Tuesday, September 19, 2000

P&G hopes to clean up with tablets

Premeasured soap popular in Europe

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Procter & Gamble has added premeasured laundry tablets to its lineup of Tide products, aiming to squeeze more sales out of its flagship detergent brand.

        The Cincinnati-based consumer-goods maker has pledged to focus more on Tide and its other big brands after a year in which spending on new products was blamed for disappointing sales and earnings and a more than 40 percent drop in the company's share price.

        P&G began shipping Tide Rapid Action Tablets to retailers Monday.

        The tablets have a special coating formulated to dissolve immediately in the washer, releasing cleaning and stain-fighting agents.

        The seltzer-like detergent disks come in two-tablet packs, sufficient for most single-load washing machines, P&G said.

        Consumer tests indicate Tide laundry tablets will be well-received in the United States, Craig Bahner, P&G's marketing director for U.S. laundry products, said.

        “We believe that tablets will create a whole new generation of Tide lovers,” Mr. Bahner said.

        That wasn't the case with P&G's first entrant in the category.

        P&G discontinued its Salvo brand laundry tablets in 1978 after consumers complained that the tablets often did not dissolve well.

        P&G said it has fixed the problem and points to the successful launch of its Ariel brand laundry tablets in Europe as evidence.

        In Britain, where Ariel — Tide's European counterpart — was introduced in tablet form last year, tablets command about 20 percent of the $1.5 billion laundry market.

        That figure includes laundry tablets from P&G's archrival Unilever, which also sells laundry tablets in Europe and plans a U.S. introduction in December.

        The U.S. market is much larger, accounting for about $6 billion in laundry detergent sales annually.


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