P&G's dishwash scrub-up

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Procter & Gamble Co. is revamping its dish-detergent lineup with floral fragrances and a "faster-acting" formula, but at a steep price for consumers-effectively hiking prices 12% on a volume basis by resizing bottles, which have themselves been reconfigured to get consumers to use more of the product.

In a bow to rival Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s 1999 launch of Palmolive Spring Sensations with aromatherapy-inspired botanical scents, P&G is rolling a new line of more fragrant dish detergents for its Dawn and Joy brands, plus new packaging and formulation for Ivory.

The restaged products began shipping earlier this month, with the Dawn rollout to be backed by TV, print and in-store ads breaking in July from Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, focusing on the new scents and faster-acting formulation. P&G began touting the upcoming launch of faster-acting formulas for Dawn and Joy via Catalina Marketing Corp.'s Checkout Coupon system earlier this year.

The budget for the relaunch wasn't disclosed, but P&G spent $23.8 million on Dawn last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Joy and Ivory received almost no ad support last year ($100,000 for Joy and none for Ivory).

While the price will remain the same, P&G will be putting less dishwashing liquid in each bottle, reducing the category's most popular 28-ounce size to 25 ounces, a downsizing Palmolive had previously made in its Spring Sensations line. Although P&G is slimming down, its taller bottles look bigger and have faster-pouring spouts, which, combined with thinner, faster-flowing liquid, will encourage consumers to use more.

The packaging changes partially reverse the course of a 1996 restage, when P&G moved to thicker, ultra-concentrated dish liquids in short, squat bottles with slower-pouring spouts. But the P&G spokeswoman said the new formulations are still ultra-concentrates and have been reformulated with faster-acting ingredients to improve performance.

"The new formula delivers superior cleaning that improves consumer performance across the key consumer needs of grease cleaning, tough-food cleaning and hand mildness," she said. New scents for Dawn include Apple Blossom, Citrus Burst and Wildflower Medley, while Joy adds Tropical Calm.

Palmolive has made inroads on P&G's leadership position in the category with Spring Sensations. For the 52 weeks ended March 24, Colgate's share of the $809 million category grew from 39% to 41.3%, while P&G's shrank from 48.6% to 41.7%, according to ACNielsen data from J.P. Morgan Securities.

Last fall, Colgate also rolled out Spring Blossom Scent Palmolive in automatic dishwasher detergent, and P&G is countering there, too, with a new Cascade Scent Expressions line, including Orchard Splash and Lemon Burst scents, also shipping to retailers this month. Ads from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, are expected this month.

Meanwhile, Reckitt Benckiser is also planning to launch an upgrade of its Electrasol brand, including Electrasol 2-in-1 Powerball, a dishwashing detergent and rinse aid product similar to P&G's Cascade Complete.

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