Dishing It Out

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | June 2, 2014

Whether by hand or by machine, dishes need to get clean, and marketers address this mundane task with upgraded detergents and scents designed to elevate the experience.

Would Madge have let her customers soak in Palmolive Fresh Infusion Lime Basil? Back in the day, Colgate’s iconic TV manicurist/product spokesperson, played by the late actress Jan Miner between the late 1960s to the early 1990s, talked up the virtues of Palmolive dish soap, which not only cleaned dishes, but also cared for housewives’ hands, too. 

Fast forward to 2014, and dish detergents do a lot more than soften women’s hands; they care for the environment, offer a sensory escape through more complex scents and promise to tackle specific dish care woes, such as getting gunk out of a two-day old baby bottle found under the couch.

A quick scan of the aisle at the supermarket or box store offers proof that nearly $2.7 billion dish care category has become more complex over the years, although the basic goal—clean pots, pans, plates and pint glasses—remains the same.

For the 52 weeks ended March 23, dish detergent sales rose 1.42% to $2.69 billion, according to data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Hand dish liquids accounted for $1.56 billion, up 3.04%, and automatic dish detergents came in at $1.12 billion, down a scant 0.75%. (See chart on p. 68)

Procter & Gamble’s Dawn and Cascade sit atop their respective categories. The reason is simple, according to P&G’s Elaine Wang, a communications manager with the CPG giant.

“Dawn and Cascade offer a range of dishwashing products to meet our consumers’ needs. We are always innovating to continue to delight consumers,” she insisted.

Delight? That’s not a word that comes to mind when standing in front of a sink full of dirty plates—not even for the 78% of American homeowners who have a dishwasher.  But that’s where brands are going these days. Savvy marketers are pitching value-added concepts in this workhorse CPG category.

Even venerable brands that have been on countertops and under kitchen sinks for decades have recognized the need to upgrade to win over consumers who have high expectations and are crunched for time.

“Dawn and Cascade are heritage brands. These are brands that perhaps your mom used, and so you know and trust them,” noted Wang. “We work to maintain that heritage of excellence while continuously seeking to understand consumer habits and practices so that we can adapt our products to their changing needs and lifestyles.”

For example, Dawn’s stable ranges from its base “blue”—which, for more than 30 years, P&G says, has played a part in rescuing and releasing more than 75,000 animals affected by oil pollution—to Dawn Plus Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty. In the autodish sector, the most recent rollout is Cascade Platinum, which features an advanced, triple-action formula, according to P&G.

Dish care aisle competitor Colgate-Palmolive has a hand wash range that runs deep as well. It offers multiple choices from “original” to Pure + Clear (which is billed as containing fewer chemicals and with no heavy fragrance) to Baby (which removes whole milk and formula) to Dish & Sponge Fresh, a dual-action formula designed to wash away odor causing residue from sponges as it cleans dishes. 
Get It Done
Even though they have more choices, Americans still loathe doing dishes. In fact, 84% of party hosts have purchased disposable dishware because they didn’t want to do the dishes afterward, and 50% have simply thrown away a dish because they didn’t feel like cleaning it, according to survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Church & Dwight’s OxiClean, which is the most recent player to enter the dish detergent category.

In April, Church & Dwight rolled out OxiClean Extreme Power Crystals Dishwasher Detergent, which comes in an “easy-to-pour, easy-to-store” bottle and convenient paks in two scents—Lemon Clean and Fresh Clean.

“We saw consumers settling for poor dishwashing results, from clumps left in the dish cup to cloudy film or spots left on dishes and then having to either pre-wash or re-rinse by hand. To fill the void, we wanted to take OxiClean’s stain-fighting expertise to the automatic dishwashing detergent category and differentiate ourselves from the powders and gels on the market,” said Valarie Jutteau-Casagrande, brand manager, OxiClean at Church & Dwight. “ We created a unique 4X concentrated oxygen-based dishwasher detergent formula in both crystals and crystals single-dose paks that tackle the toughest of messes and leave dishes sparkling clean.”

According to Jutteau-Casagrande,  the effectiveness of OxiClean “detergent lies in the formula’s unique crystals and 4X concentrated oxygen cleaning power that delivers unmatched stain and odor removal. The four times concentrated formula also comes at a great value to consumers. They get more loads per bottle since only half of a dish cup filled with the crystals will deliver maximum cleaning power,” she said.

Church & Dwight is taking a 360° approach to support the launch by connecting with key social media influencers within the entertaining and hospitality categories.

Another “oxi” in dish care can be found at Sun Products Corp. Earlier this year, Sun’s Lemon Oxi Complex Single Dose Power Pacs were recognized as the No. 1 product of the year in the dishwashing pac category in a TNS consumer survey conducted among more than 50,000 consumers.

