Detergent Development & Testing Solutions

When people think of product performance testing and analysis they generally think about competitive claims and quality.  In some cases these aspects of testing are considered solely the area of new product development, but nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Product performance testing and analysis is an excellent way to track your product’s market competition and compare how well your product meets the requirements of the target market.  For example, if you have a mid-priced laundry powder in supermarkets, it is competing against a host of other mid-priced products.  If your product is under delivering you may be missing out on sales because it is not meeting consumer expectations. 

On the other hand, if your product is over performing, you are giving consumers more performance than they need or expect and possibly missing out on profits.  By ensuring that your product meets the performance of key market players, you are targeting the market with an optimised formulation.  This is why competitor benchmarking is so important, to make sure you are walking the fine line between consumer satisfaction and maximum profitability.

This example applies to all products, because no matter which market you are targeting, there are several competitors trying to win the same business.  By making certain your products are optimised and targeted, you are giving yourself the best opportunity to win the business and remain profitable.

D-Labs is a product development and testing consultancy specialising in performance testing of detergents.  We test detergents compared to competitor products and help target formulations if your product is not specific for the target market.  We can also reformulate your products to meet performance targets with better margins. 

If you have never tested your products how can you be sure that they are right for their intended market?

Some interesting news has just been announced.  Colgate-Palmolive Australia has followed the same direction as their international branches, and sold off their laundry brands.

As detailed in the Henkel website, Henkel have purchased all of the Colgate-Palmolive liquid and powder laundry detergents as well as the prewash brands.  This means Cold Power, Dynamo, Fab, Sard, Kindness, Spree and Hurricane.

This is a massive step by Henkel to move into the Australian laundry detergent market and will have an enormous impact on the market and the competition.  According to the Henkel announcement this will give them the #1 market position in for laundry detergents in Australia, and the #2 position for laundry detergents in New Zealand.

It will be interesting to see how the main competitors in the market, such as PZ Cussons and Unilever, react to this announcement.

It will also be fascinating to see how Henkel tackle this new market as well.  Will we see formulation alignment with their products in other international markets, will they maintain the Australian brands as regional variants, or will they roll the Australian brands out internationally?

For those interested in the numbers, according to the Henkel site...

·         The purchased Colgate-Palmolive brands generated sales of approximately €110 million in the 2014 fiscal year;

·         The purchase price was equivalent to €220 million and will be financed in cash.

According to the Henkel announcement, the strategic rationale behind the acquisition is:

·         Cover laundry & home care white spot for Australia & New Zealand;

·         Immediately reach No. 1 position in laundry category in Australia;

·         Leading positions across price segments & product categories, #1 in the liquids segment;

Overall it looks to be an interesting year in the Australian laundry scene.

A recent report in Retail World has outlined a change in the performance of products in the household cleaning category linked to changes in the lifestyles of Australians.

Australians are reportedly looking for more than just performance when making their decision to purchase, it appears that there is a trend to look at alternative aspects including:

-          Safer products – both for the environment and the family;

-          Efficiency – products that do more while taking up less space.

The shift to more efficient products has been attributed to consumers moving closer to cities and therefore having less storage space, so more efficient products are needed to accommodate this shift.

I am sure all of us working in the industry have seen the shift to safer products, with a demand for products that are not only safer for the environment but also for the consumer.  This shift to safer/environmental products has been seen around the globe and was the topic of many of the presentations at the World Conference on Fabric and Home Care in Montreux (see previous blog).  All of the major manufacturers noted this shift in consumer attitude, however they also noted that consumer expectation is that these attributes will be delivered with no drop in performance or increase in price.  Definitely a major challenge.

There a brands that market purely on the safer/environmental platform, however these brands tend not to compete directly with mainstream detergents, being more niche products, and therefore are able to demand higher pricing to deliver these benefits.  They also often do not have to meet the consumer expectation for performance or price since many of their purchasers are previously from the environmental area and therefore have a lower expectation of performance and are willing to pay a premium.

The shift to more efficient products is also quite familiar to many of us with many of the product launches occurring over the past few years being more compact products offering multiple benefits with an “ease of use” platform, such as tablets and pods.

