Life’s Little Indulgences

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | November 4, 2013

Personal cleansers must be easy on the wallet, yet high in value and benefits.

Consumers are shopping smarter these days. While they may choose to splurge on gourmet fare, top-shelf beverages, destination vacations or designer handbags, the allure of getting one’s money’s worth rings true in many HABA categories, including personal cleansers. After all, a moment alone in the shower after a long day is well worth the $4 artisan soap or $8 sugar scrub at the store.
In the soap category for 52-week period ending Aug. 11, 2013, sales rose 2.1% to $4.5 billion in total US multi-outlets (supermarkets, drugstores, mass market retailers, military commissaries and select club and dollar retail chains), according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. 

Consumers are quite certain what type of personal cleanser suits them best, as there is a mix of highs and lows in the mass market this year, reported IRI in its findings. Deodorant bar soap sales climbed 8% to $452.6 million, while non-deodorant bar soaps fell 3.7% to $1.2 billion. Hand sanitizers soared 10% to $190.6 million, while heavy-duty hand cleaners slipped 14% to $8.8 million. Liquid hand soap rose 4.7% to $709.9 million, and liquid body wash/all others increased 3% to $1.9 billion.

Unique fragrances and distinguishing benefits allowed bath and shower companies to position their products as both therapeutic and indulgent, convincing consumers with more disposable income in 2012 that there was ample value to be had from the varying lines of products offered in the category, noted Euromonitor in its recent report, Bath and Shower in the US, July 2013. Also, products that were advertised with multiple benefits did well in 2012, helping to lift such subcategories as liquid soap, bar soap and bath additives. By offering a wide variety of products to help accomplish such tasks as skin moisturization, muscle relaxation, stress relief, aromatherapy and vitamin and mineral infusion, these goods were able to package the gratifying nature of a premium spa experience with more practical health-based claims, said Euromonitor in its findings.

Despite the uptick in sales for more premium-positioned items that can fill particular niches or offer a plethora of combined benefits, private label options also did well in 2012 with their ability to provide value to price-conscious consumers and at least a portion of the benefits that other, more premium products offer to the rest of the consumer market.

In short, personal cleansers have to do it all: be easy on the wallet, yet high in value and benefits.

“Shoppers are increasingly seeking sensorial bath and body products, both in terms of scent and overall aesthetics. We found that with body products, consumers are willing to try new products until they find a scent that they love and, in a way, that helps define them—a signature scent,” noted Alexis J. Fried, senior director, North American Skin Care Global Strategic Insights for Johnson & Johnson, Skillman, NJ.  “Gentle ingredients that also provide a thorough cleanse without irritating or stripping the skin are increasingly sought after … we’re noticing that shoppers are becoming more knowledgeable and aware of the signs of skin aging as well as the visible effects large pores have, making skin appear older and lackluster. Now, with advanced technology and applications like HD camera phones and Instagram, capturing every imperfection, skin is under more scrutiny than ever.”

As winter approaches, consumers move from lighter textures and fragrances to heavier textures and more benefits, observed Ian Ginsberg, owner of C.O. Bigelow and board chairman of ICMAD.

“Multi-tasking products are a huge hit because they address more than one concern,” he told Happi. “Furthermore, bars and liquid cleansers that address a variety of issues are on the rise. Another trend is liquid cleansers, bars and scrubs that contain moisturizing agents and address dry and sensitive skin conditions.”

Pam Helms, chief innovation officer of The Caldrea Company, Minneapolis, MN, agreed that as the weather starts to turn a bit cooler and drier, the year-round desire for hydration becomes even more important.

“To have cleansers with a dual benefit of hydration and extended moisturization is key,” she said. “When the moisturizing ingredients come from natural plant oils and extracts it is even more impactful; examples include grapeseed oil, chia seed oil, rice bran oil and angelica root.”

According to Helms, these time-tested ingredients are making a comeback for their simple effectiveness. These ingredients add body and feel to the products themselves in use and a creamy, luxurious feeling to the lather.

Helms added that fragrance is always an important decision-maker in choosing bath and body products both for the “transportive experience provided during use as well as the lingering delight after use that can be enjoyed all day.”

