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Hi-Efficiency Machines Crimp US Detergent Sales

US laundry detergent sales have slipped as high-efficiency washers call for less detergent.


By: Tom Branna

Hi-Efficiency Machines Crimp US Detergent Sales

Be careful what you wish for. High tech high-efficiency washing machines may use less water, but consumers are discovering that they can get by using less detergent too, according to analysts. That explains a long-term decline in US detergent sales, according to John Owen, an analyst at Mintel Group. They fell 6.4% from 2009 to 2013, and are expected to drop an additional 5.9% in the five years through 2018, according to Mintel estimates.

Things will get even worse as more consumers turn to HE machines. As of last year, 44% of US households had high-efficiency machines, and the total is growing about 2% a year, according to Javier Escalante, an analyst at Consumer Edge Research LLC in Stamford, CT

That shift is a “double whammy” for P&G and others that sell more premium products, because the customers who upgrade to the washers tend to be the same ones who buy costlier detergents, Escalante said. That means the trend is hurting demand among their best customers, he said.

One bright spot, for P&G anyway, was the 2012 introduction of Tide Pods. That technology, which promises all-in-one cleaning, brightening and stain removal, doesn't come cheap. A 57-unit pack costs $14.97 at Walmart, according to Bloomberg. Unit dose products account for 13% of liquid detergent sale, according to a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. study. P&G says it accounts for more than 80% of the category.

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