Soap brands launch new variants, smaller packs to tap demand
The magnified emphasis on hygiene has boosted the soaps category in India. According to data from Kantar, the category grew 7% in volume terms in Q3 2020, on a moving annual total (MAT) basis, as compared to the 2% growth seen in Q3 2019. The demand was particularly high for large packs of over 150 gm — this segment saw growth of 11% during the period, as opposed to 8% de-growth witnessed in Q3 2019, the data reveals. Furthermore, small packs of 100 gm saw a sustained growth of 9% (MAT) in Q3 2020, as compared to the same period, previous year.
K Ramakrishnan, MD, South Asia, Kantar Worldpanel, says, “In the early part of the year, the government talked incessantly about ‘washing hands with soap’; and since there was no mention of a brand or a type of soap, the entire segment ended up gaining.”
It is pertinent to note that categories such as liquid handwash and sanitisers are still new to certain geographies in the country, and largely cater to the upper end of the market. Hence, soaps emerged as the more sought after defence against the virus.
According to a report by Reportlinker, the market for soap bars in India was valued at $2.9 billion in FY20, and is projected to cross $4.4 billion by FY26. HUL, Wipro Consumer Care, Godrej Consumer Products, RB and ITC are among the big players in this category.
The trend of using small soaps for washing hands and large soaps for bathing caught on in the past year. Owing to this, companies such as Patanjali Ayurved reported high demand for their small packs, especially from the rural belt. The company, which gets more than 50% sales from tier I towns, has increased its distribution in the rural areas by 10-15%.
Several companies extended their offerings to tap this demand; most with promises of ‘anti-bacterial’ properties and natural ingredients. ITC launched a neem variant under its Vivel brand (50 gm for Rs 10) and launched Savlon Hexa Advanced soap and body wash. “We fast-tracked innovation in line with emerging consumer needs, rapidly scaled up capacity and swiftly positioned innovations in the market,” says Sameer Satpathy, chief executive, personal care products business, ITC.
Raymond Group utilised the opportunity to relaunch Park Avenue soaps. Sudhir Langer, CEO, Raymond Consumer Care, says that since some of the brands targeting men, such as Godrej’s Cinthol, are now going mainstream, “it is the right time for Raymond to up the ante in the segment”.
Meanwhile, Dabur and Emami forayed into the soaps category in 2020 with Sanitize and BoroPlus, respectively.
Most of these brands advertised heavily in the past year. Even the quintessential beauty soap brands, the likes of Wipro’s Santoor, tailored their messaging to focus on hygiene. According to data from BARC India, HUL, RB, P&G and ITC were the top four advertisers (in terms of ad volumes) in 2020. HUL, which houses soap brands such as Lifebuoy, Lux, Dove and Pears, and RB, which owns Dettol, increased their ad volumes by 30% and 37%, respectively.
Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, says that though these brands are likely to tailor their communication around ‘better safe than sorry’, going ahead, the category may not sustain the peak witnessed on account of the pandemic-led demand.
Ramakrishnan of Kantar, however, expects a good year for the category, given the companies’ push towards distribution and the launch of smaller packs, even by brands operating at the higher end of the market.