Own-label detergent lines poised to overtake Lever

Lever Brothers’ share of the laundry detergent market is in danger of falling below that of retailers’ own- label products for the first time.

The household goods company, which markets laundry brands including Persil, has seen its share eroded steadily since the Seventies.

Lever took a 24 per cent value share of the laundry detergent market in 1997, against 21 per cent for retailers’ brands, according to recently released figures from research company Taylor Nelson AGB. Arch rival Procter & Gamble, which markets Ariel, Bold and Daz, took over half the market with 52 per cent.

In 1995, Lever held a 26 per cent share, against 16 per cent for ownlabel. Since then, total market volume has remained static, though own-label’s volume share is up 28 per cent, according to Nielsen.

Some sources believe Lever’s share could fall below own-label’s next year, as a result of the long-term decline of its brands.

But there is evidence that Lever is fighting back – sales of Persil increased by 4.4 per cent in the year to last August. This is compared with a 1.3 per cent boost for Ariel, 28.5 per cent growth for Bold and a 15.2 per cent rise for Fairy.

Lever is planning to launch laundry detergent tablets, possibly by June this year, in an attempt to boost its flagging performance.

In 1975, Lever and P&G both held 39 per cent of the market, and own-label lines accounted for just five per cent. Since then, Sainsbury’s has launched its Novon washing detergent brand, Safeway has launched Cyclon and Asda, Logic.

Cover Story, page 28

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