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Bars of soap gaining popularity in UK

Tim Nancholas

Strategic Insight Director

Shoppers 18.01.2019 / 15:00

LAVENDER SOAP BAR

In an effort to reduce plastic usage, UK consumers are turning to good old-fashioned bar soap, finds Kantar Worldpanel.

It’s a story that has sparked plenty of media interest in the UK this week. The nostalgic, aesthetic and – crucially – environmentally-friendly facets of ‘the rise of bar soap’ seem to resonate strongly with the British public.

Liquid soap became popular in the 1990s, but in the year to September 2018, shoppers spent £68.3m on bars of soap, up £2m on the year before. Sales are growing at 3%, faster than liquid soaps and shower gel products. At Waitrose, sales of bar soap are up 20% year on year, based on Kantar Worldpanel figures. 

Last year, Kantar Worldpanel found* that 44% of people are now ‘more concerned’ about single-use plastic, and 70% say they play to shop more sustainably, using alternatives or buying less.

Indeed, 49% of bar soap users agree that they ‘avoid products harmful to the environment’ and this has grown from 43% last year. 42% agree that they choose/prefer natural products – which is in line with total consumers.

Similarly, work conducted by Kantar TNS last year found that many shoppers are thinking about reducing the amount of plastic packaging in the world. 63% of Brits are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about reducing the amount of packaging they require, particularly when it comes to plastic bottles and plastic bags, as well as single-use cups and straws. Indeed, when it comes to the factors that shoppers take into account when making a purchase, packaging concerns’ are now the highest of the various environmental considerations, with 17% saying it is important to them.

What this study uncovered was that older people were likely to be more concerned about plastic, and this plays out in the data around bars of soap. They are much more likely to be used by 55-74 year olds than other age groups, and Kantar Worldpanel data also shows that 55+ are more likely to agree that they avoid products harmful to the environment (50% v 46% of 11-55s).

With publicity to date focused on straws, takeaway coffee cups and plastic bottles, it seems consumers are looking even closer to home and making small but important changes in their bathrooms to counter the environmental harm caused by plastic waste.

Of course, part of the increase could also be linked to the luxury brands who are embracing this trend. Bar soaps are now slightly more indulgent than they have been in the past, as there is now a bigger opportunity for a more premium offering.

Source: Kantar Worldpanel, Kantar TNS

Editor's notes

*Based on 21,545 Shoppix app responses, collected on 11 May 2018;

* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of FMCG market, please contact us ;

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