soap sales in decline or just clever marketing?
A recent article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that bar soap sales has declined significantly during the past decade, with bar soap sales falling more than 5% last year.
The report indicated that sales of shower gels and liquid soap substitutes have grown more than 10%.
Port Sunlight in Britain, where the famous Sunlight soap has been made since 1885, recently ended production of soap bars.
Unilever has discontinued production of Rexona soap bars, which were developed in Australia in 1908.
A report from The Guardian newspaper in London, in February 2000 states that Unilever, who now owns the Pears brand, would not include Pears among the 400 brands it wishes to build its future.
The report also stated that in 2000, Pears soap, which is now manufactured in India, only supplies 3% of the British bar soap market.
In contrast, Dove, one of Unilever's heavily promoted brands, has a 22% share of the market.
Another report from the Guardian later in 2000, indicated that soap bars made up 20% of the market, while in 1995 the market share was 40%.
consumer driven or market driven?
Is the current trend toward shower gels and soap substitutes really a reflection of the market, or is it a clever way for manufacturers to drive the market to their more profitable product lines?
Soapmakers using traditional methods are finding the opposite of these reported trends.
People using handcrafted soaps for the first time often notice that soap made this way is non drying to the skin. This brings them to question why a handmade soap can feel so much gentler on the skin than its industrially produced counterparts.
Increasingly, consumers are becoming more savvy. Many have learned to read ingredients labels and make choices accordingly.
Traditional soapmaking methods ensure that the glycerin formed as a by-product of soapmaking remains in the final soap bars.
Industrial processes over the past 50 years have found ways of removing the glycerin during soapmaking, and the glycerin or glycerol has been sold as a separate commodity.
However, glycerin has gradually been replaced by a variety of synthetic emollients and humectants, such as propylene glycol.
If the separate sale of glycerin no longer provides a profitable part of the business for large scale soap manufacturers, it makes sense to drive the market away from less profitable product lines such as soap bars. This leaves manufacturers able to concentrate on marketing product lines such as soap substitutes which can be made from cheaper ingredients.