Diversified conglomerate ITC is launching a soap and body wash under its recently introduced Savlon Hexa brand, as the maker of Aashirvaad flour, Vivel soaps and Yippee! Noodles raises the ante against Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol and Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s Lifebuoy in the race to capture the growing personal and home hygiene products market amid the covid-19 pandemic.
“At this point of time, consumers are still looking for a lot of solutions and are consuming these products at a very fast go, so we expect to be bullish on the personal hygiene category this year,” Sameer Satpathy, Chief Executive, personal care products business, ITC Ltd said.
Covid is likely to accelerate Savlon’s growth in the Indian market where it is yet to turn into a Rs 500 crore brand.
ITC acquired Savlon from Johnson & Johnson in 2015, marking its foray in the disinfectant and antiseptic liquids market dominated by Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol that was introduced in India in 1933.
Savlon was subsequently extended to the hand wash segment in 2016; it entered the hand sanitizer market in 2018. It currently has a portfolio comprising—soaps, hand wash, disinfectant liquid, and sanitizers.
ITC has launched over four to five products under Savlon since cases of covid-19 started to surge in India, taking the lead along with other companies such as HUL, CavinKare, Reckitt Benckiser, Marico that have struck the market with products such as laundry sanitisers, germ protection wipes, surface disinfectants and vegetable cleaners as eager consumers buy into new home and personal hygiene categories.
These companies have also ramped up manufacturing and diverted more resources to sanitizers—a peripheral category in the pre-covid world.
“We are launching a new product every 15 days, we hope to maintain that pace in the next few months,” said Satpathy who declined to share investments on new launches that will also see the company aggressively advertise these products.
Starting April, ITC launched a Savlon Hexa sanitizer—which will now be extended into soaps and body washes.
It also launched a Savlon surface disinfectant spray and a Nimwash vegetable and fruit wash; a Savlon sanitizer sachet was introduced at 50 paise and Savlon Germ Protection Wipes.
ITC isn’t alone though, since March, HUL ramped up production of sanitizers by 100 times, according to a report by Edelweiss Securities.
The pace of launches across the personal and home hygiene category is on an upswing. The category will see growth at least for the next two quarters, said analysts.
“Currently the consumer is willing to spend anything on health, hygiene and protection; these things will remain for the next two quarters definitely because coronavirus is not going anywhere,” said Abneesh Roy of Edelweiss Securities.
Late in March, ITC repurposed a perfume plant to ramp up the production of Savlon sanitizer production.
Roy added that ITC has been “very aggressive the last four or five months”. Aggressive companies will gain market share from smaller players, he said. However, in the long run Savlon will have to gain market share from Dettol and Lifebuoy, he said.
Satpathy added that over the last few months, ‘not only has the core grown’ but innovation has added on top has led to ‘profitable growth’.
While companies disproportionately invest in building hygiene portfolios—it remains to be seen whether these categories will last beyond covid.
Satpathy said Covid is giving households an opportunity to try out new categories. “From our perspective we have built brands that can solve the problems of tomorrow, the time is right in India for products like wipes—which are very under-penetrated.”
However, even as ITC focuses on building Savlon, its other personal care brands such as Dermafique, Charmis Engage, and Vivel could take a back seat, especially as spends on discretionary personal care categories are projected to grow at a slower pace than personal hygiene products.
“Maybe the first few weeks people were circumspect about spending on those categories, but basic needs don’t change,” Satpathy said, adding that demand for other personal care products is intact.
The company will also launch a Vivel Neem Oil Bodywash. “Innovations can never be on pause in any category,” he said.
In 2019, soap and body wash brand Vivel, crossed Rs 500 crore on annual consumer spends.
ITC’s FMCG-others business (excluding cigarettes) reported standalone segment revenue of Rs 12844.23 crore for the year ended 31 March, 2020. This includes branded packaged food—the largest contributor to its non-cigarettes FMCG business, personal care products, apparel, education, and stationery products, safety matches and agarbattis.