Laundry Gets All Bubbly – detergent tablets – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

Christine Bittar

In a risky attempt to breath new life into the huge, yet excitement-challenged U.S. laundry market, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Dial are gearing up this fall for what’s being billed as one of the industry’s biggest innovations in more than a decade: laundry detergent tablets that offer no-mess convenience–but at a premium price.

Having tapped out just about every other meaningful product attribute, P&G will be the first to launch Tide detergent in a tablet form in the U.S. in mid-September. Unilever’s Wisk follows about a month later with its own Double Action Tablets, followed by Dial’s Purex.

Similar in function to dishwasher tablets, which have joined gels and powders on store shelves, manufacturers are positioning laundry tablets as a convenient, no-spill option, hoping the concept will catch on with American consumers after being launched with some success in Europe and Canada.

Tide Rapid Action is expected to garner $20 million out of a total $100 million in Tide advertising next year, said sources. TV ads for Rapid Action are slated to break in January and run through June, with print starting in November, also for six months. P&G spent $91 million on Tide last year, per Competitive Media Reporting. Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, handles.

P&G is looking to tablets to bring in $300 million in first year sales, and has told trade partners that it expects Tide Rapid Action to bring an incremental $100 million to the $1.7 billion category. Retail prices for Tide tablets will run almost double the cost per load of a comparable Tide powder and about 20% more than liquids. Unilever’s Wisk Double Action Tablets, working as both a stain fighter and cleaner, are expected to be similarly marketed.

Retailers, however, remain skeptical.

The niftier tablets, packaged as two per washload, might offer some novelty value and convenience for people doing laundry outside the home. But sources said the tablets’ considerably higher price per load and visual similarity to powder detergents, a sub-segment that has been shrinking for years, could be a problem.

Trying to play up the convenience angle to consumers who don’t mind a pricier form, P&G has recommended merchandising the tablets alongside liquids. However, it only anticipates about a third of users will convert from liquids–still a seemingly overambitious target, per store buyers.

All three tablet brands quickly fizz up and then dissolve in water–much like Alka Seltzer tabs–an improvement over traditional powders as well as rival detergent tablets sold overseas, which may not always dissolve easily.

Snuggle Tempts Users Into Sweet Slumber

As it looks to clean up in the detergent aisle, Unilever will cross into new territory with an aromatherapy-esqe sleep enhancing extension of its Snuggle fabric softener, complete with fragrant extras typically sold in tchotchke shops.

Snuggle Sweet Slumber, now shipping to retail outlets, contains “soothing” herbal scents like chamomile and vanilla to gently ease users into peaceful slumber. The line includes a softener for bedding, drawer sachets and a pillow/sheet/room spray, similar to items found in specialty shops. TV ads are expected to break this later month, via Lowe Lintas, N.Y. Snuggles $5 gift pack marks a laundry aisle bid, versus $20 products from Est[acute{e}]e Lauder’s Origins and Coty’s Healing Garden lines.

COPYRIGHT 2000 BPI Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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