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Research from the Freedonia Group indicates that the mature battery category is seeing modest topline growth largely due to a shift in the product mix toward premium batteries. Growth also is being driven by an increased proliferation of battery-dependent devices in the home, from toothbrushes to glucose monitors.

Alkaline batteries still dominate the consumer primary battery market, accounting for 84% of demand, according to the Freedonia Group. Alkaline batteries also are expected to record solid gains in consumer applications through 2015.

"Retailers that are getting the best category growth are giving more space to longer-life premium alkaline batteries," said Kip Olmstead, marketing director for Duracell. The company recently launched Duracell with Duralock technology that guarantees storage for seven to 10 years.

Energizer also is concentrating on the premium alkaline business. "We now offer more powerful batteries that not only last longer, but also have a longer shelf life," said Lou Martire, VP trade development for Energizer. "Energizer Max batteries with Power Seal Technology hold their power up to 10 years on shelf. Our Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries are now even stronger, lasting up to nine times longer than Energizer Max in digital cameras."

While the premium segment of alkaline batteries is growing fast, Sprectrum Brands' Rayovac is playing the value card and is seeing the most significant increases in the category. "Value is winning in the marketplace," said Jim Heidenreich, VP North American sales at the company. Rayovac's alkaline batteries are priced about 15% below competitors, a position that has led to new sales, repeat sales and greater distribution.

The lithium segment, designed for use in high-drain digital cameras, has shrunk as digital cameras are used less frequently. Rechargeables, which have about a 5% dollar share, are flat but could rebound with better consumer product education.

Olmstead said a shift to longer-life batteries doesn't mean less profit for retailers since consumers aren't necessarily purchasing fewer products. "Even though batteries are lasting longer, retailers can still sell batteries at a profit. Innovation is what will drive the category, and longer-life batteries are what the customer wants," he said.

Olmstead and Martire said the key to a profitable battery category is display since 65% to 70% of category sales are impulse. "The more retailers understand and embrace the impulse nature of the category, the better their sales," Olmstead said. "Display is what drives this category. We can see strong dollar growth in the category when retailers make a concerted effort to get the category right. It is not a commodity business."

 

The article above is part of the DSN Category Review Series. For the complete Battery Buy-In Report, including extensive charts, data and more analysis, click here.

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