Tiny Bubbles

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | November 6, 2012

The soap category posted a small gain during the past year as marketers continue to roll out bars and washes that emphasize skin care benefits and scent.

A commodity market, personal cleanser sales at mass marketers, drug stores and supermarkets—the retail locations where most Americans buy what they need to for their daily cleansing rituals—rose 1.23% during the past year, a rate that analysts suggest was hampered by the slow economic recovery in the US. According to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm, for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9, 2012, sales at those outposts (excluding Walmart) topped $2.1 billion. While shower gels and body washes have been the stars of the business for years, deodorant bar soaps and liquid hand soaps helped to the keep the category’s growth rate from going down the drain.

The liquid body wash sector was essentially flat, posting 0.17% growth to $925 million. Meanwhile, sales of deodorant bar soaps rose 5.35% to about $176 million and liquid hand soaps tallied a 4.46% gain to nearly $377 million, according to SymphonyIRI.

The biggest sales declines in the personal cleanser category were felt in hand sanitizers and heavy-duty cleaners, which slid 11.3% and 18.5%, respectively (see chart below).

Still Afloat
The Great Recession forced many consumers to cut corners in areas of their daily lives, so today they’re more likely brown bagging lunch rather than hitting the deli. Are Americans taking economic worries into the shower as well?

“The economy has definitely impacted consumers’ purchase habits across the personal care categories, however, in the bath and shower segment, functional considerations such as moisturizing and scent are seen as more important than price,” said Amy Ziegler, global personal care analyst with Mintel.

In fact, Mintel survey data suggests that while price is deemed important by half of US adults, it falls below other personal cleanser/soap attributes such as good lather (79%), moisturizing (78%), scent (72%), antibacterial (71%) and sensitive skin (63%).

“Consumers are making more informed purchases, but given the relatively low price of soap and shower products, many are able to stick with their favorite brands,” noted Ziegler.

Those include Unilever’s Dove and Axe, Colgate’s Irish Spring and Henkel’s Dial, all of which enjoy loyal followings and have been leading brands year after year.

Celeste Calderon, senior brand manager for Dial and Dial for Men, told Happi why the Henkel brand remains a staple.

Dial Gold is now available in a body wash format.
“Dial’s signature clean is America’s trusted personal cleansing product with the highest household penetration,” she said. “Dial Gold bar leads the deodorant bar category, and Dial’s line of Spring Water products are fan favorites across all personal care segments. Our products resonate so well with consumers because of our fresh, clean scents and our clean rinsing formulas that are suitable for the entire family.”

But like any CPG firm, Henkel isn’t resting on Dial’s laurels, and hopes to grow with new Dial Gold body wash, which was rolled out mid year.

“The antibacterial formula has ‘round the clock odor protection’ for long lasting freshness, and moisturizers to clean without drying skin. This product is aimed at keeping up with the Gold loyalists who might be looking to make a switch to body wash,” Calderone said.

Henkel can concentrate on Dial since it has sold two of its other soap brands to High Ridge Brands. Having acquired Zest in 2011, Stanford, CT-based High Ridge immediately stepped up the brand’s advertising—efforts that appear to have paid off. Sales of Zest deodorant bar soap rose a whopping 938% to nearly $14 million, finishing fourth behind Irish Spring and two Dial SKUs, according to SymphonyIRI.

High Ridge picked up its second Dial cast-off this year, acquiring Coast, a venerable soap brand that’s been on the market since 1975. But despite having these two well-know brands in its stable, High Ridge faces an uphill battle, according to industry observers.

“It will be difficult for Zest and Coast to carve out a piece of the soap and shower market in the US. It’s possible that a revamped campaign will revive one or both of the brands, but given the established presence of major players in the market, a dramatic shift is unlikely,” Ziegler told Happi.

Beyond the Basics
Industry observers predict soap makers will continue to position their products from a value proposition, touting key attributes and benefits and making the personal cleansing process seem more experiential than utilitarian.

