The neck-and-neck battle for pole position in the laundry conditioner market intensified this week as Comfort launched a product that it said would revolutionise the category.

Comfort owner Unilever has rolled out Comfort Bright Whites and Comfort Bright Colours a move the company says creates a colour care range of fabric conditioners for the first time.

Comfort Bright Whites contains a formula designed to counteract yellow or grey tones and leave whites looking bright, while Comfort Bright Colours has been developed to prevent colours running or fading.

Less than £1m separates sales of Comfort, which rose 2.4% year-on-year to £118.7m, from arch-rival Lenor which soared 16.6% to the number one position in the conditioner market last year with sales of £119.5m [Nielsen 52w/e 25 December 2010].

Lenor owner Procter & Gamble relaunched the brand last summer with a new formula designed to keep fabrics softer.

“The two unique new formulas give Comfort the chance to drive huge penetration, with an estimated £3.7m incremental category opportunity, allowing Comfort to cement its position as a superior brand in clothes care,” said Comfort senior brand manager Catherine Crow.

The launch came at a good time as the cost of clothes continued to rise, said Mintel analyst Richard Caines. “This might encourage more people to look after their clothes, so they last longer and retain their brightness and colour.”

A £3m marketing campaign will support the launch.