Powder has loyal followers and its decline, mainly through the rapid rise of tablets, may well be nearing its end
Trying to keep tabs on the fast-moving detergent sector is enough to put anyone in a spin, but tabs are at the centre of the action because they have taken a 30% share of the sector in the four years since they were first launched.
Top of the league are Persil Tablets, worth £74.5m, according to Information Resources [52 w/e Oct 6 2002].
Lever Fabergé's Lawrence Bate, category director, clothes care, says the powder market is declining in the face of a "steady conversion" to the tablet format, although he reckons an equilibrium point is near.
The company launched an Aloe Vera version of Persil Tablets earlier this year, reflecting the trend towards targeting people with sensitive skin. Bate says: "Consumers are looking for new ways to meet their needs and this year it's about naturals."
Liquid capsules such as Persil and Ariel Liqui-tabs command about 7% of the total market.
However, P&G's Mark Brickhill is urging independents and c-stores to add them to their offering. "After 18 months, powder tablets had a 10% share of the market and liquid capsules have picked up 7% in less time."
Simon Squirrell, product manager, textile wash, at Robert McBride, says that tablets offer "unit dosing and value for money ­ and convenience is the key."
But he adds that powder still has a perceived consumer benefit because it ofers the flexibility to "add a bit here or there depending on the needs of your wash".
This, no doubt, is one factor that keeps some consumers true to powders, and Aquados was quick to spot an opportunity to combine powder and convenience in a fast-dissolving sachet. Aquados has been rolled out nationwide in packs of 10 and 30 and a TV campaign is planned for the new year.
Tablets have even found a home in the in-wash stain remover category with Vanish Action-Ball Tabs, launched in March.
Anna Swaby, Reckitt Benckiser's category manager, fabric care, says: "We are bringing new consumers into the additive category by getting them to use an in-wash product as well as a pre-wash product."