Cleaning Up

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | November 3, 2010

Luckily for soap makers, even when the economy goes down the drain, people still get dirty. Toss in pandemic flu fears, and you�ve got yourself the perfect breeding ground for sales growth in the personal cleanser market.

People still get dirty, regardless of the current state of the economy—a simple fact that has helped keep the personal cleanser market afloat during past year. According to data from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, soap sales at FDMx outlets (excluding Walmart) rose more than 5% to $2.08 billion and unit sales gained 6.86% for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 5 (see chart, p. 62).

And if dirt is good for soap makers, germs are even better. Concerns over illnesses such as H1N1 have Americans washing their hands at a greater rate (or so they say). In the latest observational study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute (formerly The Soap and Detergent Association), 85% of adults washed their hands in public restrooms—the highest observed since these studies began in 1996—and an impressive jump from the 77% reported in 2007.

Hands On Approach
As a result of all that extra time spent at the sink, hand soaps have been in the spotlight.

“Liquid soap was particularly strong in 2009, driven by the H1N1 scare,” said Carrie Lennard, beauty and personal care industry analyst with Euromonitor International.

Marketers are fueling the fire with new products, and there’s more to come, including a big launch next year from Seventh Generation.
Hitting mass stores in January 2011, the new Seventh Generation Hand Wash features plant derived cleansing in two scents—Just Clean (fragrance free) and Fresh Citrus.

Hand wash was a logical addition for this eco-driven company.

Seventh Generation is rolling out a new hand soap in 2011 that has a surfactant system is that it is exclusively plant-derived.
“It was the No. 1 new product requested by Seventh Generation consumers,” said Elizabeth McDonough, director of product management for Seventh Generation.

According to McDonough, company officials saw a clear need for a natural-plant derived cleansing formula that had a thick foam and lathered like conventional, petroleum-based products. As such, the Seventh Generation formulation includes decyl glucoside, sodium coco sulfate and lauryl lactyl lactate.

“One of the reasons we chose this particular surfactant system is that it is exclusively plant-derived and, thereby, completely renewable which is a unique feature in the hand wash category,” said McDonough. “Rather than using petroleum as a starting point, this surfactant system is based on responsibly sourced palm kernel oil. As a member of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the first CPG company in North America to purchase sustainable PKO credits, Seventh Generation is committed to the complete offset of our use of palm kernel oil across our entire portfolio. “

Foam is also the story at Hugo Naturals. Its new Foaming Hand Soap is available in two scents—Shea Butter & Oatmeal and Vanilla & Sweet Orange. Both are formulated with moisturizing vegetable glycerin and certified organic aloe vera, according to the Chatsworth, CA-based company.

New this Fall at Method is a kitchen hand wash available in lemongrass (a hot ingredient trend in 2010) and basil scents. This wash fights food and cooking smells that linger on hands, such as garlic and onions, with an odor neutralizing, biodegradable formula that is free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and EDTA—key requirements for this green brand started by Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan a decade ago.

The Sanitizer Surge
If consumers aren’t washing with soap, they’re using hand sanitizers—the standout segment in the personal cleanser market, with sales rising an impressive 22.22% to nearly $143 million at mass outlets (excluding Walmart), according to data from SymphonyIRI.

“U.S. consumers reacted very strongly to the H1N1 scare, leading to hand sanitizers being ubiquitously present in consumers’ pockets and purses, in offices and at retail and restaurant counters,” said Lennard.

One of the newest SKUs in the Dial NutriSkin franchise is a Grapeseed Oil and Lemongrass variant.
Their ever-present stature with consumers could very well be the reason behind the popularity of private label hand sanitizers. According to SymphonyIRI data, private label is by far the leader at mass, tallying sales of $73.9 million last year, a gain of nearly 24%.

Facing stiff competition from these store brands, marketers are rolling out new variants that offer more sophisticated fragrance profiles and ingredients that attack germs and care for the skin.

Take Method, which has added a new sea mineral fragranced hand sanitizer in a new bottle shape that complements its teardrop hand wash bottle. The formulation has also been tweaked with more natural moisturizers, according to a company spokesperson.

Fusion Brands has rolled out Veripur, which it says is a lotion-form sanitizer that provides up to four hours of continuous protection after application via SafetyDerm, a patented technology that helps prevent germs from colonizing on the skin. The formulation features benzathonium chloride suspended in a white wax, according to the company.

Gojo—the company behind one of the most recognized brands in the category—has added a Purell Green Certified Instant Hand Sanitizer. Made with 100% naturally renewable ethanol in a readily biodegradable formula, it is the world’s first EcoLogo certified hand sanitizer, according to the privately held Akron, OH-based firm. Meeting Instant Hand Sanitizer Antiseptic Products Standard CCD-170 for environmental leadership, Purell Green Certified Instant Hand Sanitizer also meets USDA’s BioPreferred program for bio-based content. In addition, the packaging features lightweight, recyclable PET refill bottles made with 30% less material but has the durability of standard HDPE bottles.