Meanwhile, Method’s dish care line includes Smarty Dish and Smart Dish Plus tablets for dishwashers, a hand wash dish soap pump and its most recent entry, Power Foam dish soap, which users spray directly onto a sponge or dishes.

According to Ann Deming, business manager for dish + cleaning, Method Power Foam dish soap combines the best of both worlds; a convenient spray that delivers a powerful cleansing foam and a little bit of fun to the dishwashing routine.

“It’s perfect for that quick, on-the-go cleaning and great for narrow openings like vases and baby bottles. It’s easy to use so it’s also great for getting kids involved with chores, as dishwashing is usually one of the first chores parents teach their children. There’s just something fun about foam. It makes a once-tedious daily chore a little more delightful,” she said.

Sniff This Dish
Another way dish care companies have made this household chore more bearable is through scent.

“Our fragrance director has quite the nose for crafting new scent experiences that are unique to the market and to our already diverse portfolio, pushing the envelope while still being on-trend,” said Deming.

 Method’s top-selling scents are Clementine and Lemon Mint, and its newest fragrance addition is Lime & Sea Salt, a limited edition fragrance that was so well received, it has been added to the permanent collection. 

“The new fragrance will transport you to your favorite beach with a drink in hand, a little mental vacation of sorts to help make an everyday chore a bit more enjoyable,” noted Deming. “We like to think of it as a spring break for your nose.”

And while it may seem to take a lighter approach to dish detergent with fun forms like spray foams and unique scents, Method is quick to boast its formulation prowess.

“At Method, we are constantly working to improve our products and looking ahead to offer the latest and greatest in green technology,” said Deming. “We were one of the first brands to launch an autodish product without phosphates in 2008 and since then, regulations have come out to remove phosphates from autodish products. Because we are constantly looking ahead and reformulating as green technologies come out, we are usually ahead of the game when it comes to regulations.”

But other brands—from upscale to value—appear to be keeping pace on the fragrance front.

“Scent is an important part of the cleaning experience,” said Wang of P&G, which offers exotic location-inspired scents such as New Zealand Spring and Caribbean Breeze as part of its Dawn Ultra Escapes editions.

At Colgate, consumers can find Palmolive Scent Essentials in Lotus Blossom & Lavender (a best in show according to Better Homes & Garden) as well as Ocean Surf & Beachy Breeze. Caldrea offers Ginger Pomelo and Rosewater Driftwood while value brand Ajax touts grapefruit and lime variants.

Earth Friendly Products—which offers Ecos Bottle & Dish Wash, Duo Dish and Wave automatic dishwasher pods and gels—has a scent stable that includes almond to grapefruit to lavender to pear.  The Garden Grove, CA-based company made headlines earlier this year when it announced a pay increase, effective on Earth Day, that bumped the minimum wage it pays all employees to $17 per hour. The increase impacts approximately 44% of the firm’s 300 employees who work across its five facilities in the US.

According to Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, daughter of the founder and executive VP, the $17 per hour minimum wage proves that a company can be “good stewards of the environment, treat its employees with dignity and be strong, stable and profitable.”

Grab Green, a start-up cleaning brand with an eco-slant, considers scent a big part of the big picture, too. The brand offers biodegradable and phosphate-free liquid dish soap in Red Pear with Magnolia, Tangerine with Magnolia, Thyme with Fig Leaf and Fragrance Free variants and touts a similar scent array in its automatic dish detergent pod line.

It’s Personal
With washing dishes vital to running a household, appliance engineers are doing their part to make the task easier through “smart” machines. Miele, for example, has a line of dishwashers without exterior handles that open when users knock twice on the front, and Whirlpool’s Tall Tub dishwasher with 6th Sense Live technology can be activated by homeowners even when they are away from the house.

But as much as technology has entered the space on the machine side, hand washing will remain a more intimate endeavor than other household tasks, according to Grab Green co-founder and president Patricia Spencer.

“Dish care is a part of our everyday lives,” she said. “We use it several times a day, it’s a personal experience.”

Brillo Earns Good Housekeeping Seal
• Best known for its iconic steel wool soap pads that have helped generations of homeowners battle grease and burnt-on food residue from pots and pans, 11 Brillo products have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI).

“Achieving Good Housekeeping Seal status further cements Brillo at the top of a very crowded cleaning industry,” said John Armaly, president and CEO of Armaly Brands. “Now backed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, consumers are able to make a more informed decision when looking for a reliable and effective cleaning product that stands the test of time, and we could not be happier.”

Having earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Brillo products are now under a special limited warranty supported by Good Housekeeping, according to Armaly, which acquired the venerable brand in 2010.