Getting Personal

November 5, 2008

Masculine products and more skin care-like ingredients are on the rise as makers of personal cleansers look to connect with grooming-conscious men and moisture-craving women. But will new products from major brands keep consumers loyal as the economy continues to wobble?

Getting Personal

Masculine products and more skin care-like ingredients are on the rise as makers of personal cleansers look to connect with grooming-conscious men and moisture-craving women. But will new products from major brands keep consumers loyal as the economy continues to wobble?

Christine Esposito
Associate Editor

SOAP. IT’S AN EVERYDAY ESSENTIAL for millions of American consumers and it is used multiple times each day to ward off germs. That’s the good news for makers of shower gels, bar soaps, body washes and hand cleansers.
Yet, even as marketers pitch skin-caring ingredients, add more sophisticated scents and extend their lines with new products that target select consumers and address specific conditions, the market for bath and shower products remains a mixed bag, with the liquid sector gaining at the expense of bar soap. According to data from Euromonitor International, Chicago, body wash and shower gel sales in 2007 were $1.7 billion, representing a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.8% since 2002, and during that same period, liquid soap sales rose 7.2% to $727.3 million. Meanwhile, bar soaps fell 3.4% from $1.4 billion in 2002 to $1.2 billion in 2007.

Men’s Market Heats Up

One area of focus is the men’s category. Following the overall pattern in men’s grooming, soap sellers are launching new gender-specific shower products in an effort to become part of every man’s morning routine. In mass, new launches are backed by brands the average Joe recognizes, and may already be using in another product category, such as deodorant or razors.
With Gillette Fusion already a member of P&G’s billion-dollar club, adding new body washes, as well as hair care products, seemed a logical move for the franchise. Its new 2-in-1 body washes, which bowed in May, include Gillette Gentle Clean Shampoo + Body Wash, Gillette Oil Control Face + Body Wash and Gillette Dry Skin Hydrator + Body Wash. Each features dual-phase technology that keeps cleansers and hydrators in separate internal compartments within the same bottle until they are combined in the shower.
Also offering dual benefits is P&G’s Old Spice Double Impact Body Wash. The wash’s Advanced Hydration technology—which features a separate moisturizing layer inside the layer that delivers the cleansing benefits—visibly improves skin’s appearance in just five days, according to the company.
The dual-functionality of both P&G products is a perfect fit for the men’s market. Even if the average guy is more open to using a wider array of grooming products, he wants ones that will simplify his daily routine.
According to Kat Fay, a senior analyst with Mintel International, these line extensions to today’s “training” fragrances—Old Spice, Tag and Axe—do well with men, especially 18-24 year olds, because they don’t have a scent that competes with his deodorant or body spray.
But that’s not the case with Axe’s newest scented shower product. Having extended the Axe Shower line with Axe Skin Contact hydrating shower gel, smoothing shower scrub and purifying shower gel products in early 2008, Unilever unveiled Axe Dark Temptation shower gel in September. Developed by fragrance expert Ann Gottlieb, it has a subtle aroma of chocolate with fresh gourmet accords including hot chocolate amber and red peppercorn.
Unilever is trying to further capitalize on the increased interest in men’s personal care with the October launch of Vaseline Men. The range includes body and face and hand lotions as well as body and face bar soap. (Why not gel or liquid body wash? People close to the brand told Happi that the company’s research suggested men in the brand’s target age group, 25-49 year olds, prefer using a bar.) And in what may be an attempt to give the bar more clout in the soap aisle, it also sports the moniker of another well-recognized Unilever brand. Lever 2000 Vaseline Men Skin Hydrating Body & Face Bar is sold is sold in 2-, 4, and 6-bar packs starting at $2.09.
While scent often dictates masculinity in the shower gel market, there’s no confusion about who should be using Man Junk LLC’s personal cleanser. The Los Angeles, CA-based company’s debut product is an organic, deep-cleansing intimate body wash created to tackle a “much-overlooked aspect of personal care.” According to the company, poor male hygiene can lead to inflammation, bacteria buildup, STD transmission and even the increased risk of penile cancer. Key ingredients include tea tree oil, jojoba oil and Totarol, an extract from Totara trees that has been proven to work against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
Activity in men’s personal cleansers isn’t relegated to the mass market. While Zirh already stocked a shower gel, its customers were asking for more, according to Brian Robinson, president of this high-end grooming line. “Based on the popularity of our existing shower gel, we saw this as an opportunity to further our creativity in developing a product line that would be fun and also resonate with the male consumers.”
The result was the Warrior Collection. This 5-SKU range, which has been on shelves since September, features shower gels named after ancient greats—Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Cyrus, Alexander the Great and Ulysses—formulated with naturally derived ingredients that originate from the regions in which that man reigned. For example, Charlemagne features chestnut seed extract, while Alexander the Great contains olive extract, according to Zirh.   

