Antibacterial soap manufacturers modify products for more market share

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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