“The presence of these benefits encourages consumers to think of the commodity category in more of a beauty light,” noted Ziegler.

Yardley London, for example, has launched Skin Indulgence Bath & Shower Collection, an assortment of bath and shower gels and moisturizing bath bars in five variants that include Sea Minerals shower gel and bar and Body Butter Mango Cream Cleansing Bar. These days, the line is more eco-friendly too. Skin Indulgence Bath & Shower Gels feature a paraben-free, biodegradable formula and are packaged with 50% recycled materials and the 98% plant-derived bars come in biodegradable, recyclable cartons. (For more on eco-packaging in the soap category, read ‘The Next Wave in Soap Packaging’ below)

Another heritage soap brand, Caswell-Massey, has also rolled out a number of new products. New liquids include Botanicals Fig & Bamboo Body Wash, which features marula and mirabelle plum oils and edelweiss and Swiss watercress extracts. On the bar side, Caswell-Massey has a new Signature Lavender Bar Soap, which is formulated with a richly lathering vegetable base and perfume-grade oils.
At Aubrey Organics, there’s a new Rosa Mosqueta Luxurious Body Wash. Billed as a fragrance body wash that replenishes natural oils, ingredients include olive oil castile, organic Rosa Mosqueta rose hip seed oil, a special blend of extracts (bladderwrack, carrageenan, iodides, and laminaria), organic shea butter and peppermint oil.

The Locker Room
While skin care attributes and scent are key drivers in the women’s market, there’s often a different tactic taken in the men’s sector. There’s more buzz about ingredients and benefits but messages of multi-use, fitness and sex remain common themes used to sell personal cleansers to men.

Since the majority are still learning how to incorporate new steps (like moisturizer) into their daily routine, products that can offer the quickest means to a complete clean remain popular. For example, Turo Skin, a brand founded by board certified plastic surgeon John Renucci, offers a 3-in-1 Shower Cleanser that is billed as a space- and time-saving all-in-one product for the hair, face and body. It washes away impurities from head to toe using a biodegradable, nonirritating, plant-based surfactant system and includes ingredients such as abyssinian oil, algae extract, green tea extract and glycerin.
Anthony Logistics For Men also has a new multi-use product, Invigorating Rush Hair + Body Wash, which recharges, cleanses and conditions in one-step. Sold at Sephora, Nordstrom and Ulta as well as online at Anthony.com, the wash has a masculine alpine wood scent and features eucalyptus, chamomile and sage extracts, Canadian balsam and allantoin.

Gillette’s new Odor Shield body wash, designed to work in tandem with the AP/deo, contains betacyclodextrin, an innovative cyclic molecule.

Mass-market soap brands often use fitness and sports to connect with their male customers. This Fall, Unilever drafted quarterbacks John Elway and Doug Flutie to help promote the Dove Men+Care line, which has recently been bulked up with two new products—Clean Defense and Fresh Awake Body and Face Washes. Both washes feature “Micromoisture” technology, which activates on skin and is clinically proven to fight skin dryness better than regular men’s body wash, according to Unilever. The Clean Defense SKU is said to remove daily oil buildup to help maintain skin balance while Fresh Wake features an energizing scent that provides a jolt of freshness.

Also going the gridiron route is P&G’s Old Spice. The brand has rolled out a new NFL marketing campaign centered on its Champion scent, which is available across the Gillette platform, including body wash. Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is the newest Old Spice Guy, starring in a series of television and print advertisements that promote Old Spice Champion.

Gillette, another P&G men’s grooming brand, is zeroing in on performance and technology in its recently unveiled “My City is My Gym” campaign. The focus of the campaign is Odor Shield, a new technology in Gillette deodorants and body washes that targets and neutralizes odor for up to 16 hours.

