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Major Innovation: Unilever Answers Top Unmet Deodorant Need

New technology is expected to pump up sales in the $3 billion U.S. deodorant market.

Unilever has tackled one of fashion and beauty’s biggest faux pas — white marks and yellow underarm stains on clothing.

Following the launch of Dry Spray deodorant into the U.S. in 2015, the personal care giant is rolling out Anti-Marks Antiperspirant Technology across five of its brands, Degree Women, Degree Men, Dove, Dove Men + Care and Axe. All 24 products include 48-hour odor and wetness protection merged with the anti-yellow stains and no white marks proprietary technology. The lineup, priced between $3.99 and $5.49, rolls out to shelves throughout December.

According to consumer research, marks and stains on clothing are the number-one unmet deodorant need in the U.S. The influx of the Dry Sprays, which eliminates some of the annoyances of stick forms, helped move the sales needle in the $3 billion category in the U.S., but more importantly traded consumers up in price point. The Dry Sprays are heralded as the single biggest personal-care launch in Unilever history.

“The Dry Sprays have exceeded all of the market research on how they would perform,” said Matthew McCarthy, senior director of deodorants and men’s grooming for Unilever. “It proves the U.S. has an appetite for better performance.”

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Acceptance of dry sprays, a popular form globally, nudged up average deodorant transactions from about $2 to $6, according to industry estimates. Research from Mintel shows a compound annual growth rate of 5.6 percent — fueled mostly from higher tickets.

That set the stage, said McCarthy, for bringing the antimark breakthrough to U.S. shelves, a Unilever technology already popular in international markets. The bold decision was made to launch the formula across several brands rather than just one as a test and then cascade to others. McCarthy believes the strategy helps educate shoppers and raises awareness of the innovation, which is used in sprays and stick forms.

“Surprisingly, people blame themselves for marks on their clothing, not their deodorant. But we are giving them the chance to say, ‘it’s not your fault,’ your antiperspirant has been failing you,” he said.

Unilever’s new technology is one of only a handful of product innovations in the deodorant category in the past 15 years, buyers said. The concept stretches beyond the mundane process of applying deodorant. “We are connecting something people care about — their favorite T-shirt or a designer dress — going from a low involvement activity of applying deodorant to a new way to preserve their sense of style and love for their clothing,” added McCarthy.

Also, in addition to the 48-hour odor wetness protection and the no white marks or yellow stains formula, each brand in the range carries its own benefits. For example, Dove is said to contain moisturizing benefits and Degree offers MotionSense Technology.