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The Rebuilding of Bar Soap

By: Abby Penning
Posted: June 29, 2010, from the July 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

In the bar soap segment of the beauty market, one might not expect to find many ups and downs. Given the recent recession and its continuing rippling effects, however, even bar soap has seen its share of changes in the past few years. In contrast to other industry segments though, principles with Vermont-based bar soap manufacturer Twincraft, Jim Howard and Barbara Devine, share that bar soap appears to have benefited from the recession in more ways than one.

“In one sense, the recession was really a boon to bar soaps because we saw a lot of consumers going back to basics, and that meant bar soaps. Bar soap is something many people perceive as a better value because they can get more usage out of a single bar,” says Devine, Twincraft’s director of marketing. “But to entice those customers back in and have them stick with soap, you have to hook them and tell them your story all over again.” Consumers are obviously more likely to continue buying a product they positive associations with, so Devine notes that, once people again began using bar soap, manufacturers needed to keep that positive dialog going.

“It’s about staying competitive in terms of what your soap offers,” Devine continues. “Consumers are looking for the whole story—a treatment, from cleansing to exfoliating to moisturizing and beyond. And it’s a challenge to stay innovative and maintain a competitive price point. A lot of companies are facing more and more savvy consumers who are demanding more for their dollars, and therefore more from their products.”

And this is where the bar soap segment is rebuilding itself to match—and even exceed—today’s consumer expectations. “What we’ve been seeing is a shift in where consumers buy their products,” says Howard, vice president of sales and marketing with Twincraft. “With the change in the economy, more consumers are spending more time in the FDM (food, drug, mass) channel and less in specialty skin care stores and higher-end department stores when buying their products.”

“From our end, there has been a massive focus from the FDM stores to develop their own private label store brands,” Howard continues. “As a result of the recession, consumers began shifting to using these store brands for their better price points, and then found they liked them. This has encouraged the FDM lines to want to innovate to keep these consumers interested and retain them.”