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This bi-monthly summary highlights some of the most interesting new product launches in home care, with a focus on the direction the industry is taking in terms of innovation and developments.

Convenience at a premium

Continuing a trend that began earlier in the year, home care manufacturers are launching new products with innovative dispenser systems that claim to offer the consumer greater ease of use. Adding convenience is a surefire way to appeal to consumers with increasingly busy and hectic lives, and also allows manufacturers to charge a premium price. As economies the world over move further out of recession, it is likely that more premium innovations with a focus on added convenience will follow.

Henkel is head over heels

Henkel has launched Soft Scrub Total Bath & Bowl and Soft Scrub Total Kitchen in the US. These have been dubbed the only cleaning products needed for bathrooms and kitchens, respectively.

The products are being marketed on the basis that they are able to work when turned upside down, making it easier to clean hard-to-reach places, such as under the toilet rim or inside a microwave. Henkel claims that this upside down ‘spray ability’ is a world-first that is designed to simplify consumers’ cleaning routines and is made possible by a unique, patented trigger device.

Rubbermaid takes on Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer

In the US, Rubbermaid is taking on Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer in the floor cleaning systems category with the launch of the Reveal microfibre spray mop. Consumers can use hot water and their own preferred cleaning solutions in Reveal’s refillable bottle, rather than product-specific refills, upping the convenience factor in that consumers can use whichever cleaning product they have to hand in the house.

In addition, the company says consumers opting for the mop, which costs around US$30, will save money in the long run as the device does not require replacement pads, refill cleaning solutions or batteries required by other spray mop cleaning systems.

US launch for Finish Quantumatic

Reckitt Benckiser has rolled out its ‘world-first’ Finish Quantumatic automatic dishwashing product in the US market, following on from its UK launch earlier in the year. The dispenser, which is clipped inside the dishwasher, contains enough product for 12 cycles.

The dispenser is heat-activated, allowing the liquid to be automatically dispensed during the wash, saving the consumer the task of refilling for every wash. The company says the product also eliminates the need to pre-rinse dishes, ‘transforming the kitchen routine without sacrificing quality’.

Stain removal sees activity in the UK

Again with a focus on offering consumers added convenience, more laundry care brands are adding stain removal properties to their products, specifically in the UK, where the spot and stain remover category registered 2% value growth in 2009, compared to 1% for laundry care and a marginal decline for laundry detergents.

Manufacturers are looking to encroach on the category through both incorporating stain removal properties into established detergent brands and expanding detergent brands into the stain removal category. Similar to the Rubbermaid launch in floor cleaning systems, although the products retail at a premium, they negate the need for consumers to purchase additional spot and stain removers, and therefore can claim to save money in the longer term.

Persil adds power of pre-treaters

Unilever has announced an £8 million re-launch of its market leading Persil range in the UK, which got underway in May. Along with a new logo and new packaging, Unilever has incorporated what it calls the ‘extra power of pre-treaters’ into the products’ formulas, meaning separate stain removal products for stubborn stains are not needed.

Latest Ariel range targets stain removal

Not to be outdone, its archrival in the UK market, Procter & Gamble’s Ariel announced the July launch of the Ariel Stain Remover range, putting the product into direct competition with Reckitt Benckiser’s Vanish.

The new range of in-wash boosters and pre-treaters includes seven products and is available in powder, gel and pre-treat formats and promises to remove stains first time. The company claims the new product development is a cost-effective and energy-efficient way to prevent consumers from having to increase detergent dosage or washing temperature to remove tough stains. The launch is being supported by the brand’s biggest ever marketing campaign.

Innovation not to be sniffed at

While adding stain removal properties has upped the ante in terms of innovation in laundry detergents and boosted efficacy claims, manufacturers are continuing to innovate in terms of scent. Although scent innovation may seem relatively low key as it has no impact on a product’s performance, the fragrance of a product can often determine a consumer’s final purchase decision.