Specifically, Odor Shield products contain “Intelligent Microcapsule Technology,” which is based on betacyclodextrin, or BCD, an innovative cyclic molecule that traps and locks away bad odors as they occur and at the same time releases fresh fragrance from the perfumes loaded within it. Odor Shield also boastsScent Enhancing Technology (SET) that works to deliver a long-lasting scent. Gillette Odor Shield Body Wash is designed to work in tandem with Gillette Odor Shield Antiperspirant/Deodorant, offering 10 times more odor protection coverage when used together, according to P&G.

Axe’s latest campaign in personal cleansing—Showerpooling—is designed to educate men and women on the importance of water conservation in the US, and naturally, Unilever takes a tongue-in-cheek approach that fans have come to expect. The Showerpooling campaign features animated videos narrated by Twilight actress and Axe ambassador Nikki Reed and an online pledge to save water. Axe’s Showerpooling tour is heading to college campuses to distribute 7,000 water-efficient Delta showerheads and the brand is making a $10,000 donation to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, a non-profit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water.

A Kinder, Heavy Duty Clean?
Asking men to conserve water is one thing, but when it comes to personal cleansing habits, the world might benefit if they took a refresher course on hand hygiene.

In a recent survey, away-from-home hygiene brand SCA, maker of Tork products, found that more than one third of men admit they do not wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the public restroom at work compared to 20% of women. And men are also less likely than women to wash their hands after handling garbage, touching animals or sneezing or coughing.

But what about when they get really dirty—such as after working in the shop, fixing the car or any other so-called manly endeavor? That’s where heavy-duty cleansers often get the call as these workhorse products are formulated to tackle the toughest grease, grime and grunge.

Two new brands are looking to stake a claim in the category, which unfortunately suffered a dramatic decline in sales in the past year.

One new entrant is Hands Maid, developed by Wrenchers Body Products LLC as an alternative to harsh cleaners. Created out of necessity by an car restoration enthusiast, Hands Maid is a saving grace for workers with “dirty jobs” in fields such as industrial trades, machine work, landscaping, farming and automotive, according to Edward Buscis, managing member of the Fallbrook, CA firm.

“To our knowledge, we are the first company to introduce a botanical, natural skin cleanser for heavy-duty applications,” said Buscis. “This market has typically been dominated by petrochemical-based products. Offering this alternative is really very exciting. We know of no other products to equal it in the marketplace.”

What sets Hands Maid apart, according to its creator, is the absence of pumice as a key ingredient. Instead, Hands Maid is formulated with walnut shell to exfoliate.

Meanwhile, Deb Group, a Charlotte, NC-based away-from-home skin care company and inventor of foam soap dispensing systems, has launched GrittyFoam, a new heavy-duty industrial hand-cleansing foam with suspended bio-scrubbers. The product is said deliver the performance and effectiveness of traditional heavy-duty hand cleansers in a foam format to gently remove tough soils while making hands feel great. Delivered through the company’s proprietary dispensing system, GrittyFoam helps address the challenge of reducing the potential for occupational dermatitis in the industrial sector, according to Deb, which has secured USDA Bio-Preferred status for the product.

Looking Ahead
The soap, bath and shower product category has been in a slow recovery—the US market rose 2.1% in 2011 after declining 1.5% in 2010, according to Mintel—but the biggest challenge remains the economy. Drivers will continue to be the perennial qualities consumers want in their modern personal cleansers—moisture, fragrance and antibacterial protection, according to industry observers who spoke with Happi.

In addition, consumers should continue to see a growing number of products designed for specific users.

“Key trends that we are seeing in market are increased segmentation; ie, body wash for women, men and kids,” said Calderone of Dial, noting that Dial has added Hello Kitty body wash, bar and liquid hand soap to its mix of products, taking the brand beyond its traditional men and women/all family areas.

And Calderone pointed to another tactic that can help a soap brand—or any HBA marketer, for that matter—grow in a difficult economic climate.

“The personal care segment has seen growth despite the recent economic slowdown,” she said, “and innovation continues to be a key factor in achieving success.”

