Kitchen towel has been one of the downturn's worst-hit household categories.

Although value sales were up 2.2% to £330.8m last year, volumes slumped 7.6%, as people treated it as a discretionary purchase or traded down to a basic version [Nielsen 52w/e 3 October 2009].

Own-label increased its share of the fixture, growing value ahead of the category at 3.2%. But market leader Plenty is fighting back.

"Prior to the credit crunch, the towel category was increasing in both volume and value, but it then levelled off, with consumers trading down in quality and some consumers dropping out of the category," admits SCA brand marketing controller Emma Heald.

"In a downturn consumers look to make savings where they can. So now more than ever it's essential that consumers understand the false economy of buying cheaper products."

Plenty's latest campaign, launched in October, focuses on the 'one sheet does plenty' message, highlighting its value credentials. Between February and September, Plenty increased market penetration from 26.5% to 34.7% [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 8 September 2009].

"This tells us that consumers aren't simply trading down but are seeking better value," says Heald. "Since September, we have seen growth coming back to the whole category."

In total, SCA invested more than £8m in marketing in 2009, including the name change from Bounty to Plenty at the beginning of the year, new TV ads featuring housewives Brenda and Audrey, and a PR push fronted by TV cleaning gurus Kim and Aggie.

In the year to October, Plenty's sales only rose a fraction, by 0.7% to £64.2m [Nielsen 52w/e 3 October 2009]. However, sales of its closest rival, Georgia-Pacific's Lotus, slipped 4.4% to £41.3m.

Focus On Household