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Competition in Fabric Deodorant Market Heats Up (November 14, 2005)

Spraying a jacket with Febreze
Two companies are engaged in a battle to gain the upper hand in the Japanese market for fabric deodorant sprays, and the secret weapon they are deploying is green tea. P&G has until now dominated the market thanks to its Febreze products, which many consumers use to keep their clothes and fabrics smelling fresh. Now, however, a new entrant is taking a big chunk of this market. The product is Resesh, produced by Kao Corp., and its key ingredient is green tea. According to Kao, the tea is an effective and natural way of combating bad odors and even bacteria. Resesh has already grabbed a 30% share of the market for fabric deodorants since it was rolled out in August 2005, according to market analysts.

The Sweet Smell of Success
In Japan, P&G's market dominance dates back to 1999, when it introduced Febreze. Sales of the product grew steadily during the following years, as the market for fabric deodorants ballooned. During 2004, however, Febreze's sales started to plateau. Even so, the market had grown to around ¥8 billion (about $70 million at ¥115 to the dollar) by that point.

Now that its new product is on the shelves, Kao expects further growth in the years ahead. "As long as the right conditions are in place, we believe the market will expand even further," a company spokesperson says.

The idea to use green tea in a deodorant spray stems from a survey conducted by Kao. The research found that while consumers were interested in using deodorants on such things as running shoes and suits, many were resistant to the idea of spraying items that come into direct contact with their skin. "Eliminating this resistance would provide considerable scope for growth in sales," the survey concluded.

The solution, the firm decided, was green tea. The tea's natural ingredients give consumers a sense of assurance and mean the product does not get sticky after it has been sprayed on. Furthermore, catechin, a substance found in abundance in green tea, has deodorizing and anti-bacterial properties.

Kao's Resesh (Jiji)

P&G Strikes Back
This is not the first time that Kao has entered the market for fabric deodorant sprays. The company came out with a spray as part of the Will brand, which was launched as a joint project in 2000 by a number of companies, including Kao and Toyota Motor Corp. However, the spray failed to catch on among consumers. "The product wasn't distinctive enough, and our target market of young women was too narrow," the Kao spokesperson explains.

This time around, Kao officials are taking a very different approach. For one, they are stressing the difference between their product and Febreze, which contains corn extract. What is more, the target market has been broadened to include housewives who do not take their husbands' suits to the cleaners all that often and female office workers who want to get rid of the smell of cigarettes and other things on their clothes before going out to socialize after work. "By uncovering these new needs, we can expand the market by a factor of 1.3 and secure a 30% market share in Japan."

P&G, meanwhile, is not taking this lying down. In mid-September it released a new version of Febreze featuring green-tea extract. The company has also unveiled a non-spray Febreze product that only needs to be stored with clothes to deodorize them.

As these two firms compete to outdo each other in the quest for better fabric deodorants, the only clear winner is the Japanese consumer.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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