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Soap opera: Eye on Future, HUL launches laundry brand after 30 years

HUL's new laundry brand launch is reminiscent of its introduction of Wheel detergent in 1988 to take on Nirma.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 16, 2019, 09.48 AM IST
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MUMBAI: Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is launching a new laundry brand after three decades that appears to be aimed at the country’s biggest retailer Future Group. The latter recently cut HUL’s shelf space by nearly a third in the segment to make space for Future’s own line of detergent liquid and powder products.

The new liquid detergent product from parent Unilever’s portfolio, Love Home and Planet, will be HUL’s fifth fabric wash brand, and is expected to be launched next month, said two officials aware of the development.

The move is reminiscent of HUL’s introduction of Wheel detergent in 1988 to take on Nirma, which had dislodged Surf as washing powder of choice in middleclass and lower-middleclass Indian homes. HUL’s other detergent brands are Rin, Surf Excel and Sunlight and the company accounts for a third of India’s Rs 24,000 crore laundry market.

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Common Features
HUL is also hoping to score on the green front with an environmentally friendly product.

While HUL declined to comment, Future Group said its liquid detergent brand Voom’s positioning is “caring for fabric and fashion”, something that’s new in a segment that thrives on stain removal. “We feel existing laundry makers will follow this narrative but our pricing and fashion push will be far more competitive,” said Ashni Biyani, managing director of Future Consumer Ltd, the group’s consumer goods arm that introduced the product last week.

The two brands from HUL and Future Group have some common features. They are being marketed as liquid detergents that are largely aimed at urban, modern trade consumers. Both are targeting millennials through fashion — HUL’s launch will be at Lakme Fashion Week next month while Future Consumer’s brand is being sold across its fashion stores such as FBB, Brand Factory and Central.

The similarities stop there, analysts said.

“Globally, liquid format accounts for a larger chunk of the laundry sales and consumers are also gradually moving to more clean, less harsh and environment friendly products,” said Abneesh Roy, executive vice president, Edelweiss Securities. “HUL’s new product merges both these trends and the launch is triggered by premiumisation and sustainability strategy, and not to copy competition.”

Unilever has what it hopes will be another ace up its sleeve. The brand is part of its newest line of vegan and plant-based, homecare products in the fabric-care, dish-wash and surface-care segments launched in the US earlier this year. The ingredients are said to be plant-based and ethically sourced and the products have recyclable packaging. In India, Unilever Ventures has invested in vegan and organic skincare startup Pureplay Skin Sciences, which sells skin and hair care products under brands Plum and Phy.

HUL’s product will be priced at about Rs 350, more than double Future’s Voom, which has a tag of Rs 150 for a litre pack. At Rs 225, P&G’s premium liquid detergent brand Ariel is also priced lower.
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