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The Realities of Washroom Economics

By: Diana Dodson
Posted: January 10, 2008, from the January 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The at-home spa trend also offers opportunities for segmentation, with products distinguished by their affect on mood. U.K. company BubbleGel’s products—Desire, Relax, Sleep and Vitality—are illustrative. Despite this trend, however, consumers still prefer the convenience of showering, and bath additives are on the decline at the global level.

Recent years have also seen bath and shower products taking inspiration from skin care—with exfoliating, skin firming and moisturizing properties becoming more commonplace. In early 2007, the launch of Dove Pro-Age, an antiaging range that includes a beauty bar and body wash—targeted baby boomers. Johnson & Johnson added a pre-shave to its body wash to create Johnson’s Silk Skin Shower & Shave Cream. Sun protection is the next added benefit that is expected to appear in bath and shower products with the continuing development of “wash-on” technology, such as that developed by Aquea Scientific.

Natural ingredients play a major role in this sector—as both perceived safer alternatives to synthetic ingredients and as a way to add a hint of luxury—through the inclusion of exotic and fragrant botanicals or to nourish the skin with vitamins and minerals. Food is a major inspiration for natural bath and shower products—with olives, avocado, milk, honey, orange, mango and papaya among the ingredients finding their way out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Some firms are taking this trend a step further, offering certified organic ranges. Companies such as Nature’s Gate are increasing consumers’ access to organic products, and the emergence of private label organic bath and shower lines shows that demand for organic ingredients has become mainstream.

Despite this focus on natural ingredients, antibacterial products still proliferate in the category. As ingredients firms such as BASF investigate the application of probiotics in hygiene products, including oral hygiene and deodorants, there may also be future soaps that are both natural and antibacterial. New delivery formats have also become a way for brands to compete, enabling them to differentiate themselves with eye-catching novelties. BubbleGel offers its bath and shower products in individual capsules combining foaming agents and essential oils. And foaming technology is still big news in liquid soap.

Yet innovation is slowing down in the bath and shower category as it becomes difficult to find new ways to add novelty, with new products struggling to achieve improvements enough to justify further price hikes. As brands become less profitable, manufacturers are finding it tougher to put money back into innovation.