Why are bar soap sales slumping? Survey says millennials to blame

(AP Image)
(AP Image)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – When it comes to how Americans use soap, it’s fair to say millennials are making a clean sweep of it. Bar soap sales are going down the drain.

Many Americans are ditching bar soap in favor of its liquid counterpart. According to information from consumer research Mintel, young people between 18 to 24 are largely snubbing the old-fashioned bar of soap, leading to sales declines for the likes of Ivory’s iconic 125-year old bar and its bar soap rivals.

The survey shows older folks who still buy bar soap are men 60 years and and older.

Between 2014 and 2015, sales of traditional bar soap — which account for roughly 30 percent of soap, bath and shower product sales — slumped by 2.2 percent, says Mintel. That occurred at the same time that soap and shower product sales rose by 2.7 percent.

Liquid body soaps accounted for 47 percent of all sales in the soap, bath and shower product category and were valued at $2.7 billion. The preference for liquid soap is largely based on a perceived “ick” factor of using bar soap to wash up.

As younger consumers and women snubbed the traditional bar in favor of liquid soap, what’s driving the generational shift? The survey shows that millennials believe bar soaps are covered in germs after they are used. Some health authorities, like Minnesota’s Department of Health, are now recommending a switch to liquid soap noting that germs can grow on bar soap and spread infections.

Mintel found that about half, 48 percent, of Americans think bar soap is covered in germs after use. Among millennials, that percentage jumps to 60 percent. Meanwhile, among Americans ages 65 and older, just 31 percent think that bar soap holds germs.

Liquid soap has something else going for it: a convenience factor that allows companies to sell new products at a higher price. Companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever are constantly tweaking their products to develop new ones to appeal to young consumers.

It may be no surprise that liquid soaps, and in-shower moisturizers, have a much higher price tag than the traditional bar of soap.

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