Will the public pay a premium for plastic wrap that performs better?
Procter & Gamble Co. and Clorox Co. soon will find out, as they work together in an unusual joint venture to make and market Glad-brand products.
The Clorox/P&G link for Glad products will be interesting because it will resurrect a product that P&G introduced in test markets in 2000 but never rolled out nationwide: Impress Ultimate Sealing Wrap. The company touted the wrap because it is easy to handle — it doesn't get all tangled up sticking to itself — but at the same time, it easily forms a watertight seal.
Household products aren't the only market in which processors will be trying to introduce premium products in coming weeks. It also will be interesting to watch window fabricator ThermoView Industries Inc., which is shifting from vinyl to more expensive ABS profiles. The construction industry traditionally is very conservative about trying new plastics products. But if consumers demand better quality, and are willing to pay extra, builders will find a way to accommodate them.
Other processors should watch and learn from these exercises, regardless of whether they make consumer or construction products. Why? Many processors dream of creating a high-volume product that actually commands a premium price — especially when times are tough. But too often something goes wrong.
For example, consider the case of S.C. Johnson & Son's Ziploc TableTops. The company launched the product, a line of semi-disposable plates, in April. According to a story from our sister publication Advertising Age, the product has generated sales of $23.1 million through Nov. 3 (not including Wal-Mart or club store sales), only a fraction of the $65 million S.C. Johnson has spent marketing the line. What went wrong? For one thing, TableTops may be too darn durable. “There are no repeat purchases,” one retailer complained. “The things last forever.” On top of that, S.C. Johnson may have picked the wrong price. The company invested heavily to get shelf space alongside disposable cups and plates. But while $22.99 for a four-place set of TableTops servings might look OK next to a Rubbermaid-type, durable product, it's just too expensive to compete with paper goods that cost pennies per unit.
Meanwhile, S.C. Johnson had to deal with competition from other so-called semi-disposables. Clorox came out with a line of cheaper Gladware Store 'N Eat plates about the same time, and Georgia-Pacific Corp. and Pactiv Corp. also are fighting for a share of the premium-product pie.
While S.C. Johnson is not discontinuing TableTops, Advertising Age reported that some retailers no longer are ordering the product.
Other typical flubs for new product introductions include failing to invest enough to market a product or picking the wrong distribution or sales channel. If you notice a trend, you'll see that most new products do not fail because they don't work. If you watch TV infomercials, you know that consumers will buy just about anything if the price and marketing are right.
Quality becomes a factor later, like when it's time for repeat purchases. So processors might want to pay attention to that detail, too — but only if they plan on being in business a few years from now.