Added Benefits

When it comes to personal cleansers targeting the fairer sex, the key drivers remain moisturization and scent. To deliver longer-lasting moisture, marketers are pitching a broader range of ingredients, and when it comes to fragrance, sophisticated accords help keep this somewhat utilitarian category on trend.
“Like in the juice and beverage category, where consumers are turning to super fruits like pomegranate and acai, bath and shower companies are trying to translate that trend to encourage interest in their products,” said Euromonitor analyst Virginia Lee.
In fact, many new launches feature ingredients and scent profiles that seem more at home in the kitchen than in the shower. 
Dial, for example, was the first major U.S. brand to bring the yogurt concept from Europe to the states. Its Yogurt Body Wash, which hit shelves in March,  features yogurt protein and light moisturizers rather than oils or petrolatum, to provide moisturization.
“Dial Yogurt Nourishing Body Wash contains skin-conditioning natural yogurt protein that provides the moisturizing consumers look for,” said Juan Serrano, senior brand manager, Dial liquid hand soap and bar, Henkel/Dial Corporation.
Lush, a long-standing purveyor of products packed with delicious ingredients recently added Yummy Yummy Yummy shower gel. It contains fresh strawberries to naturally tone and brighten skin, almond oil to soften, honey water to sooth and passionflower seed oil to improve skin’s elasticity.  Also new is Rub Rub Rub, a shower gel that contains 60% sea salt and “a dash of fresh organic lemon juice” which naturally cleanses, tones and brightens, according to Lush.
Men can shower like Ulysses with Zirh’s Warrior Collection.
And while shower gels are applied and washed off in seconds, the focus has been to develop personal cleansers that promise to do more than wash away the dirt and provide a basic level of moisture.
“Women are seeking multiple benefits,” said Ms. Lee, citing P&G’s Olay Body Wash Plus Spa Exfoliating Ribbons and Colgate’s Softsoap Spa Radiant line—both of which incorporate exfoliating agents—as two successful mass launches that go beyond the basics.
Also addressing the move toward cleansers that deliver added skin care benefits was John Hunnicutt, vice president of marketing for SkinMilk, which touts a bath bar and shower gel that feature 5% real milk proteins.
“Consumers are looking for products that offer comprehensive care—damage therapy, deep moisturizing, toning, rejuvenating—using formulas that work in harmony with the skin,” he said.
Eucerin is parlaying its coveted reputation in skin care into the body wash space. New Calming Body Wash—the brand’s first ever body wash—features a nourishing oil formulation enriched with essential omega fatty acids to soothe and relieve itchy, dry skin, including atopic dermatitis.
Bath & Body Works is touting a new limited edition aromatherapy cleanser that delivers benefits beyond the bath...to the bedroom. New Sleep-Black Chamomile body wash is infused with bamboo charcoal extract to help detoxify before bedtime, while an exclusive aromatherapy blend with chamomile essential oil helps to enhance sleep, according to the company.
Identifying and addressing unique needs has been a key to success for Dove. Now, the Unilever über brand is targeting 20-somethings with the new Dove Go Fresh range, which includes body wash and beauty bars.    
“The Dove Go Fresh personal wash variants are mild and moisturizing just like other Dove body washes and bars. The difference lies in the formulas—they are lighter in feel and made with ultra light one-quarter hydrating lotion,” said Kathy O’Brien, Dove marketing director. “They are also fresh and lighter than other Dove products.”
Dove Go Fresh body wash and beauty bars include Refresh, which is infused with a touch of menthol; Energize, which features invigorating beads; and Cool Moisture, which is billed as a fusion of cucumber and green tea.

