It once seemed unlikely that anything would stop the antibacterial household products juggernaut. But although sales of national brand and private label antibacterial household products have slipped from the H1N1 flu pandemic days, consumer obsession with anything antibacterial is nothing to sneeze at.
In the case of private label, only products that played a star in flu prevention showed sharp declines.
SymphonyIRI Group data for the year that ended July 8 show that total antibacterial household cleaner cloth sales rose less than 1 percent to $266 million from the year before, while private label household cleaner cloths rose 5.1 percent to $50 million. Total private label moist towelette sales rose 11.9 percent to $72 million, while the total moist towelette market rose 2.5 percent.
Likewise, in the soap category, private label liquid hand soap sales rose 4.6 percent to $89 million as the overall category rose 3.7 percent.
But sales of private label hand sanitizers, a product that seemed ubiquitous during the flu scare, fell 10 percent, and overall sales for these products fell 14 percent. Antibacterial heavy-duty hand cleaner sales fell 24 percent with private label sales plummeting 87 percent.
In other words, consumers aren’t in a panic about a possible flu pandemic, but they’ve learned to use antibacterial household products on a daily basis.
Donna Rippin, category director for personal care marketing at Sheboygan, Wis.-based Rockline Industries, says that sales of antibacterial hard surface cleaners in particular continue to benefit from the heightened consumer awareness during the H1N1 virus. She cites consumers’ regular use of the antibacterial cart wipe dispensers placed near store entrances as an example of changed behavior.
EYE ON THE NATIONAL BRANDS
Lysol has introduced its latest line of household products that highlights the versatility of hydrogen peroxide.
The Lysol Power and Free line is comprised of a multipurpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and toilet and bathroom wipes, making it suitable for everyday use around kids and pets, and may be used on a variety of surfaces with no rinsing needed.
Last fall, Scotch-Brite, a 3M brand, introduced new botanical disinfecting wipes, a no-rinse household cleaning solution. The wipes are available in lemongrass and breeze scents.
The H1N1 experience “raised an awareness of how germs spread, and I don’t see it going away,” she says.
Tom Hill, senior vice president and general sales manager for Chino, Calif.-based Diamond Wipes International, Inc., agrees.
“We do make a point to always communicate to our customers that the use of any antibacterial product needs to be a part of comprehensive personal hygienic practice,” he says.
He cautions, though, that it’s vital to remind consumers that antibacterial products “should not, for example, replace washing hands when soap and water are available.”
Rippin notes that although antibacterial products are a “day in and day out business,” there are key times where private label retailers and manufacturers can team up to increase sales: During back to school season, and cold and flu season.
Classroom supply lists have long included tissues and paper towels, but many teachers and schools now require students to provide antibacterial hard surface wipes and hand sanitizers along with crayons and notebooks.
Rippin suggests that retailers promote their private label antibacterial products with school-themed store displays and other marketing that serve to remind parents that, along with a new set of classmates, children are exposed to a new year of germs, as well. She cites one product display consisting of antibacterial wipe canisters stacked like a school bus as a clever one that retailers could use as inspiration.
Cold and flu season, which can start as early as October and peaks in the first few months of the year, is another opportunity for retailers and manufacturers of private label antibacterial products to promote their products.
Although the Centers for Disease Control isn’t forecasting an unusually harsh cold and flu season, late autumn and early winter is a natural opportunity for private label retailers to reinforce a consumer’s need for practical, multi-pack packaging of antibacterial hand sanitizers and wipes, especially at the check-out counter, where an impulse purchase is most likely to occur.
Reminding shoppers throughout the year that it’s easy to stash these antibacterial products in away-from-home locations such as a backpack, a car, at work, in a diaper bag or in a gym locker, also can merchandize them for impulse buys.
“We believe the key is continued consumer education, without resorting to scare tactics or trying to tell stories in statistics,” Diamond Wipes’ Hill says.
He points out that this category needs to be “genuinely relevant” to consumer lifestyles. “The educational materials need to be accessible in all areas of their lives, including social platforms and in-store sampling,” he says.
How else to increase sales?
“We know that 85 percent of consumer packaged good sales are to women. She’s the decision maker,” Rockline’s Rippin says.
Marketing antibacterial hand sanitizers to busy multi-tasking women means knowing what they respond to, besides convenience. Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers are personal use products, and although an antiseptic smell seemed reassuring during the H1N1 pandemic, women appreciate a wider fragrance selection.
“Just because it’s killing germs doesn’t mean it has to be disgusting,” she notes. Rockline’s antibacterial wipes come in fresh and citrus scents.
Other fresh marketing trends include claims of “natural” antibacterial.
“We expect the trend to continue,” Hill says. “This is the area in which the partnership — in a true sense, between manufacturers and government regulatory bodies becomes necessary to foster safe and effective innovation for everyone’s benefit.”
As always, the best partnership between private label retailers and manufacturers involves sharing the ideas that can benefit both parties. Whether it’s cross-category marketing of private label antibacterial products with a national brand paper towels or tissues, or a straight-up private label display, getting busy shoppers to remember that they need antibacterial products is key.
“We encourage retailers to approach us on the very first day of the project inception and get us involved in brainstorming sessions,” Hill says. “A good combination of communication, innovation and practicality is the key.”
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