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Getting the spin on laundry sales

A Q&A with Method's general manager of laundry, Hank Mercier

Innovation is driving the laundry category these days. It's not just unit dose launches like Tide Pods either. New detergent sizes and fragrances are also piquing consumers' attention and driving sales.

Laundry detergent sales in Canada reached $989.8 million last year, up from $908.8 million a year earlier, according to Euromonitor International. Laundry aids, such as spot and stain removers, hit $198.7 million, an increase from 2011's 191.6 million.

One of the most innovative companies in the laundry category these days is Method. Canadian Grocer recently chatted with that company's general manager of laundry, Hank Mercier, about what's new in the category and how consumer behaviour is affecting what products are coming to market.

What are the biggest changes in the laundry category?

The biggest single thing that has changed over the past few years is fragrance. It’s the fastest growing segment. We’ve seen fragrance evolve throughout the category. Fragrance has always been a core pillar for Method so it’s exciting to see some of the bigger brands break away from traditional fragrance and offer more variety. Gain has been doing well with their fragrance positioning, as have fragrance boosters, like Unstopables and Crystals.

There is also a segment of consumers looking to simplify the laundry routine. This is exactly the insight that led to the unit dose launches (i.e. Tide Pods). A macro consumer trend is urbanization. With more people doing laundry in their building basements and laundromats, consumers need more convenient formats, like Method’s ultra-concentrated detergent in a precision-dosing pump bottle that can be used with one hand.

What’s driving the laundry category today?

Something we are seeing is the “super-sizing” of the laundry jug. While more units are sold in the 66 and under load count sizes, the growth year-over-year is in the larger sizes (96 loads). Walmart and clubs like Costco are growing faster in laundry dollar sales than grocery stores, perhaps because the Walmart and club trips are seen as “stocking up” and laundry is stuck in that shopping occasion.

How important is “green” in laundry for consumers?

First and foremost, a detergent needs to work. Laundry is quite binary that way: a stain is either there or it isn’t.  Most consumers are not willing to compromise on performance for a green product, which is why we have focused so much on the efficacy of our detergent so consumers do not need to compromise for a green detergent. Once a consumer believes a product truly works, the next benefit they look for is “gentle,” which can correlate to “green” or natural. This includes being hypo-allergenic and containing natural ingredients.

What’s next in innovation?

A concentration of 2x is the new 1x, and several players have come up with even more concentrated options, such as 7th Generation and Mrs. Meyers that each have a 4x concentration; Method’s detergent is 8x concentrated. Given that detergent is 70 per cent of the laundry category, and liquid detergent is about 85 per cent of the detergent category, that is by far the single biggest thing that will impact consumers’ homes every day.

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