In a high penetration, mature market, suppliers' efforts are often focused on added value brand extensions and encroaching into key competitors' territory. It has proved so in 2006, as manufacturers have made steady and well-researched progress, rather than radical leaps of faith.
In Waitrose, Persil's performance has been strong, thanks to the Dirt is Good campaign and genuine innovation with Gel tablets. Bold too has had a great year, continuing to innovate with fragrance.
The fabric conditioners category has seen a lot of change for its size, as we all chase the elusive 25% of customers who are still resolutely immune to its charms.
The entry of Fairy was a good example of 'Why did no one think of it before?' marketing. Waitrose over-performs in skin sensitive 'white' fabric conditioners, so the new entrant (and the ad response from established player Comfort Pure) has played to our strengths.
The other notable success in this category was Comfort Crème, which is a good example of a premium product talking to consumers about clothes care and feel, rather than merely alternative fragrance choices. It also addresses a specific customer demographic at a time when they tend to drop out of the market.
Manufacturers gave up on 'rapid dry' fabric conditioners - customers either didn't understand or didn't need the technology.
The effects of oil price rises are still working their way through the supply chain, but they are certainly one of the drivers of the increasing concentration of formulae, especially liquids.