Unilever Group to Step into Air Purifiers via BlueAir Inc
Swedish air purifier company, Blueair Inc announced last week that it is to be acquired by Unilever Group. The acquisition seems rather unique compared to other mergers and acquisitions happening in the consumer appliances industry as Unilever’s business is more focused on consumer goods like home care products and beauty and personal care products than consumer appliances or consumer electronics products. Yet, considering Unilever is also present in the air care and water purifying businesses, it is not that sudden a move for it to enter air purifiers. According to Euromonitor international, over the past few years, air purifiers has been a star performer in the consumer appliances industry, with massive growth caused by worsening airpollution globally, and the category expected to rise at a promising 4.3% volume CAGR over 2015-2020. Through its takeover by Unilever, Blueair is hoping to greatly expand its presence globally.
Over the past year, consumer appliances has been more dynamic than ever, with a number of mergers and acquisitions taking place. Companies see them as a way to gain technology, a new production base, or expand coverage into new regions. As Blueair is a consumer appliances company which is only present in one category, people might expect it to suddenly enter new categories as a result of its sale to Unilever. The company’s direction is however expected to take the form of geographic expansion rather than the development of new business sectors.
Both companies are claiming that the move is more about sharing the same corporate vision of enhancing people’s health and wellbeing. Unilever will be able to provide strong support to Blueairthrough its vast distribution coverage as it was the second largest player in the global home care market in 2015. And, the acquisition will help Unilever to expand its vision under its sustainable living plan. As part of this, the company has focused on its water purifying business for several years now, with Pureit made available in 12 countries and the acquisition of Chinese water purification company Quinyuan in 2014. So, it would seem as though the company is heading towards adding improved airquality efforts to its long-term plans.
Top 10 Global Air Purifier Companies by Volume Share: 2015
source : Euromonitor International
Yes, everyone is jumping on the air purifiers’ bandwagon
Air purifiers’ global growth is so high that it is not considered niche for companies any more. However, sales are heavily dependent on so few countries that the top five markets accounted for 90% of total volume sales in 2015. Out of these top five, three are in Asia Pacific, reflecting the strong performance of Asian players in these markets. This is not surprising considering that airpollution is not getting any better in the region, with PM2.5 and haze. Poor air quality in the region has helped Asian companies, such as Sharp Corp and Panasonic Corp, grow rapidly since 2012 due to demand from Asian consumers and a focus on developing features required in Asia Pacific, such as mosquito catcher air purifiers launched by Sharp last year. Alongside competition from existing players, including Daikin Industries Ltd, Jarden Corp, and Honeywell International Inc, competition from Chinese companies is expected to increase as they are eager to invest and develop as China’sair pollution keeps creating demand from consumers.
As competition is expected to increase in the forecast period, air purifier companies is focusing on developing products that use technology through connectivity. Now, making products more convenient through collaboration with electronic devices is becoming more popular. Euromonitor International forecasts that 19% of air purifiers will be connected ones by 2020. Blueair launched Sense+, a Wi-Fi-enabled air purification system, in 2015. The company has also launched the Bluefriend app to report on outdoor air quality. Yet, Blueair can never be relieved as expectations are high when it comes to technology with connectivity and this is driving development at a fast pace. For instance, Dyson Appliances Ltd has launched Pure Cool Link,a fan and air purifier which is linked to an app, thus combining multifunction and connectivity.
Blueair to be in the battle
As a key player in air purifiers, Blueair has forged a strong reputation in the industry. As a result of its sale, reaching out to more consumers will be guaranteed through Unilever’s broad distribution channels. Blueair should focus on competitor movement and technology development relevant to the regions it is present in. The company is likely to look more to new regions like Latin America and Africa and the Middle East. In addition to global expansion, it will need to keep developing new features and functions in order to maintain its battle with competitors.