In the deodorant category, at least, aluminum is becoming more and more taboo. And, right now the soft metal, a longtime main ingredient in products in the category, is being avoided by a growing number of consumers, causing retailers and suppliers to change their product mix.
The reason, some said, is growing evidence that aluminum in underarm products can be correlated with breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. While some refute the claim, more and more consumers are reading labels to find alternative ingredients to aluminum.
Manufacturers are responding to these demands with new products that emphasize their aluminum-free status on the packaging. Brands also are launching products that answer other consumer demands, including botanicals, other scents or for no fragrances. Also new is a movement away from men’s products and women’s products and towards unisex items.
Interestingly, dollar sales in the category are responding well to the change in direction. According to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 11, sales of deodorants in U.S. multi-outlet stores — grocery, drug, mass market, military and select club and dollar stores — totaled more than $3.2 billion, an increase of 6% compared with the same period the previous year. The growth is partly due to increased prices, as the price per unit at $4.26 was 23 cents higher. Unit volume was flat, up 0.2%.
Gender-neutral products are an emerging trend in deodorants. “When we started four years ago, retailers wanted us to differentiate men’s and women’s deodorants,” said Kyle LaFond, founder of American Provenance based in Blue Mounds, Wis. “Now they say it’s not important to them anymore, and we don’t need to specify gender-specific products. People wear whatever they want.”
American Provenance makes natural deodorants that have such alliterative names as Shotguns and Shenanigans (peppermint, cypress and eucalyptus) and Firepits and Flannel (wintergreen, fir and cedar), the two bestsellers. “We had middle school students come up with creative names,” said LaFond, a former schoolteacher. “It was the last day of school, and we put names on a white board.”
While the names are fun, shoppers buy the products because they are free of metals, petrochemicals, sulfates, parabens and artificial ingredients, and are cruelty-free, LaFond said. The natural deodorants contain coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, aluminum-free baking soda, arrowroot powder and a blend of essential oils. Consumers are educated about ingredients, LaFond said, and they research products online and in stores. “People are on their phones, pulling up ingredients, trying to see what they are,” he said. “Or they are price shopping.”
Retailers merchandise the products without any callouts as to which are intended for men and which are for women. Men might wear a lavender deodorant, LaFond said, because they know their significant other likes how the scent smells on them. “We have all these preconceived notions about what masculine is,” he said. “That gets thrown out the window.”