Even venerable Gold Bond has entered the category. Its first hand sanitizer SKU, Gold Bond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer Moisturizer, has a patent-pending formula that kills 99.9% of common germs and bacteria in just 15 seconds, according to Chattanooga, TN-based Chattem. The formula contains seven hydrating moisturizers, including a phospholipid complex to help restore the skin’s lipid barrier.

Reigning Body Washes
While liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer growth can be traced back to the H1N1 virus, the growth in the body wash/shower gel category has been a longer-term shift, fueled by consumers’ growing preference for this format over traditional bars.

“Body wash/shower gel in the U.S. has matured beyond the basic cleansing functions, and currently offers consumers innovative scents, moisturizing qualities and, most recently, anti-aging properties,” said Lennard.

At Beiersdorf, the Nivea brand has targeted all of those issues with new hydrating shower gels that are infused with enveloping fragrances, moisturizing pearls and the company’s Skin Sensation technology. Offerings include Touch of Lemongrass, a light lime gel formula; Touch of Lilly, a light rose gel formula; and Touch of Honeydew, a light orange gel. All three are infused with sunflower pearls that release an intense moisture effect, according to the company.

The new Johnson’s Natural line uses at least 98% plant- and fruit-derived natural ingredients, according to J&J.

Although it remains a key aesthetic in body washes and shower gels, moisturization can also lead to those “love/hate” scenarios with consumers.

“Our consumer research showed that women like moisturizing body washes, but not the ‘glop’ and ‘grease’ associated with them,” said Janell Holas, brand manager, Dial and Dial for Men Body Wash.

The Henkel-owned brand says it has struck the right balance with Dial NutriSkin body wash. One of the latest rollouts in the franchise is a Grapeseed Oil and Lemongrass variant, which just garnered a “Best of Beauty” award from Allure.

According to Holas, NutriSkin body wash is tapping into the hot nutricosmetics trend. “The launch is grounded in the idea that what is good for you from the inside, like nutritious food ingredients, is also good for your skin,” she said. “Our upcoming innovation platform is going to focus even more closely on this concept.”

Youth Movement
Body washes are also hot with consumers who aren’t always into proper nutrition: kids. Within the youth segment, venerable brands and niche players are rolling out new body washes for babies, toddlers and older children, with much of the focus on natural and organic ingredients.

A high-profile launch came this summer when J&J unveiled Johnson’s Natural, a new line of products featuring at least 98% plant- and fruit-derived natural ingredients and the brand’s iconic No More Tears formula. The line consists a foaming baby wash, a 2-in-1 hand and face foaming wash for kids and a 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner and body wash. All are scented with Johnson’s Allerfree fragrance, which contains subtle notes of white floral, powder and vanilla scents.

BabyBearShop, a Nashville, TN-based firm that is a member of SafeCosmetics.organd the Organic Trade Association, has launched Wishy Wash, new 100% USDA certified organic baby wash and shampoo containing calendula flower, nettle leaf and aloe vera.

According to BabyBearShop founder and chief executive officer Diana Lussen-den Stewart, products that are used on baby’s skin are just as important as the foods they are being fed.

“Parents are increasingly aware; reading ingredient panels and doing the research themselves. One cannot take for granted that just because a product says it’s made for a baby, that it’s pure and safe. You have to read ingredients and do your own research,” she said.

So she did. Stewart spent five yearsformulating the product as she “refused to use any synthetic preservatives, or artificial colors and scents. I wanted a pure and gentle formula that did not contain common allergens like nut oils and dairy enzymes.”

Smith & Vandiver’s new entry for kids also takes a green tack. In fact, Good Clean Fun Dino and Ducky Bubbles are the first Natural Products Association (NPA) certified natural children’s bath products. They come in kid- and eco-friendly packaging—colorful squishy pouches made with 82% less plastic, according to the company.

Although it is an increasingly more crowded space, Smith & Vandiver’s founder and president Alida Stevens said there are still growth opportunities in kids’ cleansers, especially when it comes to older children.

“There are lots of natural and organic baby and adult products, and even more ‘simply fun’ or want-to-be natural children’s products, but we realized the market was totally missing authentically natural products for kids,” Stevens said. “And what self respecting 5 year-old wants to take a bath with a baby product? With Dino and Ducky, there’s safe, pH balanced and certified natural fun in the tub—it’s a real win-win with our fun, kid-friendly pouch and long-lasting bubbles.”

This liquid soap and hand sanitizer line from International Product Solutions plays music and provides a hand-washing message for the length of time that hands should be washed.
International Product Solutions, the Gloucester, MA company behind Soap Soundz, also designs with kids in mind. This fall, the company rolled out new Hygiene Heroes, a line of liquid soaps and hand sanitizers that teach children how to properly wash and sanitize their hands. With each squirt, the bottle plays music and provides a hand-washing message for the length of time that hands should be washed, approximately 20 seconds, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Hygiene Heroes hand soaps come in bright colors, fruity scents and fun designs such as Princess Sanipure and Captain Cleanhands.