As fragrance is often the most expensive ingredient in a home care product, innovations in this direction took a back seat during the economic crisis, but a smattering of new launches are now beginning to be seen.

Daz smells the summer

In the UK, value laundry detergent Daz announced it is to launch Summer Flower Power and Mandarin & Lime Splash scents in a super-compact liquid format. The scents have previously been available in only powder and liquitab formats. Accompanied by the tagline ‘Cleaning Never Smelled Soooo Good’, the Procter & Gamble launch will be supported by a television, on-line and print campaign.

Lion offers long-lasting scents

Japanese manufacturer Lion has announced the forthcoming launch of Super-Concentrated Kaori Tsuzuku (Long-Lasting Fragrance) Top liquid laundry detergent in its home market. The super concentrated detergent, which also contains fabric softening properties, includes an ‘advanced long-lasting fragrance mechanism’. The manufacturer claims that the product’s fragrance will remain on clothing even if it is worn more than once. The product is available in two scents – Fresh Camomile and Sweet Harmony.

Expansion across Asia

In addition to Lion’s scent-focused launch outlined above, recent months have seen an upturn in activity in laundry care in Southeast Asia as multinational manufacturers look to expand their presence in the region’s emerging markets, hoping to reduce their reliance on their mature home markets.

Unilever’s Thai launch

Unilever, which currently ranks first in the Thai market, has announced the launch of a new detergent in the country – its first for 20 years. The new All brand is priced 15-20% lower than the company’s mid-priced Breeze and targets the lower end of the market, aiming to expand Unilever’s consumer base by gaining share from entry-level consumers. The product was previously launched in Vietnam and Indonesia earlier in the year and has received positive feedback, prompting the Thai launch.

Lion goes green in South Korea

Lion, meanwhile, has launched Beat Drum laundry detergent in South Korea. The launch, in May, marks the first time Lion’s plant-based surfactant, MES, has been used as an ingredient outside the manufacturer’s home market of Japan. The manufacturer says that Beat Drum detergent is effective in just one wash and leaves no residue on clothes, eliminating the need for extra rinsing, which is popular with consumers in South Korea, making it possible to save on water and electricity costs.

Green continues to grow

As sales of environmentally-friendly products proved unexpectedly resilient during the difficult economic climate of 2009, the plethora of new environmentally-friendly home care products hitting the shelves has shown no signs of slowing, continuing apace midway through 2010 in both the UK and the US. However, it is niche manufacturers and new players which are responsible for setting the pace of innovation, with new green ranges from major manufacturers notable only by their absence. With interest in the category showing no likely signs of slowing, competition is also intensifying, and any major players  looking to enter will no doubt be keeping a watchful eye on developments.

Magazine gets in on the act

UK magazine Homes & Gardens has expanded into home care with the launch of a range of cleaning products based on natural ingredients. Among the Homes & Gardens-branded cleaning products are a washing-up liquid, surface wipes and a window and glass cleaner. The new range will be launched in stores this autumn as well as being sold on-line through Ocado.

Antibacterial range expands across the UK

UK manufacturer Bentley Organic claims to have created the first all-natural household cleaners that also kill 99.9% of bacteria – tying together green and healthcare trends in one product range. The five-strong product range has been available in independent outlets since 2007, but has now been re-launched and is rolling out nationally via on-line supermarket Ocado. The range, which is certified by the Soil Association, comprises kitchen and surface, window and glass, shower and bathroom cleaners, washing-up liquid and a salad, fruit and vegetable wash for meal preparation.

Eco Clean crosses the Atlantic

Eco Clean, a Danish range of environmentally-friendly products, has secured shelf space at American chemist Duane Reade, the brand’s first foray into the US market. The range includes All Purpose Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, Dish Wash, Glass Cleaner, Hand Wash and Kitchen Counter Top Cleaner and is made from plant and sugar-based surfactants fragranced with essential oils (orange rosemary, spicy lavender and cool mint).

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