Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller piqued curiosity when he told an investor conference last month that the company was preparing to enter a new category in the next six months and "introduce a new and far superior method of addressing a chronic consumer issue."
Based on the company's trademark filings, a strong candidate, at least for the latter, appears to be a line of products that make it easier to sleep.
Several of its recent trademark filings relate to an expansion of the ZzzQuil brand the company launched in 2012 into what would be a range of new sleep-aid products. Among the categories P&G filed to cover with the ZzzQuil and ZzzPads name in February are "electronic sound generators for producing ambient sounds for promoting sleep," light-therapy units and aromatherapy pads specially adapted for creating scents for electric vaporizers, electric fans, air purifiers and humidifiers.
P&G also has filed for trademarks on a "Need Sleep?" tagline and a feather version of the ZzzQuil/NyQuil crescent moon logo to cover the same categories.
A P&G spokeswoman declined to comment, noting that Mr. Moeller hadn't mentioned ZzzQuil in his talk.
And while P&G's patent filings don't suggest it has developed technology in any of those broader sleep-aid devices, that wouldn't prevent the company from licensing the technology from others or licensing its brand name to others.
Indeed, it hasn't taken new technology for P&G to move into sleep aids up to now. The active ingredient in existing ZzzQuil products is diphenhydramine HCL, the same found in Johnson & Johnson's allergy medicine Benadryl and countless other branded and private-label over-the-counter drugs. Diphenhydramine was developed in Cincinnati in 1943 by a former professor at the University of Cincinnati, not P&G.
ZzzQuil has been a success for P&G, with annual sales of more than $120 million and a 29.3% share of the $411 million sleep-aids category, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank. ZzzQuil leads the fragmented category, though its share is down a point for the 52 weeks ended June 7 in a category up nearly 6%. Publicis Worldwide, New York, handles ZzzQuil.
A broader range of scented products designed to make sleep easier already has been on P&G's agenda since last year's launch of Febreze Sleep Serentiy products, followed by the Sweet Dreams Collection from Tide, Downy and Bounce earlier this year.