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Euromonitor believes that increasing consumer reluctance to carry out complicated and time-consuming household cleaning routines has added to the challenge that manufacturers of laundry care and dishwashing products faced in 2004. Conditions for growth already are difficult due to a high penetration of products creating maturity and near saturation in the market, which is exacerbated by intense price competition and private label brands moving in on the market. Therefore, speedier and more user-friendly formulas to suit time-starved consumers are the chief innovations driving the market forward, according to Euromonitor.
This is exemplified by the growing demand for laundry tablets over powders, or specialist fabric softeners losing out to laundry detergents with added fabric softening properties. Developments in formulation have seen the increased presence of natural ingredients known for having cleaning properties, such as orange oil or zest as a movement away from harsh chemical formulations. The emerging scents in household soaps increasingly resemble those seen in cosmetics and toiletry products as the industries converge to align with the consumer trend for natural and organic products in food products.
Laundry care demonstrated slow growth for 2004 at just over 2%, largely due to a decline in sales in the more developed regions of Western Europe and North America where economic uncertainty has led consumers to either opt for purchasing less expensive products in discount stores or using the private label alternative. However, sales were boosted by strong performances in developing regions. Latin America saw the most growth followed by Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific—where manufacturers are keen to gain presence as incomes rise and consumers turn to higher value products. A move into these developing regions also would help manufacturers to counteract the decline in sales from their domestic territories.
Laundry detergents account for nearly 75% of total laundry care sales, and while there has been some innovation in format terms, this fiercely competitive area provides only limited opportunities for price increases. Although powder detergents have increased sales, convenience is an important driver of growth, particularly in developed economies. Compact powder detergents (i.e. tablets) and, to a lesser extent, dissolvable liquid tablets that are perceived to be less messy and easier to use, have provided some impetus.
Fabric softeners posted growth of 4.3% in 2004, which can be attributed to a sharp increase in sales in Latin America as the region recovers from the devaluation of the peso in late 2002. Asia Pacific, notably Japan, also put in a strong performance, and the surge in sales can be attributed to Japanese consumers returning to fabric softeners, having experimented with 2-in-1 laundry detergents (containing a fabric softener) and finding them unsatisfactory.