Last year, one in four households purchased Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol as a hygiene product, almost 1.4 billion times. With a surge in sales, the brand witnessed 39 per cent growth, which was more than double of its 2019 growth. In Kantar’s brand footprint rankings, Dettol made it to #16 in 2020 from #27 in 2019.

With the advent of the second wave, the sales of products from RBs key hygiene portfolio, which includes Lysol, Harpic, Lifebuoy, Air wick and Finish among others, are shooting up their growth figures. In a statement, the company says that their sales in the March quarter grew by 28.5 per cent and that accounted for 47 per cent of their Rs 144,683 crore yearly revenue.

Other FMCG giants such as ITC, Godrej, HUL, Himalaya etc are also witnessing a great demand for hygiene products. In fact, the health and hygiene market has become so lucrative that almost every local brand and health tech start-up out there is looking to tap into this opportunity.

In fact, this exemplary growth rate has induced market analysts to predict that the health and hygiene market will grow at a rate of 4.5 per cent during the forecast period of 2020-25, globally. As per Industryarc Research, the health and hygiene market stood at $140.5 billion in 2019.

While in India, the personal hygiene care market is estimated to grow by $15 billion by 2023. According to Statista, the market in 2019 accounted for $11.5 billion.

It is a growth story for brands

“Unfortunately, it has taken the pandemic disrupting millions of lives and families across India, for the public to understand that how maintaining good hygiene now has a direct impact on our health and is now a necessity rather than a choice,”

says Varun Mukhi, Founder and Director at Vetro Power—maker of nanotech and clean-tech enabled hygiene products.

Earlier, despite a general awareness about its importance, hygiene consciousness among the masses was not too high on their priority lists.

But due to the level of global exposure that this topic has gained recently amidst the pandemic, people’s perceptions about sanitation and hygiene have undergone a drastic change. Now they are more serious about it.

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The sudden increase in awareness about cleanliness and sanitisation has also led to a market growth for health and hygiene players which is unprecedented. During the first wave in March 2020, sanitisers, which were beginning to be used frequently by people, sold to a magnitude never recorded before (Jan-Mar).

The product saw a 144 per cent growth in sales compared to its sales in 2019 in India. This was followed by liquid hand wash with a growth of 42 percent for the same period, according to Statista. Wipes, disinfectants, detergents, floor cleaners and soaps were flying off the shelves like never before, which also created a demand-supply gap for a short span, while their prices also jumped up two-fold.

The demand was such that FMCG companies doubled their production of health and hygiene products. Many seized this opportunity and turned their assembly lines into hygiene product manufacturing lines.

By the end of the year, sanitiser penetration was up from 1 per cent (Jan to Sept 2019) to 45.6 per cent for the same period. While the overall hand and body wash segment had grown by 12.6 per cent by the end of Q3, with full year category sales for 2020 likely to be over 15 per cent, as per Kantar’s report.

In fact, due to the dramatic refocus on hygiene, the Indian FMCG sector saw the launch of 1,897 new products during March-August in 2020. According to a Nielsen market research, this was an 18-fold jump for the Indian health and hygiene market. Before the pandemic, only 102 products were introduced from September 2019 to February 2020.

Hygiene companies are on roll

Meanwhile, along with the leading health and hygiene players, clean tech start-ups and innovative brands also grew overnight and cornered some of the market share as this is a never seen before opportunity for them too.

One such brand is Clensta—a health & hygiene start-up in association with IIT Delhi, which launched Clensta COVID protection lotion and hand sanitiser in 2020.

Puneet Gupta, its founder & CEO says, “Clensta Products are performing up to our expectations. We had seen a surge in demand during the pandemic last year. Foreseeing the demand for them this year as well, we raised our production capacity to meet it. The demand rose up to 4x since the last financial year and we feel obliged that we were able to accomplish this and cater to the increased requirements of the country,”

Seeing the growth of his products, Gupta’s future plan is to provide personal care hygiene solutions instantly at any place and time with the consumer not needing to use a single drop of water. Also, Clensta’s vision includes setting up a manufacturing unit to develop a new industrial base, creating more employment in the process. Their other focus area is mitigating plastic pollution by creating cleaning solutions for anti-microbial cleaning without using any plastic in their packaging.

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“Clensta is going to disrupt the entire home care industry worldwide by solving the hygiene problems of all, instead of solely catering to a small niche market. We intend to target the entire 7.7 billion consumers globally through our various upcoming consumer staple homecare products such as toilet cleaners, hand washes, utensil cleaners, fabric cleaners, multipurpose cleaners, vegetable cleaners and more with up to a 67 per cent reduction in price,” he tells us.

Another player in this segment, Vetro Power, is now focusing more on building a loyal cohort of customers and is experiencing major sales as well. “2020 has been a transformative year for Vetro Power,” says Mukhi, its founder.

The company which was set up in March 2021 has launched two nanotech-based products, Nano anti-microbial shield—a disinfectant and a fruit and veggie wash. “Products like fruit & veggie wash, hand wipes, surface disinfectant wipes and many more were completely unheard of and a niche product prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they are now widely used. We have seen a boost in revenue and sales across both our domestic and export markets; the most important change is the shift in the dynamics of consumption,” he continues.

Talking about his company, Mukhi says, “The focus is on building a loyal cohort of customers who are interested in the brand, the story, the technology and the vision that we have. Education and knowledge are equally important for sales. We want our customers to know why we are better and safer and that the ingredients we use are preventative against the virus. We’ve been building a new refreshed brand identity for all of 2020 and it is now taking shape for 2021!” he asserts.

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Seeing the potential of the hygiene market in India, numerous foreign brands with innovative wellness and hygiene products are also entering the Indian market. A recent newcomer in India is a French brand, Puressentiel, which was launched last year amidst the pandemic. The company has a range of air and nasal sprays in the range of Rs 300 to Rs 4,000 for sale on e-commerce websites.

Karina Kapoor, Brand Head, Puressentiel-India talks to us, “In my opinion, international niche brands help bring in innovation and further push the economy forward, also compelling the domestic players to develop their products internally and compete in the international arena as most of the raw materials and labour are Indian. And a slightly aspirational and premium French brand, Puressentiel, is the need of the hour and is only gaining in popularity as we gradually introduce new ranges to the Indian market.”

Talking about their brand performance in India, Kapoor says, “Puressentiel is a French, over-the-counter plant-based, aromatherapy/wellness and lifestyle brand. As it was launched in India in the midst of COVID, it’s true potential remains untapped due to the Indian regulatory limitations.”

Explaining the reason for this, she says, “The brand falls under the cosmetics category and not the drugs category (prescription medicine). Thus, the lack of an organised and formal pharmaceutical sector has delayed the brand from finding its positioning in the market.”

However, according to Kapoor, the brand is doing well enough, and its nascent wellness category is slowly gaining in popularity, especially due to the pandemic and its requirements. “Repeat orders and our satisfied customers endorse the authenticity of the products which further strengthen our brand equity. Also, e-commerce and the gourmet chains strategy has seemed to work for the brand,” she avers.

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