BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Black is the new black, at least when it comes to trash.
Hefty wants to cash in on evolving trash-can colors with BlackOut, a new line of black kitchen bags about as stylish as trash bags can be, that will hit stores by January. Hefty hopes they'll bring new interest to one of the lowest-involvement categories.
Hefty executives are among the first to admit it's hard to get people thinking about trash bags. Private-label shares in the category stand among the highest in packaged goods at 39% for the year ended Oct. 3, according to SymphonyIRI. Hefty is No. 3, also behind Clorox Co.'s Glad, in trash bags, though Hefty's owner Pactiv (pending sale to Reynolds Group, owner of Reynolds Wrap) is also among the leading private-label manufacturers. Overall category sales were down 5% for the year, in part because some consumers turned to using bags from the groceries or other "free" alternatives.
But Hefty research found, given the right reasons, people actually do care about where they stash their trash. Color, surprisingly, is one of them.
Today, most kitchen trash bags are white (though the outdoor kind tend to be dark green or black). That stems from a time when most kitchen appliances were white or shades of beige. That time has passed.
Product development started only eight months ago, when Hefty marketers discovered a seismic shift in trash-can and kitchen appliance colors thanks to its partnership with HMS Manufacturing, which licenses the Hefty name for kitchen trash cans. While nearly two-thirds of new kitchen trash cans are still white or tan, unit sales of black trash cans are up 38% from last year. Sales of stainless-steel cans are up 12%, while sales of the white/beige range are down 8%.
This follows trends in kitchen appliances, where white and beige once predominated but now are down to 45% of sales, off 5 percentage points from only two years ago. Stainless steel has been grabbing most of that share (up 4 points to 35%), while black is up one point to 18%.
While stainless steel is the bigger trend in appliances, black is a bigger deal in trash cans, said Lisa Smith, marketing manager for Hefty waste bags, primarily because black cans are less expensive than stainless steel or chrome. Consumers also find black bags look better with stainless steel than white ones, she said.
Delving deeper, Hefty discovered trash also looks better, or at least less messy, in black bags.
Then there's the privacy issue. "We found there was this even more important aspect of concealment," Ms. Smith said. The black bag "really appeals to the need for privacy right now. It allows [consumers] to hide the contents, whether it's in the dumpster or they take it to the curb. People are very aware that people go through trash, and this gave them a sense of security."
"Our tagline is 'Keep garbage in the dark,'" Ms. Smith said. "Hide the mess. Hide the trash. Hide the smell." That latter comes from "Odor Block" technology also added to the black bags.
All that said, many consumers had trouble getting excited about a different color of trash bag at first. About 46% of people thought BlackOut bags were a good enough idea in concept testing (through Nielsen Bases) that they definitely or probably would buy them. But 85%, once they used the bags, planned to buy them again.
Thus, sampling and couponing aimed at getting people to try the bags will be a big part of the marketing, but TV and print advertising from Campbell-Mithun, Minneapolis, will also be part of the mix. The target , based on segmentation work done by Cambridge Group, is mainly "kitchen enthusiasts," the 40% of people who see the kitchen as the heart of their home and enjoy cooking, with ads directed toward home decor and food magazines and programming. The black bags, it seems, will make them even more enthusiastic.