The bar soap stats are much more the norm for the $5.1 billion soap category (see chart), which posted a 1.3% sales gain for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, 2020. Liquid body wash and liquid hand wash sales during that time rose 3% and 4.1%, respectively (although unit sales were down for both). Non-deodorant and deodorant bar soap sales declined. Hand sanitizer sales were up a scant 0.8%.
The arrival of COVID-19 came to fore during the height of flu season in the US–a time when messaging about handwashing is typically at its loudest. Health experts have long promoted handwashing with soap as the best weapon to ward off all kinds of viruses and germs, and an outbreak like COVID-19 puts this simple, yet effective practice back in the spotlight.
Handwashing is “one of the simplest things people can do—and is one of the most effective. CDC is putting that message out. We are trying to amplify the CDC messaging,” Martina Spinatsch, vice president of R&D, Dial, told Happi in a phone interview in early March.
This 70-year old leading brand invests time and resources to publicly promote healthy hand hygiene as it connects to charitable causes at the same time. For example, Dial last year reconnected with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to promote healthy hygiene habits in connection with Global Handwashing Day (October 15). At one local event with Big Brother Big Sisters in Connecticut, the brand used glitter to represent germs, and showed children how soap works better to remove germs better than just water alone.
Adults might benefit from a similar refresher course.
According to Spinatsch, consumers need to get back to basics when it comes to hand washing.
“First off, it’s important to use soap or a handwashing product that has surfactants. Washing with just water is less effective. The surfactant helps remove dirt and germs. Second, everyone is so busy and so focused on moving to the next thing, that they don’t spend enough time,” she said alluding to the CDC’s guidelines of handwashing for 20 seconds. “Scrub your whole hands, your palms, the top, in between fingers, finger tops.”
Clean Without Compromises
Consumers who increase their hand washing as COVID-19 cases increase can rely on leading brands that are crafting soaps that deliver cleaning power without tradeoffs.
“We know consumers want to be able to wash their hands thoroughly. So, we design our hand soap formulations with this in mind and we test them extensively to ensure that they are gentle on skin and hydrating,” according to Spinatsch.
Even with a long history of trust that’s been built up, Dial continues to evolve its collection to meet consumers where they are.
“We want to make sure we are curating, selecting and offering new items to meet consumers’ expectations. Consumers trust us to deliver what they want,” Spinatsch told Happi.
To that end, the company in January introduced the Dial Pure Collection. It includes Dial PureMicellar Foaming Hand Wash, a non-antibacterial hand wash with active micelles that is available in three scents (Seafoam, Hyacinth and Juniper), and Dial Pure Moisture Body Wash, which has a multi-layered formula that contains renewable sunflower oil. The wash is available in three light scents, including a rosy floral with a light powdery undertone to sandalwood, which has a warm and woody opening note. Both formulations are free from parabens, phthalates, silicone, SLS and SLES and come in bottles made with 50% post-consumer recycled plastics—attributes sought by today’s consumers.
“For a legacy brand, like Dial, it is important to evolve with changing consumer expectations,” Spinatsch said.
Another venerable personal care brand has expanded its soap offerings. Tom’s of Maine recently launched a line of natural prebiotic personal care products, including bar soap and a liquid hand wash formulation, the first in the company’s 50-year history.
Prebiotics offer plenty of growth opportunities. According to a recent survey conducted by PSB Research on behalf of Tom’s of Maine, more than half of Americans believe the gut could benefit from a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria, but significantly fewer realize other areas of the body like the skin need this balance.
According to Justin Boudrow, personal care brand manager, Tom’s has been studying the benefits of supporting “‘good bacteria’ in personal care for several years.”
Tom’s of Maine Prebiotic Body Wash & Bar Soaps are sulfate-free formulas that retain skin’s natural moisture and gently cleanse. The washes are offered in Fresh Apple, Gentle Lavender, Soft Rose and Blood Orange scents. The bar soap, which uses Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil, comes in Fresh Apple and Soft Rose.
The Prebiotic Liquid Hand Soap helps support the growth of good bacteria found on hands and palms, while retaining skin’s natural moisture. It is available in Fresh Apple, Gentle Lavender, Soft Rose, Blood Orange and Peppermint.
As body washes remain a popular format in the US, Nivea this season expanded its range with a line that marries on-trend scents with skin care attributes. Launched in February, Nivea Body Wash with Nourishing Serum is a portfolio of 10 body washes enriched with a unique blend of plant-derived oils, essential skin lipids and vitamins. The varieties are spread across three platforms—Nourishing, Refreshing and Pampering. Options include Shea Butter Body Wash, Basil & White Tea Body Wash, Wild Berries & Hibiscus Body Wash, and Coconut & Almond Milk Body Wash, to name a few.
