The Grocer’s 2017 Top Products Survey, THE definitive guide to the current state of the UK’s grocery industry

Laundry has been taken to the cleaners this past year, with the supers losing sales to online and discount channels and slashing their ranges to increase the fixture’s profitability and make it easier to shop.

“Laundry has seen significant ranging pressure,” says Nielsen client business partner Muhammad Ali. “With fabric cleaner distribution declining by 6% year on year, the impact on revenue was in excess of £54m.”

Market leader Persil is responsible for most of that loss. The brand is down 15.1% on volumes that have sunk by nearly a fifth. Its £35m decline is the third biggest in this report, not including tobacco. A key reason for this is ongoing shift away from cheaper powders to capsule and liquid formats. Powders have declined by 10%, while capsules are up 3.3%.

This change in format is helping to push prices up in both fabric cleaners and conditioners, up 4.6% and 6% respectively, although a shift to larger packs has also driven the average price per pack up.

Persil Powergems (our top launch of the year), which work out an average of 20p a wash, suggest there is space for further premiumisation in the category. “By offering shoppers this category-first innovation, we believe we will encourage further innovation and help grow value for our retail customers and our business,” says Unilever homecare executive director Gemma Cleland.

But it wasn’t a complete whitewash. P&G’s Fairy continues to clean up in the category, with fabric conditioner up by nearly a quarter and its cleaner up 10.5%. Overall, the brand’s laundry sales have grown £14.9m.

“While the laundry category is flat in both volume and value terms, P&G has seen growth across our portfolio of brands. We are seeing a definite shift in shopper behaviour, with shoppers adding more stores to their repertoire and choosing products that simplify everyday jobs such as doing the laundry - driving a move from dry formats to wet,” says P&G group sales director Ian Morley.

P&G’s diverse portfolio captures a large share of the market through catering to multiple shopper missions. There’s Fairy Non Bio for sensitive skin, a trade-up to premium pods with Ariel, a ‘superior scent offering’ with Bold and value-friendly Daz.

Morley summarises the key to success in the category. “We focus on innovation to deliver our best technology to consumers at a price that represents good value, we advertise these brands to ensure broad awareness, and then we rely on the product performing to delight the consumer.”

They’ll need to continue to do this going forward, as cost pressures rise and own label’s share of the category grows.


Persil Powergems by Unilever

Unilever heralded the launch of Persil Powergems in June as the first major innovation in laundry in a decade, the culmination of €18m of development. The new lentil-shaped crystals are twice as concentrated as some other washing powders, with half as many chemicals. Made of 100% active ingredients, Powergems are designed to remove stains more effectively than its powder alternatives. They’re also an example of Unilever’s shift towards more environmentally friendly products.

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