A New Attitude: Soaps Get Serious

November 9, 2005

Health concerns have consumers washing up more than ever. Soap marketers offer options for a public that insists o a more thorough clean.

A year ago, the largest concern that most soap and body wash marketers had was whether or not consumers would be willing to foot the bill for the industry's appealing, but sometimes more pricey, holiday offerings.

This holiday season is very different. Recent national events and the war in Afghanistan have changed the picture considerably. It's no longer just the economy that is making consumers more cautious about spending; the actual act of visiting high-volume areas, such as shopping malls, seems far less appealing this holiday season.

While attending public places and over-the-top spending have dwindled, safety and self-preservation have become top priorities, making cleanliness more important than ever.

A widespread fear of disease—specifically, anthrax bacteria—has caused consumers to take a more serious look at cleansing, according to market leaders contacted by Happi. In response to a heightened awareness of hygiene, newer cleaning forms are being more readily explored, while antibacterial face and body cleansers are expected to spike in sales, according to industry experts.

It's still too early to tell whether these new concerns have already affected soap sales. However, marketers believe that with increased consumer education, cleansing—especially hand-washing—is becoming a top priority for most.

Liquid soap sales in food, drug and mass merchandiser stores rose 7.4% to $960 million, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago. Bar soaps slipped 1.6% to $1.3 billion for the same time period, according to IRI.

In the midst of new health and hygiene concerns, it is clear that citizens are more interested in small indulgences and self-pampering than ever before. This is an expansion on a general trend that has been building for years. It seems that now more than ever, consumers are seeking products that not only get them clean, but make them feel good.

Many new soaps contain stress-relieving ingredients and fragrances, which could provide another lift to sales, according to most soap marketers contacted by Happi.

Choices...and More Choices
As reported last year in Happi, body washes have moved from an occasional use product to a habit for many consumers. Virtually all major marketers offer body washes and gels along with bars in their current SKUs.

But consumers, rather than choosing one form, switch back and forth between both, and hand washes and sanitizers are also thrown into the mix.

Industry leaders contend that body washes and gels are a growing category that has far from peaked. "Body washes will continue to grow because they, as a form, provide effective fragrance, good skin care delivery and good cleaning properties," predicted Tom Herrmann, director of corporate communications, Dial Corp., Scottsdale, AZ.

Despite a difficult year, Dial was the No. 3 vendor nationwide in food, drug and mass merchandising locations for both liquid and bar soaps. Dial liquid soap ranked the No. 1 liquid at $110 million for the year ended Aug. 12, according to IRI. Dial bar soap, however, fell more than 10% to $154 million during the time period.

Exploring washes and gels as opposed to the traditional bar soap was a departure for Dial when it introduced its Ultra Skin Care line in 1996. Since then, the company has made a name for itself in this segment, adding an opaque body wash and vitamin E-enriched lotion to its lineup and introducing scents that are on-trend with what consumers want.

"Our body washes are growing in consumer acceptance, which is why Dial is now the No. 2 body wash manufacturer and the No. 3 body wash brand," Mr. Herrmann revealed. "Our formulas deliver great skin care with on-trend fragrances at an affordable price. Dial body washes bring together cleaning, skin care and fragrance."

Recent body wash launches, including Dial Mountain Fresh and Tone Island Mist, have been successful, according to company executives. But Dial maintains that its bar soaps still have a strong association in the consumer mindset as a pure and healthy way to achieve cleanliness. Reformulations of its bars during the past two years has kept the longstanding brand up with the changing times, according to executives.

Dial was also a pioneer in the hand-soap category. "Earlier in the year we launched Dial Complete, a revolutionary hand soap that has 10 times more effective germ kill than competing products," said Mr. Herrmann. "It is building up a very strong following based on the item's superior germ protection, mildness and clean rinsing attributes." Other restages for the company include Coast, which was upgraded in several key areas including lather and fragrance, and newer fragrances for Dial's traditional bar.

"Our most popular item continues to be the Dial bar, driven by the brand's heritage in antibacterial protection and the continual updating of the line with new, appealing fragrances and packaging," Mr. Herrmann insisted.

Tradition has held strong with other brand names as well. Last year, Dove took the lead in bar soaps, at $323 million in sales, according to IRI data. Dial, Lever, Irish Spring and Zest followed. In liquid soaps, Dial and Softsoap, two tried-and-true brand names, remained Nos. 1 and 2 at $110 million and $97 million, respectively.

Colgate-Palmolive, the top liquid soap vendor at $180 million in annual sales, recently introduced Softsoap body wash in three scents: Juicy Melon, Orchard Fresh Peach and Fresh Picked Raspberry. The company also offers a line of Softsoap body washes with microbeads in Romance, with passion flower and wildberry scent; Relaxing, with lavender and chamomile fragrances; Nourishing, enriched with vitamin E and Hydrating, with aloe.

