Winning Consumers Dropps by Dropps

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | April 2, 2012

The company that popularized the laundry pack category in the US is back with fabric softeners in convenient, easy-to-handle, single dose forms.

Years before there were Pods, there were Dropps. Back in 2005, Jonathan Propper, CEO of Cot’n Wash Inc., Philadelphia, listened to his wife complain about lugging laundry detergent bottles and measuring cups up and down basement steps. He knew he could find an easier way.

Propper’s “Aha!” moment led to the development of Dropps Laundry Pacs and the birth of an entirely new laundry category.

Besides making laundry loads lighter, Dropps also reduces the formula’s impact on the environment by eliminating plastic jugs and cardboard boxes. At the same time, the detergent contains plant-based surfactants, and works well in cold water and in high-efficiency washing machines. Seven years after Propper solved his wife’s problem, Procter & Gamble is using its marketing might to sway consumers to try individual detergent packs—and the Cot’n Wash founder couldn’t be happier. He’s even unperturbed by the fact that Sun Products has rolled out its own single-use laundry detergent with All Mighty Pacs.

“It takes a multinational to educate the consumer about the benefits (of a new product form),” he told Happi. “We’re a private company with limited resources. The (Tide Pods) launch means good things for my company.”

Good things for Propper and the entire industry as P&G brass insist that the launch of Pods will create a $300 million segment within the multibillion dollar US laundry care category—a segment which has fallen on hard times in recent years as cash-strapped consumers opt for low-priced, value formulas.
According to data from SymphonyIRI, Chicago, sales of heavy-duty detergents fell 5.6% to $4.3 billion in food, drug and mass merchandisers last year.

Aside from their ease-of-use, Dropps are promoted for their gentleness. The formula is enzyme-free, which keeps fabrics vibrant and soft, according to the company.

“Clothes don’t get all that dirty anymore. Most clothes don’t get stained either,” Propper explained. “All you need to do is refresh clothes and clean them. Enzymes are very effective, but they also break down fibers and can irritate skin.”

New Dropps fabric softener is available in a variety of fragrances, including wild orchid, orange blossom and lavender.
Dropps is billed as one-size-fits-all formula and is recommended for use on all fabrics, in all colors, in all washers and all temperatures. Dropps is also approved by the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, and the company points out that it takes 292 stand-up pouches, stacked one on top of the other, to reach the height of one laundry jug.

What’s Next?
The Tide Pods launch, complete with its multimillion-dollar promotion plan, will quickly have consumers looking for the next new thing in the laundry care aisle. Propper’s got the answer to their question, expanding the Dropps lineup with the introduction of fabric softener packs, which are sold online in 16-count pouches in lavender, wild orchid and orange blossom scents. But it’s not just a novel delivery form that makes Dropps fabric softener different; the product formula relies on bentonite for its softening power.Dropps execs maintain that the mineral-based formula, unlike traditional fabric softeners, keeps towels absorbent, athletic wear wickable and baby clothes flame-retardant.

“With P&G and other multinational players just getting into the single unit dose category, people will be asking what’s next,” explained Propper. “With fabric softener we have an immediate answer and we have other products coming out to stay ahead of the crest of the wave.”

A Lift from Dropps?
Like the laundry detergent, the fabric softener packs dissolve completely, while the outer plastic bag can be recycled through Terracycle, a US recycling system for previously hard-to-dispose-of waste.

“The launch marks a convergence of three major trends: convenience, long-lasting fragrance and sustainability,” explained Propper. “All our products are DfE approved and contain plant-based surfactants. The multinationals are moving toward sustainability—we’re already there.”

Perhaps the new product will provide a lift for the category. The launch of Dropps fabric softener packs come at a time when FDMx sales of fabric softeners declined 4.3% last year to about $1.2 billion, according to SymphonyIRI.

Dropps are available on the company’s website, www.dropps.com, as well as sites such as amazon.com, drugstore.com and cvs.com. Obviously, traditional retail is not part of the company’s strategy.

“Even when you bring innovation to the marketplace, as a little guy, retailers always put you on the top or bottom shelf,” insisted Propper. “It’s never a level playing field at retail. But everything evens out online.”

Evens out to the point where even institutional customers are discovering the Dropps advantage.

“We have a lot of institutional clients and a strong international business, too,” explained Propper. “Export has been wonderful for us. From an international perspective, consumers have seen us on the web and reached out to us.”

Back in the US, Propper is confident that the buzz surrounding single-use detergent products will provide a long-term lift to the category where, he explained, 50% of consumers say they purchase Tide and the other 50% buy whatever is on sale. It’s that “other” 50% of consumers that Dropps will attract due to its unique proposition of sustainability, convenience and long-lasting fragrance.

“At the end of the day, everybody else is a PC,” explained Propper. “We’re the only Apple on the market.”

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