Customers are scooping up packages and bottles of ultra laundry detergent in record numbers. But do they know how to use them? Some retailers aren't so sure.
Tom Longwell, a buyer for Kroger's Columbus division, Westerville, Ohio, said he thinks many customers are still using the amounts required by regular-strength detergents. He said manufacturers need to drive the point home to consumers.
Ned Meara, grocery merchandising manager for Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J., agreed. "I wonder if we've gotten to a point where we're confusing the customer. I think the manufacturers did a poor job in their initial efforts to explain to the customer what this is; that it's a smaller container, but you use less and you get just as many washes out of it.
"That message needs to be conveyed in advertising a lot stronger than it has been. The ultras may have come across as a 'new and improved' when they're really a new product," said Meara.
A buyer for a Western retailer, who requested anonymity, said he doesn't doubt that some people have not caught on. "I don't know what the answer is. You can only hope they read the directions before they use the products," he said.
Jim Barch, vice president of marketing for Church & Dwight, Princeton, N.J., which makes Arm & Hammer products, said, "As silly as this sounds, when you ask people to put a little bit of liquid or a little bit of powder in their washing machine, that is more of a habit change than you might initially think. There is an adjustment period.
"Even though P&G has tried and Lever has tried to educate people -- everyone has -- there's still a fair bit of education that needs to happen. It may be because the job is tougher than we thought."
Barch said to look for more change. "The ultras are here to stay and you should probably look for further concentration over the next few years."