Raising the Bar (and Gel) on Green

It’s hard to avoid the natural and organic movement in any sector of personal care, and the personal cleanser category is no different. Many of the prominent players in the natural/organic sector have recently extended their offerings, showcasing just how “green” personal cleansers can be.
Last month, Kiehl’s Since 1851 began stocking its new Aloe Vera Biodegradable Liquid Body Cleanser at its own shops as well as in Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom in the U.S.  Housed in a 100% post consumer recycled bottle and formulated without parabens, SLS and dyes, it not only marks the first 100% biodegradable formula and fragrance for Kiehl’s, but the debut of the first beauty product with Cradle-to-Cradle certification.
Kiehl’s has earmarked all net profits from the sale of the cleanser for JPF Eco Systems, a charitable partnership it created  with actor Brad Pitt (who supports the product, but isn’t featured on the packaging) to maximize awareness of environmental sustainability.

Keeping Healthy

Despite added moisturization, pretty scents and dispensers with generic graphics designed to match generic powder room decor, hand soap has one purpose: to ward off illness.  Yet, despite our mothers’ warnings to always wash our hands after coughing, sneezing and going to the bathroom—and the designation of Global Handwashing Day (Oct. 15) by the United Nations—Americans still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the role a good old hand washing with soap plays in that capacity.
The most recent Clean Hands Report Card issued by The Soap and Detergent Association gives Americans a C-minus for their hand hygiene habits. According to SDA’s findings, only 85% say they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom, down from 92% in 2006. Further, 39% surveyed seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing compared to 36% in 2006.  And of those surveyed by SDA, only 56% recognized that hand washing is the No. 1 way to prevent colds and flu.
One company is doing its part to remind consumers about the link between hand washing and good health. In September, Dial kicked off the Dial Complete Campaign for Clean Hands, a program designed to engage and educate families about the importance of proper hand-hygiene.
“We don’t believe that hand-washing habits are bad in the U.S.  I believe awareness of the importance of hand washing is what’s missing,” said Juan Serrano senior brand manager, Dial liquid hand soap and bar, Henkel/Dial Corporation.
CleanWell’s anti- bacterial foaming hand soap.
Makers of anti-bacterial soap claim that triclosan-based products deliver the level of protection people need to ward off the common cold, influenza and food-borne illness. And a study published in an edition of the Journal of Food Protection, sponsored by Dial, provides more evidence to back their case.  In the study, researchers compared hand washing with Dial Complete containing Activated Triclosan technology to washing with a plain liquid soap. According to Henkel, the Dial Complete hand wash was significantly better than plain soap and water at eliminating bacteria from the hands and was up to 30 times more effective in reducing bacterial transfer from the hands.      
But not every company is on board with triclosan technology. There’s been some debate about the dangers these products may pose, and CleanWell Company is part of the opposition. The San Francisco company contends its all-natural hand soap is lab-proven to kill 99.99% of germs—including MRSA, E. coli and Salmonella—without triclosan. CleanWell instead relies on Ingenium, a patented blend of essential oils. Developing an efficacious, non-toxic hand soap that also had sensory appeal wasn’t an easy task.
“The real challenge was that we were trying to solve several problems at once,” explained Dr. Larry Weiss, founder and chief scientist. “The most important of these was the compliance problem. We knew that in order to have a meaningful impact on personal hygiene and thus on public health, we had to make a product that people wanted to use and use frequently.  The only way to do this is to make products that feel good and that people feel good about using.”
Company officials think they nailed it, right down to the all-natural, custom blended scents created by natural fragrance expert Mandy Aftel.
“We have what so many consumers are now looking for: they want products that are green and effective,” said Holly Bornstein, director of marketing. “We know that once people try our products, they love them. We are focusing on expansion, continuing to build awareness and trial as well as making our brand easier for consumers to find.”
It appears CleanWell is well on its way. The brand’s retail presence got a major boost last fall when it was picked up by Target, and last month, CleanWell debuted on shelves (and online) at Bath & Body Works.
Clearly, company officials would love the soap to mirror the success of its all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizer. According to IRI data, CleanWell posted the largest gains in the $99.7 million hand sanitizer category, outpacing impressive gains made by P&G’s Vicks Early Defense and Burt’s Bees hand sanitizers among others during the 52-week period ended Sept. 7, 2008 in supermarkets, mass merchandisers and drug stores (excluding Wal-Mart).