Dove, which maintains it is a beauty bar rather than a soap, continues to be successful with its moisture-enriched bar. The bar is offered in White, Pink and Unscented as well as Sensitive Skin and Nutrium formulas.

The brand has introduced a line of body washes in four varieties. All Day Moisturizing contains three moisturizers to hydrate, replenish and smooth skin. Sensitive Skin is the mildest sensitive-formula body wash available, according to the company. Nutrium replenishes essential nutrients naturally found in healthy skin. And Nutrium Age-Defying improves skin tone and texture so skin looks and feels younger.

Colgate's Irish Spring bar soap has been updated during the past two years. In addition to the original bar's scent, Spring Fresh scented Irish Spring is now available.

The brand also currently offers Sport, formulated to kill germs that cause body odors and Aloe, which holds moisture in so skin won't feel tight and dry after washing, according to company executives.

Ivory bar soap—still in the top 10 after more than 120 years on store shelves—has such a pull with consumers that its history, ad campaigns and related artifacts are currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

Ivory's slogans, "It floats" and "99 44/100% pure," are two of the most recognizable slogans in U.S. advertising history, according to Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. More than 5000 print, radio and television advertisements dating back to 1882 will be showcased. The display will be open to visitors through Dec. 31.

The Best Defense
Such adherence to tradition, along with nationwide concerns about contact induced illness, have brought many consumers back to the basics, according to industry experts contacted by Happi.

With the past two months' anthrax fears, individuals are taking hand washing much more seriously. Consumers are reaching for the hand soap or sanitizer after touching ATM machines, exchanging money at the store and of course, after opening mail— so far the only directly identified way that individuals have contracted the contact-form of the disease.

"The threat is in the mail," Postmaster General John Potter cautioned following the first reports of contaminated correspondence. "There are no guarantees that mail is safe."

However, he added that with proper precautions, the risk can be minimalized. The obvious answer: to keep one's hands clean at all times, especially when handling correspondence. Though this will by no means eliminate all biological contamination risk, it will lessen the chances of individuals contracting the disease through hand contact.

Mr. Potter added that although caution is justified, panic is not. "Life is filled with risks," he pointed out. "You could die crossing the street; you could die driving a car. That's not to minimalize what's going on here...but you just don't shut the Postal Service down."

Mr. Potter cited statistics in order to further calm a frightened public. According to records, the U.S. post office has handled more than 20 billion pieces of mail since Sept. 11; among that overwhelming number, there have been comparatively few confirmed cases of contaminated pieces. Though no individual case can be taken lightly, the numbers point out that the risk is generally small.

Handwashing is becoming more important than ever, according to soap marketers. Dial Complete boasts 10% more germ-killing power, along with easy spreadability due to the instant-foaming action of the pump.
Measures are being taken to ensure that as few citizens as possible contract the disease via mail. Mr. Potter pointed out that the postal service has instituted a targeted screening of suspicious-looking letters, and electron-beam machines, which would irradiate mail and kill germs, are being instated, government officials said.

Although officials are making strides toward ensuring public safety, true to form, Americans are quite literally taking matters into their own hands by improving hygiene practices in their own homes and offices.

Luckily for the public, many soaps currently on the market have been formulated with germ-killing ingredients for years. "It's too early to tell whether consumers are accelerating their use of antibacterial soaps," commented Mr. Herrmann of Dial. "But most of the hand soap products on the market are already antibacterial and have strong consumer acceptance."

Hand soaps have been a popular cleansing option for years, and recent developments in delivery systems and foaming action have added to the convenience and user-friendly aspects of this popular cleansing form.

Dial was one of the first marketers to launch an instant-foaming product with its Dial Complete Foaming hand soap. According to Dial executives, the system is much more effective than hand soap due to its formulation and to the fact that instant-foaming products spread better, covering more area and washing more completely.

"Dial Complete is the greatest advancement in liquid soap since the production of Liquid Dial in 1988," commented Herbert Baum, chairman, Dial Corp.

According to Dial executives, Dial Complete offers the same germ killing power as the most effective liquid hand soaps used in hospitals. It is effective against germs including staph, strep, Salmonella and E.coli and kills bacteria and certain strains of yeast. However, the product is mild to the skin and rinses cleanly, Dial executives said.

The image of popular book and movie character Harry Potter attracts kids' attention and helps them enjoy getting clean, say Johnson & Johnson executives.
A foaming dispenser was also used by Johnson & Johnson for its Harry Potter Foaming Red Cherry hand soap. The attractive decoration, with two "feet" at the base to resemble a cauldron, and the association with the popular character helps encourage youngsters to use the product and keep clean, according to executives.