Counter Intelligence
• Most bar soaps make their way to home soap dishes via the local drug store or mass marketer, but there are options from prestige brands. According to NPD Group, sales of prestige soaps (bar, solid or stick) were $17 million last year, down 2%. Despite the decline in category sales and steeper price points, many of these bars enjoy a loyal consumer following.

Origins has bar soap formulated with bamboo charcoal.

Erno Laszlo’s black soap bar has enjoyed a loyal following for 60 years.

One is Erno Laszlo’s Sea Mud Soap, a distinctive, black facial bar that’s celebrating its sixth decade in the marketplace. Designed for normal/combination to oily skin, this French milled bar, which is rich in black mud from the shores of the Dead Sea, drastically minimizes blackheads, works to clear skin and breakouts and can also help improve chronic skin conditions such as dermatitis. It is sold at Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks and Holt Renfrew for $40 for a 6oz bar.

Laszlo’s dark bar isn’t the only in the prestige market; there’s also one in the Origins for Men line. Skin Diver Active Charcoal body soap is said to revitalize the daily shower routine with the refreshing and reinvigorating scent of spearmint and rosemary. Bamboo charcoal gets deep into pores to tackle clogs while clove and wintergreen deodorize and dissolve surface impurities, according to the Estée Lauder brand. The bar—which is complemented in the line by active charcoal body wash scrub—is formulated with glycerin to prevent moisture loss.

Clinique’s facial soap ($12 per bar) is the starting point of its famous three-step skin care system. Formulated by dermatologists, the bars have been tailored to the needs of every skin type, gently cleansing and preparing skin. There are three formulas: Extra-Mild, a super buffered bar that delivers creamy cushioned lather without wax fillers; Mild, which offers extra emollients that make it non-irritating for dry or average skin; and Oily Skin, created to remove dirt and excess oil from the surface of an oily complexion without stripping as it cools and refreshes sensitive and blemish-prone skin, according to the brand, which commands the top five best selling soaps in the prestige market, according to NPD.

Fun, a new moldable soap from Lush, hits counters this month.
Lush has a new soap offering called Fun that could quickly become a fan favorite too. Having hit counters on Nov. 1, this “novel, multi-purpose, moldable soap” ($6.95 for 250g) can be used on the body, hair and hands—and even clothes, according to company.

With a gentle softening base of corn flour, talc and glycerine, Lush is offering five types of Fun: Yellow (creamy vanilla tones and gardenia extract that provides a comforting marzipan aroma), Green (a citrus burst of tangy lime and lemon essential oils), Blue (a mix of lavender and chamomile blue essential oils suited for a bedtime bath as well as irritated skin), Red (a combination of orange and mandarin oils) and Pink (featuring ice-cream scented tonka absolute and benzoin resinoid, which has warming qualities to help stimulate circulation).

Lush has earmarked 2.5% of global sales from these vegan, moldable soaps to create a “FunD” that will distribute grants to projects providing recreational activities for children living in difficult surroundings.

The Next Wave in Soap Packaging
• Method has a reason to get up on its soapbox, so to speak, as the eco-minded firm has rolled out a 2-in-1 Dish + Hand Soap in a bottle made from a blend of ocean-recovered plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic. This limited edition packaging, an industry first, is available exclusively at Whole Foods.

“Our goal with ocean plastic packaging is to show that the most viable solution to our plastic pollution problem is using the plastic that’s already on the planet. Method’s ocean plastic bottle demonstrates in the extreme that recycling is possible,” said Adam Lowry, Method co-founder and chief greenskeeper. “By recycling and reusing plastic to make our bottles, we turn off the tap of plastic flowing into our oceans and take the first, most important step toward solving the ocean plastic problem.”

Method partnered with innovative recycler Envision Plastics to develop a new recycling process to make the bottles. The process allows rigid, opaque plastics recovered from the ocean to be cleaned, blended and then remanufactured into high quality recycled plastic that is the same quality as virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, according to Method.

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