Procter & Gamble's Febreze has smell of success

Febreze products.


Kai Ryssdal: The recession has taught a lot of us what we can live without and what we can't. Air freshener, it appears, is in the second category. One specific brand, in fact.

Procter and Gamble said today that sales of Febreze have hit the billion-dollar mark, even as other household products are struggling. Marketplace's Janet Babin reports the housing market may stink, but when it comes to homes, they have to pass the smell test.

Janet Babin: No one really needs air freshener. So how did Procter and Gamble get Febreze to $1 billion in sales?

It sold itself as more than an air freshener, something that killed odors lurking in sofas and curtains, stuff that's expensive to actually clean.

Debra Kaye heads product innovation firm Lucule.

Debra Kaye: And then it came in as a non-aerosol. The product was the message, so they had the look of something new, and they had the smell and the cure to something new.

In all kinds of trendy scents. P&G's Lee Bansil says there are more than 2,000 Febreze products, like:

Lee Bansil: Hawaiian Aloha, Brazilian Carnival, New Zealand Springs.

Burt Flickinger with the Strategic Resource Group says Febreze sells especially well in Asia.

Burt Flinkinger: Products like Febreze smell like America; they smell clean.

And that can mask a lot of American dirtiness -- from stinky sneakers to a smokin' college dorm room -- literally!

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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Greg: thanks for your thoughtful comments on this story. If you'd like more information about Febreze, please contact the Environmental Working Group. In 2009, the Group did a study on Febreze. It found the product studied contained 89 ingredients, even though only 5 were listed on the label. The EWG report stated that two of the ingredients it uncovered were of concern. This reseach though, does contrast with work done Procter and Gamble says it has done on Febreze, that shows the product, when used properly, is safe and effective for humans and pets. The EWG forwarded its research to the EPA, which is doing some work on household products and may be another source for you and all of us. The EWG was unable to recall yesterday what the EPA had to say about its research. Hope this information helps you. And thanks again for bringing up this point. Best, Janet Babin

I believe that I can keep this product in my "can live without it" list. I'd rather make the attempt to live in an environment that is actually clean rather than masked over with some chemical formulation. Any research at all in regards to the safety of breathing this in or having children climb around on the sprayed furniture and of course putting their fingers in their mouths?
Or will that come decades later after once again we guinea pigs have ingested enough of it? Were phalate products a billion dollar industry once? What should we value more as a society: health (clean air) and happiness or gross sales brought about by slick advertising to make people feel inadequate because they don't have the latest designer smell saturating their homes. Sells itself? Then I guess P&G is wasting their money on all the mindless tv ads.

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