Online Exclusives

In Need of a Handout

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | August 25, 2011

After surging in 2009 and 2010, hand sanitizer sales are looking rather sickly these days.

Call it the hand sanitizer bubble. According to data from SymphonyIRI Group, sales of hand sanitizers in US supermarkets, drug stores and mass outlets (excluding Walmart) fell 36.30% for the 52 weeks ended Aug 7, 2011 to $93.7 million.

 
Maybe all the market needs is another pandemic scare or medicine shortage like in years past. In 2010, sales topped $142 million in mass outlets (excluding Walmart), some 22% ahead of 2009 figures, according to SymphonyIRI. Back then, the category clearly benefitted from consumers who were spooked by influenza, the possibility of H1N1 or swine flu and a predicted shortage of seasonal flu shots.

 
It’s these market conditions that tell the fate of QualPak LLC, a Laurinburg, NC manufacturing facility for Purell.Gojo, parent company of QualPak and the maker of Purell, had slated the plant for closure back in 2009, but kept it running when demand spiked. Gojo finally pulled the plug in mid August this year.

 
Gojo’s Purell is the leading brand name in the category; with sales of $14 million, it trails private label, which has sales of $52 million, according to SymphonyIRI. Both took hits in the past year–Purell sales fell 51.76% and units were down 54.17% while private label sales dropped 32.42% and units declined similarly.

 
New SKUs Attract Attention
According to SymphonyIRI data, most brands in the category saw sales and units drop like a rock. Those that fared better were new entrants such as Veripur Hand Sanitizer from Fusion Brands Inc., which recorded sales of $783,359 after making its entrance in 2010, and Chattem’s new Gold Bond Ultimate Sheer Moisture Hand Sanitizer, which saw sales surge a whopping 8,131% to $1.39 million.

 
The Veripur and Gold Bond SKUs promised to moisturize the skin as they thwarted germs, and clearly that resonated with consumers who may have associated hand sanitizers with dryness.
 

"Hand sanitizers are everywhere, But the big complaint that kept showing up in our consumer research was that alcohol-based sanitizers really dry out the skin, especially in the harsh winter months,” Lucas Mininger, Gold Bond marketing manager said earlier this year when its product was unveiled.

 
Or, maybe the way to a hand sanitizer user’s heart is through her nose? For Fall, Bath & Body Works has released a new collection of Anti-Bacterial PocketBac hand sanitizers in fragrances that include Dipped Strawberry, Caramel Cocoa Whip, Raspberry Ganache Swirl, Mocha Mousse and Pistachio Vanilla.

 
And B&BW has more novelty scents on the way. Just some of collections rolling out next month in time for the holiday season are All I Want…, which has Christmas Candy, Peppermint Stick, Blue Raspberry and Pear Tree scents; Santa’s Cookies, which includes Chocolate Chunk Cookie, Berry Crisp, Vanilla Sprinkle Cookie and Jolly Gingerbread; Holiday Seasons, which offers Winter Cranberry, Twisted Peppermint, Apple Wreath, Ribbon Candy, Iced Gingerbread and Mistletoe Kiss; and a New Year’s Eve Collection which features Pink Bubbly and Sparkle & Pop scents.

 
A Back to School Bounce?
 

There’s always the chance sales will pick up again this month, spurred by the return of back to school for millions of kids in the US. Hand sanitizers are a highly requested item on teacher supply lists and parents seem to return to healthy hygiene practices as they look to keep sick days to a minimum.

 
Gojo Scientist Honored by APIC
 
At the APIC 2011 Annual Conference, held in Baltimore in June, Gojo skin care and technology scientist Sarah Edmonds was presented with the 2011 William A. Rutala Award for distinction in scientific discovery for her paper, “Comparative Efficacy of Commercially Available Alcohol-based Handrubs and WHO-Recommended Handrubs: Which Is More Critical, Alcohol Content or Product Formulation?”

 
The honor is given to a member whose abstract most closely reflects the excellence demonstrated by William A. Rutala, a world-renowned expert in disinfection, sterilization, and antisepsis, recognizes abstracts that demonstrate exemplary scientific merit and are of high interest and relevance to the infection control community, according to APIC.

 
"We're immensely proud of Sarah for all of the hard work and expertise she demonstrated in winning this prestigious award," said Paige Giannetti, VP-R&D, Gojo. "It exemplifies the commitment and dedication of all of our scientists who help keep our company on the leading edge of skin science."

 
APIC—the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology—has more than 13,000 members who have primary responsibility for infection prevention, control and hospital epidemiology in healthcare settings around the globe. Members include nurses, epidemiologists, physicians, quality and patient safety professionals, healthcare executives, microbiologists, clinical pathologists, laboratory technologists and public health practitioners.

 
 
To gain traction during the back-to-school season, Gojo launched the K-12 Extra Credit program, which the company says was designed to promote hand hygiene for schools and to stretch school budgets. For every 10 cases of Gojo foam hand soap K-12 schools purchased through July 31, they earned one free case of Purell products for use in classrooms, restrooms, cafeterias and athletic facilities. Early response to the hand hygiene for schools program was overwhelming with many schools already enrolled, according to the company.
 

"We know that times are tough and this program helps schools save money. It also makes hand hygiene for schools a priority, which results in fewer student absences," said Gojo’s vice president of emerging markets Steve Smith. "A recent study shows absenteeism due to illness was reduced by 51% in classrooms that combined hand hygiene education with regular use of Purell to help stop the spread of germs."
 

Skinvisible Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is making inroads to get its DermSafe antimicrobial hand sanitizer into new markets. This Las Vegas-based firm has inked a deal with Alto Pharmaceuticals, which will offer the product in Canada starting Sept. 1.

 
Alto will market the product under the name DermSafePC and will initially target institutions such as schools, police forces and penitentiaries that seek alternatives to alcohol due to safety and long-term efficacy concerns.DermSafe’s formulation is alcohol-free and contains 4% chlorhexidine gluconate.

 
Outside of Canada, DermSafe is licensed in Europe, where it recently received regulatory approval and a European launch is scheduled in the fourth quarter, according to Skinvisible, which said it continues to negotiate additional licenses for the retail (pharmacy) rights in Canada and Europe, along with other parts of the world.

 
Running for congress means a lot of hand-shaking, and there’s one potential candidate who will have an edge—at keep hands germs-free, anyway. Executives at ViJon, Inc., the company behind Germ-X hand sanitizer, are watching to see if its chairman John Brunner will toss his hat into the ring to be the next US Senator from Missouri.
 
 

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