Dr. Bronner’s has taken its soap collection beyond green: all of the Escondido, CA company’s soaps are now certified Fair Trade. Sporting the new designation are products in the new Shikakai line of USDA Organic personal care products. The line’s 12oz hand and 24oz body pump soaps contain organic shikakai—which comes from the seed pods of the Acaci Concinna tree—and a castile soap base. In addition, Dr. Bronner’s added new rose and citrus orange liquid variants to its Magic soaps range, which is formulated with Fair Trade organic olive, coconut and palm oils.
Method has also expanded its personal cleanser stable. Marine Naturals, which includes body washes, gel hand washes and foaming hand wash, is housed in recyclable packaging featuring biodegradable formulations that are of 95%+ natural origin. Products are formulated with sea salt, but not parabens, phthalates, triclosan or EDTA.

Dove Go Fresh targets 20- somethings.
While liquids are generally the more preferred form, many consumers remain loyal to bars (and some even argue that the bar overall can be a greener option, simply because it requires less packaging than a gel or liquid).  For those consumers, Burt’s Bees and Lush are raising the bar when it comes to the experience a solid soap can deliver.
Earlier this summer, Burt’s Bees unveiled the Fabulously Fresh Peppermint & Rosemary Body Bar, an all-natural, handcrafted soap that marries peppermint oil and rosemary extract to cleanse, soften and refresh skin while invigorating the senses. In addition, the bar is studded with almond flour to help exfoliate.
Lush has rolled out three new solid soaps since July, including Porridge, which features oats, fresh organic orange juice and sweet orange oil, and Godmother, a pink hued, vegan soap scented with its popular vanilla-based Snow Fairy fragrance. The most recent addition, launched last month, is Spice Curls, an orange hued solid soap that is formulated with cinnamon powder, ground chili, ground cayenne pepper, clove bud oil, fresh ginger root and cardamom oil.

Down the Drain?

It appears makers of personal cleansers are doing their part to keep the sector in a lather, but outside influences (a.k.a. the economy) could play a major role in success over the short term. For example, if the economy continues to go down the drain, will consumers drop more costly shower gels when a cheaper (and some say greener) bar soap will do trick?
According to Ms. Fay of Mintel, most consumers won’t switch forms to save cash. “Consumers have had to make significant cutbacks and are trading down their vehicles or ending their gym memberships. It is the bigger ticket items that will take a bigger hit. Bar soaps and liquids are an affordable luxury,” she said.
Lush’s new Porridge solid soap features oats, organic orange juice and sweet orange oil.
However, according to Ms. Lee of Euromonitor, a slowing economy may entice some to trade down to less expensive brands, which may bode well for moderately-priced national brands as well as private label products.
The latter, thanks to upgraded packaging and scents, are already popular with consumers. Based on IRI data for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 7, 2008, in the liquid body wash category in supermarkets, drug stores and mass outlets (FDM) excluding Wal-Mart, sales of private label products ($42 million) ranked third behind Dove and Axe. In liquid hand soaps, private label sales were $59.6 million, up more than 22% and trailing only Softsoap liquid, according to IRI.
While private label may be “very slowly nibbling away” at market share, Ms. Fay contends it poses no real threat to the big three. According to a soon-to-be-released Mintel report, Unilever commands a 31.6% share of the bath soap and shower category at FDM outlets, followed by Colgate-Palmolive (15.3%) and P&G (14.5%). 
“For the most part,” she concluded, “people will remain brand loyal in this category.”