The product - a solid version of Persil washing powder - has been in development for five years and the company has invested $30 million in new machinery for its production.
Plans are also to roll the solid version of Persil washing powder into Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and the Benelux countries eventually, though a Henkel spokeswoman refuses to confirm timescales.
Persil is Henkel's best-selling detergent brand, though since World War II it has been owned in the U.K. and France by rival Unilever.
In the U.K., Unilever this year also launched its own Persil Tablets, supported by a multimedia campaign through J. Walter Thompson, London, which kicked off mid-May. The company aims to launch the product across Europe later this year.
In France, however, Henkel has already entered head-to-head battle with Unilever over laundry detergent tablets. Both companies have recently introduced their own varieties: Henkel under the Le Chat brand (with ads through Lowe & Partners Alice, Paris) and Unilever with the Skip brand name.
In Italy, Henkel's tablets have made their debut also, this time carrying the Dixan name. Ads launched this month via Verba DDBN, Milan.
Henkel predicts its Persil Tabs will top $83 million in sales in the first 12 months in Germany and that by 2000 that figure will have grown to 20% of the standard detergents market equivalent to $260 million.
Henkel leads the $1.3 billion German standard detergents market with a 43.6% share, according to IKW, the association of detergent and bodycare marketers. Procter & Gamble is second and Unilever third.
Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.