials collection includes bar soaps, body wash and envelopes of bath salts made with finely ground oats and rice flour, plus antioxidant vitamins A, D and E to condition water and nourish skin. Fragrances include White Clover, Sage, Lavender and Lemon Thyme.

Davies Gate Cinnamon Moisturizing Body Scrub removes impurities and gently polishes away dead skin cells with a blend of finely ground cinnamon and volcanic pumice. Chamomile and calendula extracts soothe the skin and a clean, cinnamon-scented lather leaves skin with a fresh, healthy glow. The product retails for $18.50.

The Pookamint bath and body line includes Pookamint Body Wash. Retailing for $16, the product promises the cooling and cleaning sensation of the green tea and Dead Sea salt.

“The Pookamint bath and body line is something we have wanted to do for a while,” explained Gianine Rothschild, co-owner of Pookie. “We take pride in offering all-natural lip balms and wanted to develop a product that would be soothing to the skin in a natural way, and keep the fun, fresh feel of the Pookie name.”

The Pookamint Body Line is all-natural and is a refreshing combination of spearmint, vanilla and peppermint oils that refresh, awaken and nourish the skin, according to the company.

Zotos’ Fresh Baked line of products can be used as body wash or shampoo.
Zotos International launched the Fresh Baked line of products that can be used as a body wash or shampoo. They are available in scents such as Apple Pie, Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Roll and Key Lime Pie and retail for $6.99.

From the Agility Group comes Play3 Replenishing body wash. It uses aloe, passionflower, yuccas arnica and soap bark extracts to create an exhilarating lather. The 100ml. bottle retails for $15.95 and can also be used as a foaming bath.

Golden Earth has introduced a hand-formulated bath gel that is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial to help protect skin from damaging free radicals. It contains aloe vera gel, arnica, vitamin E phosphorous, potassium, B-complex and spirulina, a single-celled blue-green algae, to promote natural healing. Serenity has the scent of rose, jasmine and lavender and Tranquility smells of sandalwood and cedar wood.

Malie’s line of body, home and spirit products are aromatherapy-based, using garden florals indigenous to Kauai, Hawaii.
Malie Inc. of Kaua’i, HI has launched a full product line for body, home and spirit that includes body washes and polishes and bar soaps in tropical aromas such as Plumeria, Gardenia, Pikake, Coconut Vanilla, Coconut Pineapple and Coffee Macadamia. The aromatherapy-based products range in price from $12-$45.

Fruits & Passion launched three body care lines that include personal cleansers. The Nourishing collection includes smooth, velvety and lightly foaming shower creams in avocado, cocoa, monoi, moringa, olive sesame and shea. Each retails for $12. The Aromachology collection includes foaming bath formulas Relaxing and Respiratory Tract Therapy to clear breathing and calm the mind. The Human collection includes Spring shower gel with bamboo and ivy extracts to promote skin’s metabolic activity. Cleansing Leaf is a plant glycerin bar soap that washes away impurities while providing moisture retention.


Flankers in the Shower

Body washes and shower gels are popular, so it’s expected that brands will expand their lines to gain an even bigger consumer following. Tone added the new Blue Oasis Hydrating body wash, with the scent of fresh flowers and cool blue waters. Tone contains a blend of cocoa butter and botanicals to help hydrate and leave skin feeling naturally smooth.

The newest Foaming Bath and Shower Gel extensions from Demeter include three fall introductions—Black Russian, White Russian or Between The Sheets and three spring introductions—Persimmon, Prickly Pear and Caramel.

Primal Elements offers Bubbling Bath Salts in Citrus Chiffon, Strawberry Swirl, Grapefruit and Vanilla. Body Whip body wash now comes in a 2-oz. fun size and has new scents such as Cotton Candy, Creamy Cocoa, Passion Fruit and Tangerine.