J&J introduced Johnson's Kids Foam Blaster hand soap earlier this year; the product also uses an instant-foaming dispenser. Foam Blaster is available in kid-friendly fragrances including Jazzy Blue Raspberry and Radical Apple.

Airspray International, Pompano Beach, FL, supplied the instant foaming dispenser for both the Harry Potter and Johnson's Kids soaps, as well as Dial Complete. The company explained that instant foaming provides ease of use as well as complete spreading over the hands, helping the product inside to deliver a more complete clean.

Instant foamers can still be economical, according to industry professionals. Though the unit may be more costly than some standard pump systems, the product inside is diluted in order to enable it to foam. Since less product is required in filling the dispenser, the finished product is reasonably priced to manufacturers.

Airspray is currently working on a foaming hand cleanser dispenser specifically formulated for use in wet areas such as the shower or tub. The system, called Water-Resistant F3, has a specially designed base cap, nozzle and protective shell to direct water away from the dispenser. This eliminates possible microbial build-up and reduces the watering-down effect on the product in a bath or shower environment. Airspray expects consumers to see products utilizing the dispenser in the coming year.

"Instant-foaming products have been very easily adapted and accepted," insisted Robert Brands, president, Airspray. "Retail sell-through from Dial and Johnson & Johnson's instant-foaming products has been very clear. Other manufacturers will want to utilize the product, and consumers will use these products more and more."

Experiencing a Good Clean
Though economic hardships and recent nationwide events have caused a general scale-back in spending, manufacturers continue to forge ahead with new launches. The multi-beneficial product trend remains strong in the cleansing category, according to industry experts.

NuSkin's Antibacterial Body Cleansing gel delivers a pampering experience.
At-home spa-like pampering has picked up in recent years, and more and more benefits are being added to the simple act of getting clean.

Botanicals, moisturizers, the feel of the product itself and aromatherapeutic benefits all figure into the holistic experience consumers desire, according industry experts.

"Body washes in general are popular because people like the pampering experience," confirmed Elizabeth Thibaudeau, senior director, product marketing, NuSkin. "And right now, there's a huge variety of body washes available. The category will only continue to grow, and with new possibilities being discovered all the time, there's still a huge opportunity for expansion."

One of those possibilities is a firmer focus on skin care, according to Ms. Thibaudeau. "Soaps wash off, so in the past, customers would not have seen the logic in combination cleansing/skin care products for the body," she explained. "Until recently, such products were confined primarily to the face, with non-drying, anti-aging or exfoliating facial cleansers."

Explorations into new cleansing products have unearthed new possibilities for the body, according to Ms. Thibaudeau. "As the body wash segment expands, competition will continue to grow. Chemists will start to take what they've learned from face care and apply it to the body," she noted.

NuSkin's cleanser lineup includes dermatologist-tested, gentle products that contain a number of unique ingredients and boast multiple benefits.

NuSkin Anti-Bacterial Body Cleansing gel utilizes triclosan to help kill odor and infection-causing germs. The gel contains aloe vera to moisturize the skin, soothing herbal extracts to tone and condition skin and corn-derived conditioners for added moisturization while cleansing. An 8.4-oz. bottle retails for $10.

Although washes and gels are more in demand than ever, the company's basic body bar is its best-selling in body cleanser, Ms. Thibaudeau pointed out.

"The body bar is our No. 1 product," she revealed. "The product is soap-free, moisturizing and has an amazing grapefruit scent that is very appealing to consumers."

The body bar offers a different experience from traditional soaps, she added. "The body bar allows the consumer to get cleansing properties without drying the skin which can occur with soap-based products," she said. "The bar has a different feel as well; it's very unique. Once people try it, they become loyal consumers because the bar is so different from anything they've tried elsewhere." In fact, NuSkin's Body bar is trademarked, according to NuSkin executives.

The body bar contains triclosan to fight odor-causing bacteria and utilizes non-drying cleansers including aloe vera, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E) and jojoba oil. Sodium PCA is also included as a humectant. The bar retails for $10.30 individually, or in a set of five 4-oz. bars for $47.20.

The company's Epoch polishing bar has also earned attention, according to the company. The product removes dirt, excess oil and other impurities without the use of soap and contains a deep woods fragrance.

Ingredients comprising the Epoch bar include glacial marine mud, to absorb impurities without depleting skin moisture, and sisku'pas (tsuga heterophlla), derived from the bark of a coastal conifer from the Pacific Northwest. A 3.4-oz. Epoch bar retails for $12.85.