The power of fragrance can be seen in bath and body products from major players such as J&J and Caldrea to private label brands. For example, Ardis Thompson, owner of High Street Soap, Central Valley, NY, notices a trend in select SKUs by the season at her independent company.

“Sales in fragrances that showcase an inviting sense of warmth are expected to be top sellers for High Street Soap this Fall/Holiday season,” she said. “Our Cranberry Fig and Pumpkin Spice bar soaps, as well as our Beeswax and Honey liquid soap, are sure to be top choices for gifts and personal use this season due to their comforting aromas and holiday inspired fragrances.”

Hip To Be Square
An influx of innovations in bar soaps is hitting stores this season. It is evident that personal care marketers are tapping suppliers for unique ingredients to create exotic fragrance blends or offer unique skin care functions. Consider Proactiv’s latest creation, the Proactiv+ Cleansing Body Bar. This lather-rich bar is said to fight body acne all over. Deep-cleansing, exfoliating and medicated, the ergonomic bar thoroughly washes away dirt, impurities and excess oil. Salicylic acid helps unclog and keep pores clear while exfoliating beads remove dead skin. 

Another major launch is by sensitive skin brand Sebamed. Sold at CVS, its cleansing bar is said to provide a gentle, deep cleansing of the pores without causing dryness or irritation. The innovative moisturizing formula contains vitamins, lecithin and amino acids, and rinses away completely for naturally healthier, smoother skin. The bar contains a natural-based buffer, sodium citrate, which adjusts the skin’s pH to 5.5, the natural pH level of the skin’s acid mantle.

Private label soapmaker Twincraft Soap Company recently debuted two bar soap innovations: one featuring benzoyl peroxide; the other, a sun protection bar with SPF 18.

“Benzoyl peroxide really works at treating acne; you will find it in a lot of anti-acne products because it is effective. This is a great bar that’s mild enough to use on your face as well as your body including back, shoulders and chest—anywhere you might typically see breakouts,” said Curt Durfee, director of R&D, Twincraft.

Pacifica, a personal care brand big at stores like Target, is banking on shoppers’ desires for a tropical getaway for its Island Vanilla natural bar soap. Inspired by the “unique magic” of Tahitian vanilla, this blend sets sweet vanilla absolute, with honey-jasmine notes and a touch of fruitiness, against a deep base of tea. A portion of proceeds from all Island Vanilla sales goes to the Ocean Futures Society, a nonprofit marine conservation organization.

“Something magical happened to vanilla in Tahiti. It changed from its native South American flavor to become more lush, with floral notes and a little fruit deep in the structure of the scent, where it didn’t exist before,” explained company founder Brook Harvey-Taylor, Pacifica, Portland, OR.

The Many Layers of Liquids
Shower gels and scrubs are also in their glory this season, as seen with recent expansions in the mass market by brands such as Sonia Kashuk and Vitabath.
At Target, Sonia Kashuk rolled out the Bath & Body Collection, a complete range of personal care products with textures, fragrances and looks that leave nothing to envy of the high-end brands, said the company. Complimenting Sonia Kashuk’s popular makeup and accessories collection, this line, exclusive to Target, features four fragrance variations: Pink Innocencia, Purple Seductia, Yellow Alluriana and Red Promisia. Products range from a pearlescent, foaming crème body wash to an exfoliating body polish made with crushed apricot seeds.

“The trend in personal cleansers continues to focus on skin care benefits for the body,” Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty, New York, told Happi. “Shoppers want creamy, non-stripping cleansers that are indulgent to the skin as well as providing a fragrance experience.”

Meanwhile, over at Kmart, the historic Vitabath brand, which made a comeback in recent years, is now stocked on the shelves. New fragrances include lime citron basil and sweet vanilla amber, and are featured in a paraben- and sulfate-free body wash amongst other SKUs.

It’s apparent that Kmart is serious about utilizing brands to make it a destination store for personal care products, according to Richard Neill, CEO of Rich Brands, the Atlanta-based parent company that owns Vitabath.