Thymes Bath & Body Collection has revitalized its packaging. Perfumed body washes and soaps in four classic aromas—Eucalyptus, Lavender, Olive Leaf and Filigree—now sport a newly designed package with invigorating colors, thoughtful designs and new logo.

In an attempt to build on the success of last year’s Moisturinse, Olay launched the Moisturinse In Shower body lotion with Silkening Radiance, specially formulated with Olay moisturizers and silk proteins that help skin retain its natural moisture and work with the warmth and humidity of the shower to deliver moisturization. In addition, Moisturinse has added Extra Dry and Sensitive formulas. Suggested retail price is $3.99 for 8.4oz. and $5.99 for 15.2oz.

But washes and gels aren’t the only ones branching out. Indigo Wild’s renowned goat’s milk Zum Bar line has added the purple Poppy Pumice bar loaded with poppy seeds and finely grained pumice that act as built-in exfoliators. Poppy Pumice has sandalwood and citrus pure essential oils, olive oil, glycerin and goat’s milk that deliver moisture to the newly exposed skin. Hand-made Indigo Wild Zum Bars can be used on face or body and have a suggested retail price of $5.30 (3oz.).

One With Nature soaps contain shea butter, Dead Sea minerals and salts, and recently introduced a shea butter soap that, according to the company, has one of the highest concentrations of shea butter on the market. 

Demographically Speaking

Body washes are gradually becoming categorized into age-specific and gender-specific products, according to Euromonitor International. Items are targeted at teenage and tween (age 8-12) girls, mature women, and, most recently, at men.

Fall-scented bath and shower gels are new from Demeter.
Teenagers are more sophisticated and have more disposable income than previous generations of kids. To reach this lucrative group, manufacturers have launched products with fun, fruity fragrances, as well as unique packaging that stands out on the shelf. Anti-acne formulations are still popular.

Tweens want products that are made specifically for them too. This group of kids has grown beyond baby and toddler bathing products, but doesn’t want to use the same body washes that moms use. Products for tweens typically offer a glitter formulation to promote a fun, playful image.

More manufacturers are offering male-specific body washes. While this gender polarization has existed at the prestige level for some time, there has been a steady launch of mass market male-specific brands in recent years. These products use sporty or outdoorsy fragrances and are formulated to maximize lathering action, as many men are reluctant to use loofahs and shower poufs. Added Mr. Gupta of Valley Consumer Products Group, “Men have more choice of skin care products compared to five years ago when men had the choice of only aftershave and cologne.”

“Men are looking for many of the same benefits that women are looking for; the only difference is that men want simplified products that still perform well. Anti-aging is an emerging trend, and luxury-shaving products are on the rise,” explained Ms. Feldman-Hunt of Twincraft. 

Zum Bar’s Poppy Pumice bar exfoliates with poppy seeds and pumice.
She also indicated that ethnic diversity is not being overlooked. “Products are no longer being made for multiple ethnic groups, they are now targeted towards individual ethnic groups and are more performance driven. For instance, the Asian market is looking for products that are fragrance driven, while the African American market is looking for products that even out their skin tone.  Twincraft launched the Skin Whitening Bar which helps decrease the darkening of skin from ultraviolet exposure and diminish inflamed hyper-pigmentation. According to the company, daily use gives the skin a brighter, fresher, more clarified appearance. Two gentle exfoliants remove older skin cells while moisturizers keep skin soft.


The Future of Personal Cleansers

The success of liquid soaps and body washes will inevitably cannibalize sales of traditional bar soaps, states Euromonitor. Both products are substitutes for bar soap, and despite the addition of moisturizers, antibacterial agents, vitamins and botanicals to mass-market bar soap brands, and increasing competition from specialty/niche brands claiming to be “all-natural,” U.S. consumers increasingly view bar soaps as mundane and old-fashioned. Consequently, sales of bar soap are predicted to continue to decline.

Despite the continued popularity of body washes, bath and shower products are expected to decline slightly from 2004 to 2009. This begs the question, what will be the next big thing in personal cleansers?

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