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Published
Mar 19, 2021
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Cleaning up: UK lockdown sees soap sales doubling - report

Published
Mar 19, 2021

Lockdowns haven’t meant UK consumers have taken their eyes off personal hygiene issues. If anything, Covid-19 has actually seen them up their game as sales of soap doubled in 2020, according to Mintel research.


Photo: Pixabay


Sales of soap soared in 2020 as Britons splashed out £392 million on keeping their hands clean, up from £197 million in 2019, said Mintel.

No surprises that hand sanitiser proved to be an absolute essential during the pandemic, with usage rising to 73% last year, up from just 41% in 2018. What’s more, 82% of hand sanitiser users have upped usage frequently.

While overall usage of liquid soap (74%) and bar soap (50%) has remained static, the number of young Britons (aged 16-24) using bar soap has fallen dramatically -- down from 46% in 2018 to 30% in 2020.

Emilia Greenslade, OTC and Personal Care analyst at Mintel said: “Young people have moved away from bar soap, likely due to hygiene concerns surrounding the build-up of bacteria. Despite this, three in 10 (27%) young soap buyers (aged 16-34) say they would be interested in switching product format to reduce their impact on the environment”.

Overall, she noted: “The hand sanitiser/wash segment was fuelled in 2020 by premiumisation as new brands entered the market and the launch of bigger package sizes at higher price points in response to bulk-buying. However, with the vaccine rollout well underway, there is a risk that consumers will slip back into pre-pandemic routines”.

She added that “brands can appeal to consumers’ eco and hygiene concerns, for example, with single-use bar soaps or those that can be broken into pieces to avoid the perception of cross-contamination through shared usage”.

But it’s not all good news for the personal hygiene sector. The flip-side of lockdown and social distancing has triggered a dramatic usage decline in an already-dipping deodorant market. 

Deodorant sales fell an estimated 7% in 2020 to £369 million, from £394 million in 2019. What’s more, sales are forecast to decline a further 5% in 2021 to £352 million.

Almost three in 10 (28%) deodorant/antiperspirant users have applied them less frequently since the Covid-19 outbreak. Just under half (45%) of Gen Zs and 40% of Millennials are using deodorant/antiperspirant less frequently.

On deodorant usage, Greenslade added: “Consumers spending more time at home, and exercise routines split across the day, has meant it is easier to jump in the shower to wash, as opposed to using a deodorant".

And she said "the likelihood of working from home becoming mainstream, and continued reduced social occasions, together with tighter budgets, will impact the market further”.

She said that spending on deodorants will also remain low due to discounting and special offers, as well as the wide availability of well-known brands at discount retailers.

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