While fun fragrances and packaging can help attract kids, this market isn’t child’s play. Success in the space isn’t guaranteed, even for companies with deep pockets. Just ask Kimberly-Clark, which earlier this year pulled the plug on its Huggies Cleanteam line of bath products.

Raising the Bar
While bars have been losing out to body washes and gels in shower stalls across America, the subsector rebounded in 2008 and 2009, according to Euromonitor. The return to growth was driven by manufacturers’ long-term efforts to upgrade the image of traditional bar soap by including more value-added features, such as moisturizing properties or natural ingredients.

Tom’s of Maine will be leading that charge in 2011, with its new line of natural Beauty Bar soaps. The six-bar range is clinically proven to maintain skin’s moisture and will leave skin feeling clean and ultra-rich with natural ingredients such as citrus oils, lavender, apricot seeds, lemongrass and soothing chamomile, according to Tom’s of Maine.

Tom’s of Maine has rolled out new six new natural Beauty Bars, including Daily Moisture, formulated with premium olive oil and natural vitamin E.

When formulating the bar soaps, Tom’s had a chance to“zero in on specific benefits consumers were looking for,” according to Rob Robinson, category leader at Tom’s of Maine. “The cost of entry in cleansing in general is obviously a product that is going to clean, but moisturization is critical. The experience goes beyond cleansing,” he told Happi.

Specifically, the new Tom’s line delivers skin care benefits and aromatherapy—pegged to be future drivers in the personal cleanser space. For example, the Sensitive bar marries chamomile with olive oil and natural vitamin E while the Exfoliating soap uses natural apricot seeds to help slough off dull skin. The Energizing bar—Robinson’s personal favorite—has refreshing citrus oils for a natural “pick-me-up.” Also available are Daily Moisture, Deodorant (formulated odor-fighting sage and lemongrass) and Relaxing (which uses lavender botanical oils and woks with the steam in the shower).

Tom’s has also addressed issues such as value, a factor that can’t be ignored in today’s economy, and sustainability, a cornerstone of its business model. The bars are milled four times so they last longer, according to Robinson, and they come in sustainable packaging, including a fully recyclable outer package and new compostable plastic wrap made from PLA.

Liquid soap sales have been on the rise, thanks to more youngsters washing their hands.
Bars, Washes or Both?
Products that address anti-aging and offer unique fragrance profiles are two ways marketers can drive sales in the bath and shower category going forward, according to Euromonitor.

And while the market is divided between mature bars and more dynamic body wash/shower gels, soap makers are wise to address both forms, as U.S. consumers’ personal cleansing habits remain diverse. In fact, many consumers vary their cleansers, switching from bars to washes and back again to suit their fancy on any particular day.

“If you look at the cleansing habits of consumers, they are one of three—the bar soap person, the body wash user—and those that use both,” said Robinson.

And the key to success will be answering the demands of all of them.

Building a Business One Bar at a Time

High Street Soaps are handcrafted by Ardis Thompson.

Soap is big business, but it is also small business too. A visit to a local craft show or street fair or quick search online reveals just how many people turn their interest in soap into successful small businesses.

Take PJ Jonas, founder of Goat Milk Stuff (GMS). This Charlestown, IN-based family business got its start when PJ read the ingredient list on the baby wash she was using on her children—and didn’t like what she read. Setting out to craft her own soap, she turned to her family farm for inspiration, specifically the goats they kept for milk.

“It started as just a hobby for the family’s use, but as friends and relatives used it, they began telling others how amazing the soap felt on their skin and I started to get custom orders,” said Jonas.

Today GMS sells bar soaps like Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (its top seller), as well as lip balms, lotion sticks, bath bombs and even laundry soap. Its primarily internet-based business ships products to 50 states and internationally and 2010 gross sales will double last year’s numbers, according to Jonas.

There’s a similar story at High Street Soaps, a newly “reopened” niche soap company touting hand-crafted bars such as Oats & Goats (featuring goat milk, ground organic oatmeal, scented with lavender and patchouli essential oils) and its newest variant, Carrot & Honey (an unscented bar made with organic carrots and local honey), which was ready at the end of October.

High Street Founder Ardis Thompson was first drawn into the soap world in 1999. After a quick hiatus to focus on raising her two young boys, she’s back soapmaking again in Central Valley, NY and selling bars at craft fairs and online.

“Soapmaking appealed to my scientific side as well as my love for all-natural, earth-friendly alternatives,” said Thompson, who has a degree in environmental biology. “Once I started making soap I simply couldn’t stop; soapmaking is a creative science and in my opinion it can’t get much better than that.”

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