P&G concentrates on shrinking bottles

Logos of the Proctor & Gamble detergents to be sold in double-strength.

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KAI RYSSDAL: Don't look now, but your bottle of laundry detergent's about to get smaller.

Procter and Gamble is promising you'll still be able to do just as much laundry, though. Today, the maker of Tide and Gain announced it's doubling the concentrations of its entire line of detergents.

The company says it's a sustainability improvement — that it'll require less packaging and less water. Maybe, but Pat Loeb reports success will depend on whether consumers can change their behavior.


PAT LOEB: P & G says it will start rolling out its doubly-concentrated products in September. Other liquid detergent makers are likely to follow suit.

Brian Sansoni of the Soap and Detergent Association says the industry has been working on reducing the size of its packages for years.

BRIAN SANSONI: The innovation and the R&D is all coming together. And that's what enables manufacturers to continue to reduce their environmental footprint.

Sansoni says the only catch may be getting consumers to actually use less detergent. He says a poll a few years ago shows only 49 percent of Americans had ever read the directions on a detergent package.

WOMAN: I don't measure my laundry detergent anyway — I just dump some in.

And that average detergent user is not unique. An unscientific survey on the streets of Los Angeles shows a smaller package alone would be unlikely to change behavior.

ANOTHER WOMAN: I might not notice. I might just continue to use the same amount.

YET ANOTHER WOMAN: I understand it's concentrated, so I would buy less. But that's only my opinion. I don't think a lot of people would be reading the packages.

Evan an expert on consumer psychology — like Marien Friestad at the Unviersity of Oregon — isn't sure she'd use less detergent.

MARIEN FRIESTAD: I would be probably only about 50 percent likely to notice.

Marien Friestad says the hardest behavior to change is the kind we do out of habit — like the laundry.

FRIESTAD: It becomes a little bit mindless. We just don't have to pay very much attention to it.

Friestad says a vigorous consumer education component will have to go with the new packaging in order for P&G to achieve its sustainability goals.

In Los Angeles, I'm Pat Loeb for Marketplace.

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