“Partnering with Kmart has enabled Vitabath to expand its national distribution into a new channel and present, in a consolidated setting, the entire Fragrance Collection of 16 fantastic fragrances in three formats—shower gel, lotion and body mist,” said Neill.
At CVS, Essence of Beauty added the Shea Collection. The three-piece kit includes a cream shower cleanser and a butter scrub. According to the company, the Shea Indulgence fragrance blend features the soothing scents of exotic tiare flower, shea butter and coconut milk wrapped in warm, creamy vanilla.

Fellow mass-market brand Bodycology, sold at stores like Kmart and A&P, is looking into more romantic scent stories for the season. Scarlett Kiss, out exclusively at Walmart this month, is billed as a “mysterious blend” available in a foaming body wash as well as a body cream and fragrance mist. This floral, oriental scent opens with top notes of pomegranate, peach and Macintosh apple, leading to mid tones of red peony, osthmanthus and marshmallow crème; ending with rich vanilla rum, oakwood and scarlet musk. The brand also rolled out Charmed Apple—a mix of apple, rain lily and pear—in all stores this Fall.

Consumers are still cuckoo for coconuts—as seen with recent rollouts from both Dial and Suave. Dial’s Coconut Water Body Wash features a “clean-hydrating formula” with real coconut water, said the company. The rich lather provides a double benefit to skin: it hydrates, providing essential moisture and nutrients; as well as rinsing clean with no filmy residue. Suave Naturals’ Creamy Tropical Coconut Moisturizing Body Wash, now with a new packaging look, is infused with coconut extract and skin-conditioning vitamin E.

“As far as skin care is concerned, oil cleansers and milk cleansers are coming back,” noted Lexie Masterson, founder of independent brand Clairvoyant Beauty, Kinderhook, NY. “Women are tired of cleansers that strip their skin and cause over-drying. Oil and milk cleansers are gentle and extremely effective.”

At Clairvoyant Beauty, the latest addition in personal cleansers is the Milk & Honey Collection.

“Milk and honey seem to be on peoples’ minds. They are very effective ingredients: milk has protein and lactic acid, which is an exfoliant. Honey is deeply moisturizing and is a humectant. Maybe it reminds people of home,” she told Happi.

Full Clean Ahead
Market research firm Mintel anticipates that the soap, bath and shower market has been “mostly untouched” by the recession. Therefore, it expects that strong, steady growth will continue, with the market growing by about 2-3% annually, achieving total sales of $5.8 billion in 2017.

“Stayed tuned for more multi-tasking products; ones that are fine-tuning the benefits,” said Ginsburg of C.O. Bigelow.
At J&J, Fried expects lighter formulations to be in demand in personal cleansers.

“Gentle cleansing is going to continue to be an important trend in 2014, specifically surrounding how cleansing protects your skin,” she said. “Some cleansers strip skin of its natural moisture barrier. However, the truth is that tight feeling could be a sign of skin damage.  Similar to how cleansing tools have rose to popularity, you will likely see much more education around proper cleansing and the way we think about it.”

 A growing number of organic product offerings and products that contain organically sourced ingredients are on the horizon, predicted Helms of Caldrea. There will also be continued interest in anti-aging properties and “proactive treatment” from ingredients that help provide a healthy and youthful glow to skin. 

“Essential fatty acids and the plants that contain them will be important to skin wellness and also protective antioxidant ingredients that combat the rigors of our stressful environment,” she said. 

 In terms of forms, bar soaps with moisturizing or exfoliating properties will continue their comeback, as “they are nicely compact, easy to carry and move around increasingly urban environments and provide a value in the fact they are a form of concentrates,” Helms observed.

Finally, Helms noted that “ingredients with sustainability stories, especially tied to the people and geographies of their origin will motivate consumer decisions.” 

Mintel forecasts that US category growth will continue to be driven by consumers’ near universal usage of these products for bathing and hand-washing purposes, which are necessary in maintaining daily hygiene. Companies and brands have also been successful in capturing more consumer dollars through the integration of moisturizers, deodorizing properties and appealing scents to enhance the bathing experience.

Mintel expects that the soap, bath, and shower market will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, as consumers continue to use and need products to cleanse their skin.