What Do Consumers Want Now? P&G Bets on Beard Oil, Cleaners

NEW YORK (AP) — Procter & Gamble is cleaning up during the pandemic.

The company’s sales were up last year, since it happens to make just about everything people needed while staying at home: Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels and Tide laundry detergent.

One new product came at the right time: Disinfectant spray Microban 24 was released in February 2020, just before U.S. lockdowns began and as people rushed to find cleaning products that could keep surfaces and door knobs germ-free.

“This product, as you can imagine, is on fire right now,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer.

Not so hot: Gillette razors. Sales are flat as men skip their morning shave routines while they work from home instead of the office. It is now selling beard oils and balms, a major shift for a brand that has promoted clean-shaven faces for more than a century.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Pritchard talked about people’s shaving habits and how P&G is creating products for consumers who are home more. The questions and answers below have been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Are people shaving during the pandemic?

A: They’re still shaving, just not as frequently. For those who want beards, we’ve introduced King C. Gillette, which is a beard care product. We’re really covering all the needs when it comes to shaving.

Q: Has P&G sold beard grooming products before?

A: On a very minor basis. But this was the first one designed to make sure that it really focused on people that wanted beard care. It’s got ways to condition the beard, ways to trim, it’s got the whole thing.

Q: Did the company see a need for a new disinfectant with Microban 24? Was the timing lucky?

A: The consumer need for keeping surfaces clean and free of bacteria is a major unmet need that’s been around for a long time. We’ve been working on it for years. It just happened that we launched right when the pandemic hit.

Q: Dish soap has been in squirt bottles for decades. Why launch a Dawn dish soap that sprays?

A: What we were seeing was this consumer behavior of cleaning one dish at a time. They were taking the bottle, squirting a little bit of dishwashing liquid onto the dish and cleaning it and rinsing it. What we wanted to do is try to make it simpler. So we created this spray. You don’t have to scrub, you just spray it and then either wipe or rinse off.

Q: With the pandemic and people home more, is P&G changing the types of products it makes for consumers?

A: What we’re now doing is looking at what are the problems that need to be solved. Doing more dishes in the sink? Spray on Dawn. Need to clean your surfaces? Clean with Microban 24.

Q: Many of P&G’s products promote the idea that they are made with less water or plastic packaging. Do people still care about the environment during a health crisis?

A: Yes. What’s interesting about it is that while people are spending more time at home, they’re getting more and more interested in the environment. What they are recognizing, for example, is how much water they’re using; how much heat and energy they’re using; how much plastic waste they’re creating. There’s a heightened interest.