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Powerful and loveable: Future detergents and cleaning products need to fulfil many demands at once

Detergents and Cleaning Products

Innovations on the detergents and cleaning products market only catch on when they combine technological advantages with answers to the legal requirements, social trends and consumer demands. And that is precisely what is going to get increasingly difficult to achieve in the future. This was the bottom line of the tenth Fresenius conference for the detergents and cleaning products industry, which took place on 26 and 27 April in Mainz – a conference which was hosted by Akademie Fresenius with the support of experts from the product development, market research and quality management sectors in Germany and Europe.

Glorious future for dishwashing liquids?

Mónica Ochoa Ruiz, Marketing Manager at DuPont Industrial Biosciences in the Netherlands, looked at the market for ADW gel formats. Gels enjoy different levels of popularity throughout Europe. Whereas the market penetration of gels in the whole automatic dishwashing has reached 20 percent in Italy, the penetration in Germany is only one percent. "Germans don’t buy the gels because either they are new to them or because they seem to be too expensive”, Mónica Ochoa Ruiz observed. In her view, gels still have a lot of potential. She expects their share of the market to grow considerably – particularly in Spain and Italy, but also in Germany. She is convinced that: “Gels can offer competitive cleaning power. Enzymes are key to improving performance”. 

Emotional promises more important than cleaning power?

Stephan Telschow of the GIM market research institute evaluated the importance of cleaning power in the decision to purchase somewhat differently: “The story of functional performance improvements is told to an end.” In his opinion, consumers are no longer convinced by promises such as “Now even better” or “Whiter than white!” More important than cleaning power are emotional advantages, aesthetics and simple usage. According to his observations, new detergents and cleaning products primarily contain emotional promises: “We are cute, honest and loveable”. As an example, he quoted fabric softeners that promised to be beneficial to and spoil the user. However, Telschow also warned the marketing experts about overexaggerating: “A fabric softener will always be a fabric softener and cannot be turned into a spa through marketing”. 

Cleaning robots are changing markets and habits

Cleaning robots are going to bring about huge changes for cleaning product manufacturers: Electronic helpers that can relieve people of at least some of the burden of manual cleaning. Telschow recommended that product developers and marketing experts prepared themselves for the new demands and wishes that customers associate with cleaning robots: Time savings, ease of usage and that wonderful feeling of not having to completely give up being in control of what is cleaned and how.

Fabric softeners: Interchangeable and lacking attributes that differentiate them?

Barbara Dücker of the Danish biotechnology company Novozymes presented a consumer study on laundry care. This study clearly showed that the consumer can hardly differentiate between various fabric softeners. The products of all the brand names make the same promise: 91 percent advertise fragrance, the most important promise of the last five years. This claim does not allow a brand to differentiate itself. Apart from this, this promise is also not a long-term one: The wonderful aroma only lasts for one washing cycle. Suppliers that really want to stand out from the competition should really look into what the customer wants, Dücker said. If someone really listens, they will also find out which unsatisfied needs are the ones that really count. Barbara Dücker went on to reveal one unsatisfied need to the participants at the Fresenius congress: 71 percent of those interviewed in the study complained about fuzz and pills in and on their clothes, whereby only 15 percent of the brands examined promised fabric care. In Dücker’s eyes, this was a clear example of dormant potential that was just waiting to be discovered by the product and marketing experts.

Palm oil production: Sustainability problem remains virulent

Roughly every second supermarket product contains palm oil, including many detergents and cleaning products. As the growing use of palm oil is contributing to the deforestation of the tropical forests, the demand for sustainable palm oil is now one of the major challenges facing environmentally-conscious companies. Judith Murdoch from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) provided an overview of the worldwide production and usage of palm oil. In 2017, 62 million tons of palm oil were consumed. Experts forecast that due to the worldwide increase in population and increasing demand, consumption will rise to 240 million tons. Detergent and cleaning product manufacturers (home and personal care) consume around 70,000 to 120,000 tons of palm oil and its derivatives every year. 

The nature conservation organisation WWF founded the RSPO in 2004. Its members are involved in or affected by palm oil production in a number of different ways and include: Palm oil farmers, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, banks and non-governmental organisations, such as WWF and Oxfam. The goal pursued by the Roundtable is to get as many people and organisations as possible to adhere to transparent minimum standards. 

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