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Antibacterial soap manufacturers modify products for more market share

…PZ, Reckitt Benckiser, Hello still dominate

By Princewill Ekwujuru & Destiny Eseaga

ANTI-BACTERIAL soap manufacturers are modifying some of their brand elements to meet the dynamic consumer preferences. Principally the modifications involve stuffing their products with diverse fragrances and antiseptic properties. They have adopted branding strategies and positioning that tends to differentiate their products from competing brands.

They are also taking steps to cultivate existing customers with new products rather than look for new consumers with new antibacterial soap brands. The producers have also built kiosks in open markets to come closer to the consumers with direct sales and product availability.

Consumer responses: Meanwhile, some consumers are saying these measures have not impacted significantly on end users as health concerns have been major reasons for the scepticism in the market as regards chemical composition of the antibacterial soap brands. However, some consumers claimed they cannot do without bathing with antiseptic soaps, adding that the concern over the possible presence of chemicals that are inimical to their health is secondary, since they have been using the soaps for a long time.

Presence of chemicals

There are seven antiseptic soap brands in the market which include  Dettol  manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria, Safeguard produced by Procter and Gamble, P&G,    Lifebuoy, manufactured by Unilever Nigeria Plc, Premier cool, produced by PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc, Tetmosol, manufactured by Hello Products Limited, formerly Jagal Pharma Limited, Deko, produced by Deko Industries Limited and Dudu Osu from the production line of Tropical Naturals Limited.

Of these, three brands, Dettol, Premier Cool and Tetmosol, have created a marketing hype around their products that has endeared them to customers who appeared led on brand loyalty. Vanguard Companies and Markets, C&M, findings revealed that growth in antiseptic soaps usage has largely been influenced by various social, economic and demographic factors.

These include massive advertisement, brand awareness increased population, especially in the urban areas, increased income levels among consumers and good personal and social hygiene consciousness.

In addition, massive modernization of the retail sector has raised the brands awareness, especially in the urban areas where retail trade has shifted from traditional retail outlets and convenient stores to big supermarkets and hypermarkets. These modern retail outlets have not only given consumers an amazing shopping experience but in your face display and advertising opportunities to manufacturers.

C&M  findings also showed that the Nigeria antiseptic soap market is oligopolistic, where the market behaviour including prices are dictated by market leaders. Products such as  Deko and Dudu osu are adopting a discounted pricing strategy to position themselves in the market, but their impact has been subdued by the financial powers of the multinationals.

On the other hand market leaders such as PZ Cussons, Ricket Benkiser and Hello Products Limited have responded with a defensive product flanking strategy, adjusting product sizes and their corresponding prices too. These developments have, however, raised competition among manufacturers with matching product prices.

For instance, 150gram and 75gram of Dettol sells for N150 and N100 respectively. Likewise, Tetmosol as well as other competing brands of 150gram and 75gm also sell at the above prices. This strategy has effectively created a perception that their products are of  the same value also presenting an image of a class of superior quality.

A consumer, Mrs. Joy Igbandu, said she uses Dettol soap and feels better after bath, and does not require an addition of Dettol disinfectant before getting the result expected from an antibacterial soap. Another consumer, Mr. Mike Ibeabuchi, said he prefers Premier cool because it foams very well and gives him that cool effect after a hard day’s work and refreshing bath.

Mr. Peter Nwosu, a consumer, said he uses Tetmosol and has been in love with the brand overtime because of its hotness which he believes is the reason for his preferring the brand. “My skin is hard and requires something like Tetmosol.” A wholesaler at Balogun Business Area, BBA, Lagos- Badagry expressway said, “from my ledger here I think Dettol soap is leading the market despite the close range by Premier cool and Tetmosol.’’

While another wholesaler in the same market says Premier cool and Dettol soap are leading in his sales volume followed by Tetmosol.

Experts’ reactions: A dermatologist, Billy Wakorima, told C&M  that consumers resorted to antibacterial soaps because of the promise to eliminate germs. “Using antibacterial soaps goes beyond what consumers know.

These soaps contain antibacterial agents, such as triclosan and troclocarcan. Triclosan for example is harmful to the body when antibacterial soaps are used frequently, which may lead to resistance to antimicrobial agents.” According to him, “triclosan creates an environment where the resistant, mutated bacteria are more likely to survive.”

A Lagos based marketer who wants to remain anonymous said marketers see the use of these antibacterial agents by soap manufacturers purely as a marketing ploy to attract patronage.

P&G reaction: Reacting to C&M inquiries a source in Procter and Gamble, stated: “We can confirm that we removed Triclosan from our products in 2014 due to our limited use of the ingredient. This means that our Safeguard product does not contain the said ingredient. While Triclosan has been safely used in consumer products for decades and are permitted for use by regulatory agencies around the world; we made a decision to discontinue its use due to our limited use of the ingredient.

“The safety and trust of the people who use our products is the foundation of everything we do and we will not market a new ingredient or product unless it has been thoroughly reviewed prior to marketing, and the antibacterial products we market are safe and effective,” the source stated.

Rickett Benckiser  Nigeria did not reply to the inquiries posed to them on the ranging issue on the triclosan and other issues as others could not be reached as at press time.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.