The fact that the report in Retail World has indicated that these “shifts” in the attitude of Australian consumers have affected the performance of products in the market shows that the industry is not delivering on these consumer expectations. 

There is still a lot of work to do on achieving high performing products for a competitive price that meet consumer expectation.

We have just spent a week in Montreux at the World Conference on Fabric and Home Care and I must say the choice of city was inspired.  The mountains around Montreux and Lake Geneva were absolutely beautiful and the weather was spectacular.

Focusing on the conference, the key take home message from almost every speaker was that we need to move toward a more sustainable future if our industry is to survive.  Since each and every speaker mentioned this, it is obvious that all of the major players in the industry are committed to achieving key goals in this area.

One of the often mentioned reasons for this move towards sustainability was the predicted global population growth reaching 9 billion people by 2050.  Based on current estimates it is unlikely that the planet can sustain such a large number of people if industries such as the detergent industry, do not move away from using food sources as feedstocks for the materials we use.

Much of the information provided over the course of the conference was focussed on sustainable materials and thinking outside the box to achieve these materials and utilise them in products.  Almost every speaker stated that in order to achieve their development goals it was important to bring in key development partners to either take the place of their development teams where necessary, or to expand and compliment their internal development team. 

As an example of using external experts for development projects, Procter & Gamble have recently completed a successful project in association with Dow to develop a process for the production of cellulosic ethanol from corn husks and stalks, rather than from the corn kernels.  The success of this project means that ethanol can be produced from a waste product of a food source giving almost 100% utilisation of this specific food source which is needed moving forward to 2050 and 9 billion people.

Of course, these projects are an excellent example of what can be done but such technologies face massive challenges with regard to balancing return on investment and consumer expectation.  As usual consumer expectation is that the sustainable products will deliver the same (or better) results as their traditional product for the same price.  It appears that all speakers agreed that mainstream consumers were willing to use a more sustainable product but were not willing to pay more for it, meaning greater pressure to find ways to make sustainable products with the highest possible return on investment.

In order to balance the return on investment while still delivering on their development goals, many of the larger manufacturers are utilising development partners to bring in specific expertise for specific projects.  The upshot of this approach is that there are no delays while internal teams learn the background information for a given project, nor is there a necessity to maintain experts for each product type with no current projects for them.  The expert is only used for the period necessary to achieve the project goals, no longer.  This aids in flexibility while maintaining speed to market and reducing development costs through faster project turnaround.

Effectively, this approach means a win-win-win.  Projects are completed faster and at a lower overall cost (win!), products are on the shelf sooner to tap into market demands and start bringing in profits (win!) and newer, more sustainable materials are able to be implemented faster helping our environment and the sustainability of our industry into the future (WIN!).

The AOCS World Conference on Fabric and Home Care is taking place in Montreux on 6th – 9th October. This event only takes place every two years and is considered the “premier international event in the industry”. 

The conference attracts people from all facets of the industry - from technical to top level executives - to foster discussion on global research, technology, products and trends. Speakers include Michitaka Sawada, President and CEO of Kao Corporation, Giannia Ciserani, Group President (Global Fabric and Home Care) at Procter & Gamble and Jürgen Kielholz, Vice President R&D Hygiene Home at Reckitt Benckiser to name just a few. The program is split over 3 days covering key aspects of the fabric and home care detergents industry.

D-Labs is sending three delegates to ensure we keep up to date with all aspects of the fabric and home care detergent industry, from technical advances to the latest trends around the world. To help keep you up to date as well, we will be reporting back via this news feed and Dr. Peter Richardt’s blog.

If you would like to know more about the conference, the website is: http://montreux.aocs.org/index.cfm?navItemNumber=494

I’m sure by now that you have heard that PZ Cussons Australia & New Zealand has purchased the organic yoghurt brand five:am.
 
Although the food aspect is not necessarily of great interest to detergent manufacturers, it is good to know what the major players in the industry are doing.

According to PZ Cussons, the acquisition adds to momentum in the food and nutrition category and reinforces the strategy to build a strong portfolio of nutritious Australian food brands alongside well-known brands in personal care and home care such as Radiant, Morning Fresh, Original Source and Imperial Leather.