Vitabath, manufactured by Belae Brands, Phoenix, AZ, also boasts a variety of skin care effects with its line of bath and shower products. Its citrus and floral blends with herbal undertones are designed to awaken the senses, according to company executives.

Vitabath's gentle cleansing bar contains 100% pure vegetable glycerin and natural fruit, floral and herbal extracts. The bar is milled three times and provides gentle cleansing that leaves skin feeling smooth, soft and fresh, the company said. The 4.2-oz. bar is available in aloe and jasmine, chamomile and vanilla, fresh peach, honeysuckle and wildberry. It retails for $3.50.

Also available from Vitabath is its line of shower gelees, which range in price from $30 for a 21-oz. bottle to $125 for one gallon. The gelees and other Vitabath products are unique in the level of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and emollients they contain, according to the company.

Origins offers an extensive line of cleansing products in a variety of forms. Its bar soaps deliver a variety of desired effects including skin stimulating, soothing, sloughing/exfoliating and refreshing properties.

Origins' Ginger Bar Savory bath soap contains Australian eucalyptus to provide a refreshing feeling, while French green clay absorbs and removes pollutants, grime, excess surface oils and skin-dulling flakes, according to company executives.

The company's Spring Fever body soap leaves skin smooth, silky and surrounded with a soft aroma, according to the company. It rinses cleanly, leaving a springlike aroma to the skin.

Other bars in Origins' line include Clean Comfort Soothing body soap, Jump Start Stimulating body soap, Mint Condition Skin-Cooling body soap and Chunk of Clay foaming cleanser for face and body.

Body washes include Ginger Burst Savory body wash, True Grit Sloughing body gel, Skin Diver Active Charcoal body wash and Clean Comfort Soothing body wash.

Other holistic-geared body cleansing suppliers include Aveda, with its Personal Blends total Body Cleansing formula, and The Body Shop, with body bars and washes available in fragrances such as lavender and bergamot.

New Possibilities
With the variety of alternative cleansing options available, attention is being brought back to the standard bar soap with new decoration, milling and ingredient options, industry experts said.

John Howland, chief executive officer of Bradford Soap Works, West Warwick, RI, pointed out that there is a wide range of options for bar soap manufacturers today. Organic soaps, oil-based soaps, grains and muds are currently available.

The company's sunburst technology is patent-pending and adds both visual and functional appeal, according to Bradford Soap executives. By simultaneously extruding two different colors of soap to merge in the bar, an easy-to-duplicate pattern emerges. This is different from the random or marbelized patterns common to previous soaps, according to Mr. Howland.

And in addition to the option of two different colors, two different functionalities can be incorporated into one bar with the sunburst extrusion: cleansing and moisturizing, for example.

Other options for updating bar soaps include microencapsulation beads that remain intact until cleansing, according to Mr. Howland. "The microencapsulation beads don't burst until the consumer needs them too," he revealed. "Our method allows the product to maintain its integrity until the bead bursts when the person is washing with it." The beads can be loaded with any oil soluble ingredient.

"People are looking for efficacy," Mr. Howland added. "The future of soaps is in additives that are not just there for show, but have a purpose."

The Royal Soap Company, Dallas, TX, also combines visual appeal with efficacy. The glycerin-based, hand-cut Royal Soap bars are not only an appealing gift but a benefit to the skin, according to company executives. The company is now adding gels to its line.

Royal Soap's shower gels moisturize and cleanse the skin while the aromas relax the senses, according to company executives. The gels contain vitamin C, coconut oil, aloe vera, antioxidants and botanicals extracts.

Royal Soap agrees that a warm, homey feel adds to today's bar soaps. The company has released three new gift sets for the holidays. Berry Christmas is scented like warm berries and cinnamon; a holiday berry topped with a green ribbon adorns this set. Holiday Pear contains a crisp pear scent with soft spice notes. Tiffany Pointsettia, inspired by a glass lamp, is a red pointesttia with clear "glass-look" pieces throughout; it is scented with holiday fruits and florals.

Bradford Soap is introducing a line fragranced with homey and inviting smells, including pies, breads and spices. "The industry has done the lemons and limes and citrus-type themes," Mr. Howland stated. "Those were very popular for good reasons at the time: they evoked a sense of purity and cleanliness. But now individuals are really focusing on the things that are most important—home and family. The newer scents, like pies, spices and breads, help deliver that feeling."

It's a trend that's likely to continue, according to Mr. Howland. He pointed out that, especially in stressful times such as these, staying centered and close to home are top priorities.

"Nostalgia is important right now, and with very good reason," he said. "It used to be just about clean, but now it's about evoking a feeling. It's an emotional kind of thing. We're thinking about when life was simpler. We're trying to bring that back now."

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