Not Your Mother’s Bath Time
Wellness continues to influence the personal care space—but this concept is nothing new to the bath category; soap brands have long touted a good soak in the tub as a means to get away from it all without leaving home. Companies are rolling out formulations that tap into overarching health and wellness trends that are top of mind with today’s consumers.
Take J.R. Watkins. Just last month this heritage brand launched the Luxe Line, marking its foray into luxury body care category. Exclusive to Ulta, the range includes Bath Elixir, described as a liquid bath soak made with a proprietary blend of natural extracts that is an alternative to salt soaks and bath bombs; Creamy Body Wash; Aromatherapy In-Shower Mist; and Sugar Body Polish, which exfoliates and then lathers into a foaming cleanser.
Luxe offers three options—Detox, Sleep and Awaken. The Sleep line has a blend of natural extracts to calm the mind, relax the body and encourage a restful night’s sleep with ingredients such as lavandin, orange and calendula and a scent that features coconut notes from the top to the base. The Detox Line features key ingredients of ginger, witch hazel, chamomile, calendula, cactus water and jojoba oil. The Awaken range is formulated with similar components as Detox, but has coriander, which enhances mood, and bergamot, which is said to reduce nervous tension, according to J.R. Watkins. The range is 98% natural and is free from parabens, sulfates and silicones.
Also new in the specialty bath sector is Spongellé’s Wild Flower Collection of body wash infused buffers which eliminate the need for multiple bath products including loofah, smoother, massager, body wash, moisturizer and exfoliator, which in turn saves consumers money and time, according to Spongelle, LLC. Inspired by rolling meadows of organic florals, each exfoliating buffer sponge combines time-release technology with a built-in body wash that’s infused with herbal extracts such as yuzu, edelweiss and vetiver. Each buffer provides 14-plus washes.
Of course, bath time isn’t just for adults; kids are bigtime tubby takers. Natural brand Babo Botanicals, which is now a decade old, has rolled out a limited-edition Birthday Bubbles Plant Based Bubble Bath & Wash. Available on babobotanicals.com, it features organic chamomile, calendula and aloe vera—sure to please mom—and scent of warm birthday cake scent—which will be welcomed by kids.
In addition, the company recently expanded its shelf presence to Target, which means 450 store locations across the US will sell its bestselling products, including EWG-Verified Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash, Moisturizing Baby Oatmilk Calendula Shampoo & Wash and Moisturizing Baby Oatmilk Calendula Bubble Bath.
Cleaning Up Their Act
Men are adding products to their grooming routines, but it appears there’s room for improvement when it comes to their basic skills. According to a poll of more than 1,000 men age 18 and above conducted by AcuPoll for skin care brand Tiege Hanley, one-third of men admit that they don’t wash their faces on a daily basis. Younger men are more likely to drop the ball on their daily face wash routine, with half of men age 18-24 admitting that they don’t wash their faces daily. Further, 63% of men do not regularly use face wash and 11% say they’ve never even tried it. One-third of men surveyed said they wash their faces with bar soap.
Method is offering men both options in its Method Men line. Body wash and bar soaps (including one with exfoliating properties) come in a range of modern scents such as Sea + Surf, Juniper + Sage and Bergamot + Lime, according to the company, which sells them online and inside Target as well as on Amazon.
Additional brands targeting men are also incorporating facial cleansers into their stables.
Bevel—part of Walker & Company, which was acquired by Procter & Gamble in late 2018—kicked off 2020 with national retail expansion and an expanded product range. Among its new offerings are exfoliating body washes formulated with charcoal and argan oil. Bevel offers three scents—Dark Cassis, Black Bergamot and Supreme Oak.
On the female side of the personal care category, Cora, an indie brand that has shaken up the feminine care category with organic products, has expanded beyond pads and tampons. In January the company rolled out One Wash, a pH-balanced cleanser designed for the entire body, including one’s most intimate areas. The wash is formulated with a tri-oil blend of hemp, sunflower and shea as well as red raspberry and B-vitamins. The scent is derived from notes of sandalwood, lavender and mandarin, according to Cora, which is based in the San Francisco Bay area.
Whether it’s a product for boys or girls, the hands or elsewhere, soap brands must continue to raise the bar—and body wash—to insure they’re addressing the needs and desires of today’s consumers.