Sales of rechargeables are soaring but suppliers are all too aware that they have to price closer to the primary sector

Growing consumer concerns about the state of the economy and the environment look set to bolster the already unrivalled 25.8% value growth performance of the rechargeable (also known as secondary) sector seen in the past year [TNS, 52 w/e May 22 2005].
As Energizer’s Paul Ardron says: “It’s about getting consumers on board with the value for money proposition. For just a few pence, they can reuse their batteries up to 1,000 times.”
Just as in the primary sector, the popularity of high-drain appliances has also made its mark. 2004 Information Trends research suggests that the premium price point of these appliances is benefiting the more premium priced secondary battery market, with 24% of digital camera owners now buying rechargeable batteries at the time of purchase. Simon West, marketing controller at Uniross, says: “People are realising that they are spending a fortune on batteries when there are cost-savings to be made.”
But just as the higher-drain appliance market has driven primary battery NPD, secondary battery producers have also been forced into a ‘capacity race’.
GP Batteries, for example, recently launched a 2600 mAh AA cell, as well as a 1000 mAh AAA cell, and Uniross is now offering chargers with top end 2500 mAh batteries starting at a £19.99 price point.
Uniross’ price offensive, which includes launching an entry-point charger and batteries at £4.99, has been triggered by cost being one of the biggest obstacles in getting customers to make the primary to secondary sector switch. Uniross’ aim is to “put rechargeables on a one-to-one basis with primaries”.
Secondary battery producers also recognise that rechargeables require consumers to forward-plan - not something normally associated with the on-the-go market. Uniross and Energizer, which entered the sector this year, have both developed charger ranges with in-car connectors.
Uniross is also planning promotions offering chargers with six batteries.
Reducing charging times also remains a key priority at GP Batteries, which has launched the 15-minute PB Express.
According to marketing director Tim Barber, this charges standard high capacity NiMH cells in 15 minutes.
Suppliers also acknowledge that educating the consumer will be key if the sector is to raise its share of the total battery market from its current level of 5% [TNS, 52 w/e May 22 2005].
Uniross is working on communicating the mAh rating to consumers through the use of in-store consumer information tables, while Energizer says its education programme will be supported by top-end product development by this year. “A lot of consumers are still at the entry point,” says Ardron.
Secondary suppliers are optimistic that the European battery recycling directive, which is on track to be passed in Europe at the end of this year, possibly becoming law in the UK by around 2008, will help raise the sector’s profile.
However, Energizer, which already boasts a 40.2% share of the rechargeable market, compared with Uniross’s leading 40.7% share [ACNielsen four w/e July 9, 2005, total rechargeable] believes that premium primary batteries will also be able to market themselves on an environmental platform. “The seven times more power claim on Ultimate Lithium can also be communicated as seven times fewer batteries,” says Ardron.