The CSPA InnoVention Conference, hosted from May 6-7 in Chicago at the Downtown Marriott, is an annual showcase of product trends and development surrounding the home care market. It brings together international players from different backgrounds including manufacturers, retailers, ingredient producers and market experts. Euromonitor International US Research Analyst Tim Barrett was pleased to present there, bringing to light some important packaging trends within home care, with a special focus on universal design.
Universal Design and the Current Global Market
Product design based on the core value of equal accessibility for the elderly, disabled, and able-bodied alike is more eloquently known as universal design. In a nutshell, these products strive to be efficient, easy to use, and to provide the same results regardless of the user’s age or ability. Home care manufacturers have sought to incorporate the principals of universal design into their products in order to make their goods more attractive and useful to a wider proportion of the population.
Products which are manufactured with universal design in mind will become increasingly important as the global population evolves. As fertility rates across the developed world and even some emerging economies have dropped below 2.1 children per couple, the prospect of aging populations is inevitable for many countries. By 2030 it is predicted that there will be about 1 billion people over the age of 65, twice as many as there were in 2000. Japan faces the worst of this crisis, but the US, Germany, and even China will all face a future where over 20% of their respective populations are those over the age of 65, making these markets impossible to ignore.
In addition to aging populations, producers will have to consider other important societal trends. One is urbanization, a trend that actually skews younger. While younger consumers in cities may not need universally designed products due to a lack of dexterity, they do appreciate products which take up space and are more environmentally conscious. They also tend to be more ambivalent to cleaning, making product efficiency and ease of use that much more important.
Current Product Innovations
In order to capitalize on these markets, designers have been formulating new packaging designs that adhere to the tenants of universal design for many years now. Often these innovations have in the home care space focused on four different areas of improvement: dose efficiency, better delivery mechanisms, clearer product information, and lighter, more attractive packaging. Improving dose efficiency has been frequently talked about due to the introduction and success of Procter & Gamble’s Tide Pods in the US early in 2012. This pre-packaged dose format limits overdosing, cuts out the time it takes to measure doses, and can add value via additional products, like colour brighteners.
Improved delivery mechanisms are often conceptualized via spray mechanisms in home care. Clorox’s Smart Tube Technology, where the outtake tube was brought to the lowest possible point in the bottle, ensures customers that they can get more use out of this product than similarly-sized traditional bottles. To see how producers may better inform potential consumers, look to Japan’s Lion Corp.’s redesign of their Barusan insecticide with larger, coloured pictures and more detailed step-by-step instructions. As a final focus area, package designers can simply pare down their packages, making them lighter and more attractive. As an example, SC Johnson’s Chinese brand, Mr. Muscle, was designed with less plastic in the head and bottle, making it 9% lighter and saving more than 900,000 pounds of resin a year according to the company.
Price Point and Sustainability as Future Focal Points
Moving forward, a few things must be considered given the home care market and its current trajectory. Global home care value growth has hovered around 1% for the past two years. Considering the rather static nature of the top producers and brands, tepid growth, and a growing cultural desire to spend as little time cleaning as possible, it appears as though home care is a rather mature category. Given this maturity, people today are largely concerned about price. Innovation is nice, but many refuse to pay too much for it without a noticeably better outcome. This is particularly important for the elderly, as they are often on fixed incomes, and frequently more rural and less educated, particularly within developing economies.
Sustainability may very well be the best bet for approaching this goal, and this need not come from a purely environmentally-based strategy. More efficient products which allow consumers to use less product per application and in a quick and complete way cut costs on three fronts—resources, waste, and time. One avenue for this is via concentrates, which cut down on water and space used. They even recently redefined the bleach market so that concentrated bleach is now the new norm. Other non-home care related innovations, like increasingly sophisticated cleaning robots, threaten a large portion of future sales due to their ease of use. Home care manufacturers need to keep an eye on these threats, all while bringing low costs & incremental innovation to consumers in order to drive increasing sales in markets across the globe.