Lever returns to big box powders

BYLN: By Sean Brierley

Lever Brothers is spending 6m on launching a big box version of concentrate Persil Colour, and on relaunching its standard big box powder, Persil Automatic, in a reversal of the recent trend towards compact detergents.

A spokeswoman says the company wants to exploit a “reverse trend” in the market towards “value for money” products. It is Lever’s first initiative since it announced the replacement of Persil Power with New Generation Persil.

Persil Automatic will relaunch with a new formulation and redesigned pack at the end of this month, followed by the launch of the standard Persil Colour in June with TV ads through J Walter Thompson. Persil Automatic Non-Biological will remain the same.

Since 1989, when Lever’s rival Procter & Gamble launched Ariel Ultra, most new product development and marketing activity has centred on the launch of concentrated laundry detergents: ultras, colours, the now notorious Persil Power and, most recently, P&G’s Ariel Future.

Concentrated powders, colour powders and liquids launched three years ago and were perceived to be more ecologically friendly. They enabled retailers to sell more units, helping the sector grow through “repertoire” buying. They now account for 15 per cent by value of the total laundry detergents market.

But the big box standard powder market has enjoyed a resurgence over the past year and still accounts for 52 per cent of the market, according to Nielsen.

The Lever spokeswoman says that big box has grown largely at the expense of liquids: “There has been such a concentration of marketing activity for powders over the past year, liquids have lost market share,” she says.

However, she adds the main reason for the shift is that consumers see big box powders as value for money purchases.

“Consumers tend to use less than the specified measure on standard big boxes and more than the stated dose on smaller boxes,” she says. “This has led to the perception that bigger boxes provide more value for money.”

Persil’s big box brands account for 9.1 per cent of the laundry and detergents market, Procter & Gamble’s big box brands, Daz Automatic, Ariel Automatic and Bold hold 5.7, 5.3 and 5.4 per cent respectively, according to Nielsen.

A P&G spokeswoman says it continues to invest in big box powders. Daz was reformulated last month to include enzymes that attack chocolate stains.

She says despite the strength of big box powders, “in the long term we expect the market to move in the direction of compact laundry products”.

– P&G is looking at extending its concentrated Future formula to Daz. The formula first appeared as Ariel Future, which replaced Ariel Ultra in January. Daz Ultra would become Daz Future.