Magazine article Marketing

Saturated Market

Magazine article Marketing

Saturated Market

Article excerpt

The move to position laundry products as eco-friendly is the most notable trend in a sector where comp etition is always fierce, writes Jane Bainbridge.

The rise of the eco-conscious consumer has led to the laundry products market repositioning itself around two key messages in recent years Standard washing detergents have moved to promote the fact that they can perform at low temperatures - thereby lessening the carbon impact of washing clothes, while also saving consumers money on their energy bills.

Blazing a trail was Procter & Gamble's (P&G) Ariel 'Turn to 30' campaign, which launched in 2006. The drive encouraged consumers to wash their clothes at 30 degs, an eco-friendly message that associated itself with Ariel.

Although the low-temperature wash message has been successful, the boom in the ancillaries segment, with stain removers doing particularly well, suggests shoppers think stains are less likely to be removed by standard products used at low temperatures.

The environmental positioning does not apply only to the washing temperature. Brands are also keen to flag up the fact that concentrated detergents cut back on waste by using less packaging and thus also lessening carbon emissions associated with their transportation.

When it comes to value sales, the sector has held up. Between 2005 and 2010, the laundry products market grew by 9%. It is expected to reach pounds 1.32bn by the end of the year, according to Mintel.

Detergents dominate sales, accounting for two-thirds of spending (66%), with fabric conditioners and ironing aids making up 23%, and laundry ancillaries, such as stain removers, making up the final 11%.

In 2010, detergents' sales value will reach pounds 871m - a 4% increase on 2005 value. Fabric conditioner sales have fared better, helped by new fragrances and concentrated formulations, rising 12% in the same five-year period to reach pounds 305m. Sales of ancillaries rose by 37%.

The most important things to influence shoppers in this sector are: brand (20%), promotions (19%), low price (14%) and performance (14%), according to research by Mintel.

The age of austerity is biting, though. Premium brands have to justify their higher prices with new formulations and performance claims. There is a trend toward cheaper products and less loyalty to brands and formats as consumers hunt out special offers.

Seven in 10 people stock up on a brand when it is on special offer, while more than half of consumers switch brands because of special offers. Almost 16m shoppers traded down to a cheaper brand in the past year, although the very cheapest alternative is not necessarily the one they go for.

Economic hardship has also led to more consumers opting for basic products, such as powders, over more pricey tablets and liquid capsules.

According to 28% of shoppers, branded detergents still have better cleaning power than own-label products. That perception, though, has not been strong enough to stop a shift toward own-label detergents, which now make up 14% of sales.

The branded market is mainly a battle between P&G and Unilever. While Unilever's detergent brand, Persil, is the biggest, P&G has a greater share of the overall sector.

P&G's brands include Ariel, Fairy, Daz, Bold, and Lenor, while Unilever owns Persil, Surf and Comfort. Minnow brand Ecover had forged a niche as the environmentally friendly option, but it has suffered as bigger manufacturers have improved their environmental claims. …

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