In-Wash Scent Boosters: How is it a Game Changer for Laundry Care?

The scent booster category – located in other laundry boosters – is estimated by Euromonitor International to be valued at US$400 million globally in 2015, amounting to a minor 0.5% share of global laundry care value sales.  Yet in spite of its relatively minor size, the format could well play a game-changing role in the wider laundry care market and the consumption of laundry care products.

First, brand owners will be able to utilise tools such as co-branding and co-positioning to carve out a space for new brands or extensions, as observed with Procter & Gamble’s Unstoppable range. Second, brand markers will be able to utilise co-branding tools to indirectly promote its wider scent portfolio, especially as they face a continuing battle with limited merchandising space in stores. Third, consumers’ approach toward their laundry care shopping basket is likely to be altered as they concern themselves more with the non-visual results of a wash, such as scent and hygiene.

The game-changing discussion of scent boosters, as mentioned in the In-wash Scent Boosters: A Game Changer for Laundry Care? global briefing, is not arguing that such a relatively minor category is likely to become part of the core laundry care shopping basket, as with fabric softeners. It argues that it will become a more common feature in consumers’ wash loads and with its premium price point it will raise the average per-wash spend in markets such as the US where it has been in decline over the 2010-2014 period.

in-wash scent boosters

What will it change in laundry care?

As hinted above, brand owners would have to negotiate merchandising space and additional costs for such products, and maximise use of a year’s already purchased or assigned retailing space. Some brand owners such as Unilever promote their brands such as Surf detergent, off the back of its wide scent portfolio, in a retail environment where shelf space is under pressure, and this could quite easily count against the key focus for this brand.

However, Procter & Gamble’s Unstoppable scent boosters approach of combining scents with other boosters scents or fabric softeners and creating a scent matrix, results in less need for additional space. This is an effective way of using a combination of product design and marketing to maximise the use of retailing space without requesting more. By de facto many other major scent booster manufacturers are likely to follow in Procter & Gamble’s steps and develop some variant of this innovative product-design/marketing tactic.

So far it is positive for scent boosters, but what becomes puzzling here is the direction taken by Procter & Gamble by releasing Downy scent booster with ‘a splash’ of fabric softener. This product delves into the fabric softener territory and it threatens to cannibalise Downy fabric softener sales. Such a move in scent boosters threatens sales of the brand maker’s own fabric softener portfolio. It could be that as scent boosters add functions in their formulations they will offer the same and more when compared to fabric softeners. Brand makers such as Procter & Gamble will look to build on consumers’ aspirational purchases by adding another level of up-trading within the fabric softener and laundry aid categories via a high value scent booster.

Another marketing tool that is being exploited in the promotion of scent boosters is that of lifestyle. Lifestyle brands are becoming a more prominent feature of consumers’ maintenance of their self-image. Whether it is via apparel, beauty and personal care products, or food and nutrition, consumers are concerned over how they are perceived by others. Home care is increasingly becoming an industry positioning itself as with lifestyle, especially with laundry care’s emphasis on in-wardrobe apparel maintenance.

As fast fashion becomes a much more common scene in markets such as the UK and the US, consumers are not only investing in fast fashion apparel, but also its maintenance. Fast fashion consumption expands wardrobe content size and the need for maintaining clothes’ freshness becomes more essential as wear-per-item frequency and share of worn-items drop. Here, freshness longevity from scent boosters plays hand-in-hand with maintenance of the less-worn share of the wardrobe. Consumer concern over the wash of their apparel therefore becomes less fixed on the visual and shifts toward the olfactory, and even hygiene.

laundry boosters

The changing apparel market dynamics along with the non-essential nature of scent boosters underpin the premium price point for scent boosters, thus raising the price per typical wash*. In constant terms, the addition of laundry boosters on the shelves of supermarkets has been key in raising the price per typical wash load* by 19% from 2011 in the US market.

Scent boosters are typically perceived by consumers in developed markets as premium priced laundry aids, yet this does not limit the success of this category in developing or emerging markets. Low-income consumers are still willing to purchase premium-priced products once in a while to give their wash that extra boost in cleanliness and comfort when needed, as observed with the popularity of fabric softeners in South East Asia. Although the repurchase rate would not be as high as among middle-income households, introducing an inexpensive trial-pack sized product can become more common as consumers can afford the lower per-purchase price.

This is further supported by the Indonesian case study of Pewangi – local scent boosters – that had long lasting popularity in that market due to a combination of the need to maintain a level of social status and the olfactory maintenance of apparel in order to keep smelling fresh in hot and humid conditions.