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Price a primary factor in hygiene purchases

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Fortunately, daily hygiene is more or less recession-proof. Thanks to the near universal usage of soap, bath and shower products, this market has been largely unscathed by the weakened economy and is expected to enjoy growth going forward. That being said, consumers have altered their buying habits of such products in recent years, and are looking for value. Manufacturers looking to bolster sales will need to continue to integrate additional benefits.

According to Mintel Group, the U.S. soap, bath and shower market achieved $5 billion in total retail sales in 2012, up 25% from the $4 billion observed in 2007. With the market slated to grow by about 2% to 3% annually, sales of such products are estimated to reach $5.8 billion in total sales in 2017.

But the economy has no doubt left its mark and is impacting how consumers shop. "Consumers are cost-conscious and careful in scrutinizing their spending, particularly for daily use personal care products that require frequent purchase. Mintel's consumer research reveals that among product purchasers, price is the most important purchase factor when it comes to shopping in this category. Consumers are also trading down to less expensive brands, product formats and turning to private-label offerings in order to save money where possible," Mintel stated in its March 2013 report on U.S. soap, bath and shower products.

Furthermore, Mintel's research found that some 83% of respondents report that price is important to them when buying such products, followed by 74% citing scent and 68% citing familiar brands.

In order to attract consumers back to branded products, Mintel recommended that manufacturers continue to integrate additional benefits, such as anti-aging or multi-use, as well as positioning the products as "affordable luxuries." The attributes most sought after in soap, bath and shower products are moisturizing and deodorizing.

Manufacturers are heeding the call. For example, playing on the "affordable luxury positioning," personal care brand Calgon — known for its iconic "Calgon, Take Me Away!" tagline — recently announced the launch of four new fragrances within its Classic Calgon and Sensual collections, as well as a complete re-launch of its packaging. The brand also upgraded its collection of body creams and body washes with nourishing shea butter.

For parents looking for children's products with added benefits, the creators of Mr. Bubble recently launched multi-use formulas — Bubble Bath Mr. Bubble Original Bubble and Extra Gentle 3-in-1 Body Wash, Shampoo & Conditioners.

So, what's ahead? "Soap, bath and shower products are a key product for maintaining one's hygiene and form the foundation for a personal care routine," Mintel stated. "The greater integration of additional cosmetic and functional benefits will be important to drive accelerated market growth in the coming years and recapture growing consumer interest in private label and lower cost product offerings."

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