March 2001: Volume 43, Number 3
Creative Marketing: Water Treatment Seeks a Place in `The Healthy Home`
by David H. Martin
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This January’s International Housewares Show was Chicago’s annual trade show for the $67-billion U.S. housewares industry, which last year included $120.9 million in combined pour-through filter pitcher and end-of-faucet filter sales, according to HomeWorld Business.
Category unit sales declined from 4.18 million pitchers in 1999 to 4.13 million units sold in 2000. Dollar sales of pitchers rose slightly from $71.06 million to $71.77 million in 2000. Pour-throughs still command a 61.7 per cent share of market at retail -- dollar share is 58.9 percent.
Brita remains the “category killer” in flow-through filter pitchers, with an estimated 80 percent market share, though its once-sizzling sales growth has cooled in the last two years. Always the heaviest advertiser in the consumer water treatment category, Brita will spend more than $70 million in print and TV ads in 2001. Twenty-nine million dollars will be spent on pitcher replacement filters; another $25 million will be spent to promote faucet filters. Millions more will be put behind pitcher promotion, according to Deedee Hickerman, Brita’s category sales planning manager.
Emphasis is now on replacement cartridge sales, where price competition is anticipated. Culligan’s “universal” cartridges fit both PUR and Brita pitchers. Suggested retail is $5.00 each and $14.99 for a three-pack. Brita’s Hickerman said the company would soon offer larger multi-packs of replacement filters to encourage more frequent changes: “The average Brita pitcher owner changes filters only 2.7 times per year. We would like to raise that figure to six times per year.”
For the second straight year, faucet filters were the fastest-growing segment of the retail water improvement market. Unit sales rose from 1.4 million in 1999 to 1.83 million in 2000. Dollar sales climbed from $37.8 million to $49.14 million in 2000. The 26.5 percent unit share indicates that faucet filters are becoming the entry-level products of choice for many Americans. Dollar share is up to 34.3 percent.
Brita claims to have taken over category leadership from PUR in 2000, behind its unit with built-in LED filter replacement indicator. PUR showed substantially the same product line as a year ago, adding only one black color unit for fashion appeal. The Proctor & Gamble Division is currently distributing its new packaging, first seen at the 2000 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show last spring.
Countertop filtration and purification
Countertop water improvement products, unpopular in the United States due to the “countertop clutter factor,” represented only 1 percent share of market in 2000 with a 1.6 percent dollar share.
Culligan and H2O International again showed carbon filter countertops. (H2O combines GAC carbon with KDF redox media.) Talhin/T Corporation again showed its unique slim-profile countertop filtration unit, called Aqua Life, that actually fits behind most faucets. Genesis also debuted a line of carbon block countertop units.
Ozone appliances debut
Fantom’s Calypso water purification system incorporates "activated oxygen" or ozone (O3) to kill waterborne microorganisms. Now NSF certified and ready to ship, the unit is said to also remove a wide range of volatile organic compounds. The batch-fill corona discharge unit contains a computer-controlled monitoring system to ensure the dispensed water is disinfected. Suggested retail is $229, and $39.95 for 750-gallon replacement filters. First seen at last year’s Housewares Show, the Calypso’s anticipated 2000 introduction was delayed pending NSF certification.
Waterpik previewed its still-to-be-named household disinfecting and sanitizing system that utilizes natural ozone and tap water to kill 99.99 percent (4 log reduction) of bacteria and viruses on contact. Representing a new product in the “healthy home” category, the Waterpik ozonation system addresses growing concerns about E.coli and salmonella. According to Waterpik’s director of marketing, Stanzi Prell, the system “kills bacteria and viruses found on almost any kitchen item including knives, cutting boards, baby bottles. And it’s a bactericidal rinse for fruits and vegetables.” Suggested retail is $99 to $149.
The “healthy home” shower filter category was less robust year with the withdrawal of Waterpik’s KDF filters. Also missing: Holmes Group’s Polinex shower filters seen at last year’s show.
Sprite Industries, the only true specialist in shower filters, once again led the field with new shower filter configurations and advanced styling in keeping with mainstream showerhead evolution. New products shown in Chicago included a nylon hose-mount, hand-held filtering showerhead with three-way spray (Model HH). Also new was its unique hose-filter that attaches to any existing hand-held shower head (Model HF). Sprite uses a patented filtration media called KDF Chlorgon that performs well under high water temperature and pH conditions. Sprite’s share of market in the retail shower filter category may well approach Brita’s dominant market share in filter pitchers.
Home water coolers, cabinet POU
Addico Products Inc., a division of Oasis, showed its line of Addi water coolers for the housewares trade. Cylindrical refrigerated units come in white and black colors with metallic accents. Addi coolers feature rigid covers that conceal the bottles. The company also showed its Addico Pro cabinet point-of-use (POU) system with cylindrical styling and cover.
Import appliance manufacturer, Avanti, showed four models of hot/cold coolers, including two with built-in refrigerators. MTM/Elkay showed its line of cylindrical cabinet water coolers for homes and offices. Just Water Filtration showed an original line of ceramic jugs with carbon filters. The jugs come in a variety of colors and feature brass faucets.
Pitcher filter sales flattened out in 2000, while faucet filters remained the growth leader in housewares channels. Faucet filter manufacturers showed nothing really new at the 2001 International Housewares Show, though advertising and packaging placed emphasis on contaminants related to “health concerns.” Perhaps next year will see new faucet- mount models dealing with such contaminants as arsenic and MTBE. (Culligan did show its undercounter system rated for MTBE, first seen at last spring’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.) New ozone products fit the “healthy home” theme of the International Housewares Show, and may be the forerunners of a new generation of full-spectrum retail products (perhaps including reverse osmosis) that deal with more classes of contaminants.
About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Martin Marketing of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.lenzimartin.com
ANALYSIS: Unhealthy margins and 'healthy home' products
A handful of giant discount retailers wield tremendous price pressure on product vendors, including water filter manufacturers. Price increases have been unacceptable for more than a year, resulting in lower margins and little money for product innovation. Yet, these same giant retailers constantly seek new products and designs that catch consumers’ eyes and create in-store excitement. More and more, they want to deal with only a few, larger manufacturers in each category. Suppliers who support their brands with attractive packaging, national advertising and NSF-certified products have a definitive edge over smaller housewares vendors.
Like many trade shows today, the International Housewares Show is confronted with a consolidating base of attendees and exhibitors. On the retail side, consolidation means fewer corporate headquarters and fewer buyers attending the shows. Powerful buyers at giant retailers have come to expect suppliers to come to them for private new product presentations. Show attendance suffers.
On the exhibitor side, consolidation means fewer competitors with a need or desire to exhibit. The show’s credibility as a vital industry resource suffers. There are no easy answers to declining attendance and exhibitor figures.
-- David H. Martin