Cutting into P&G turf

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When Unilever predicted two years ago that Axe would propel it to leadership in U.S. deodorants, it was a bold boast for a marketer then 10 share points behind leader Procter & Gamble Co.

Now, at least by its own numbers, Unilever is close to making good on the prediction. For 12 weeks ended in September, Unilever was tied with P&G at a 25.5% dollar share in six channel figures Unilever gets from VNU's ACNielsen, which combine scanner data from food, drug and mass outlets with consumer-panel data for Wal-Mart Stores, club and dollar stores, a spokeswoman said.

Axe had a 9% share, up from 4% a year ago and close to overtaking P&G's Old Spice, at 9.5%, for men's leadership, she said.

A P&G spokesman said it's still the leader and growing in overall U.S. deodorant and among men's brands, though he acknowledged Unilever has gained ground. A person familiar with the Nielsen category numbers for food, drug and mass excluding Wal-Mart puts P&G's overall deodorant lead in the latest 12 weeks at more than 5 points.

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