Dove introduced the iconic Beauty Bar over 65 years ago. The launch disrupted the cleansing category, merging the worlds of skincare, body care, and skin cleansing with its patented blend of mild cleansers and one quarter moisturizing cream over 65 years ago, claiming it would not dry your skin the way soap did.
Ogilvy and Mather were responsible for the 1957 launch campaign crafting the messaging "Dove soap doesn't dry your skin because its one quarter cleansing cream." The claim was supported with visuals that showed cream being poured into the bar.
Today, the lines have blurred even further, with consumers leaning toward more premium cleansing options with active ingredients to improve skin health. It's become commonplace for body washes to incorporate ingredients typically found in skincare, like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C.
Divya Raghavan, Senior Global Brand Director, Dove Bar at Unilever, said, "Just like all other categories, consumers are looking to bars as well to really elevate their self-care experience. It’s about the care you desire and deserve, not just the care you need—clean beauty, made craveable."
Driven by this hero product and continued innovation, cleansing has become Dove's largest category across the product portfolio with the bar category growing 14% year-to-date. The global bar soap market size was valued at $28.27 billion in 2021 and projected to grow from $29.16 billion in 2022 to $38.42 billion by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 4.02%.
Raghavan shared, "Over time, we’ve been seeing consumer research that shows double cleansing among female consumers is up." From 2021 to 2022, the use of bar soap as a way to double cleanse increased by four points, and body wash increased by two points.
"At the same time we’re seeing an uptick in the bar category, we’re also seeing growth in the premium segment, which has grown by 46% since the beginning of 2023," she continued. "Just like all other categories, consumers are looking to bars as well to really elevate their self-care experience. It’s about the care you desire and deserve, not just the care you need."
There has also been an increase in premium bar launches driven by a switch from liquid to solid formats because of sustainable attributes, affordability, and a move by consumers to more minimalistic skincare routines. Informed by the growth and trends in the premium category, Dove launched its newest addition to the cleansing bar franchise—Plant Milk Cleansing Bars. In speaking about the new launch, Raghavan said, "We’re dubbing 2024 the “year of the bar!"
The Plant Milk collection is an example of the brand's commitment to listening to its Dove community and providing them with exactly what they’re asking for. Raghavan shared, "We saw demand and excitement around premium skin cleansing products and sensorials for the shower through social media and consumer feedback—so we addressed it head-on."
She continued, "When we dug a bit deeper, we noticed that many premium options on the market are driven purely by sensorials and fragrances, rather than offerings with actual benefits. For us, it was a no-brainer—we wanted to bring the quality care and advanced moisturization that Dove is known for to the segment."
The new Dove Plant Milk Cleansing Bars are made with 100% gentle, plant-based cleansers with 98% biodegradable formulas that provide 24-hour nourishment. Each of the four Plant Milk Cleansing Bars features its own moniker that refers to the skin benefit found in the oils and extracts of the key ingredients/scents that make up the nourishing plant-based milks: Coconut Milk & Sugar Lychee—a smooth revitalizer; Macadamia Milk & Willow Lavender—a serenity seeker; Oat Milk & Berry Brulee—a moisture marvel; and Turmeric Milk & Lemon Drop—a glow booster.
Regarding the fragrance development, Raghavan shared, "When choosing these scents, we looked closely at what appeals to the premium bar user—and even did some browsing on #PerfumeTok—then, we worked with our fragrance house partners to create what we felt reflected modern, yet indulgent fragrances. Throughout the process, we sought out fragrances that felt craveable."
Defending the competitive edge a hero product provides, a brand requires skillful innovation that balances respect for the original DNA of the product while remaining relevant in the perpetually evolving beauty landscape.
She believes the future of the category will be driven by an ever-increasing desire for personalization at mass retail. "People are not sticking to one body wash or bar to use every single night. They understand their skin’s needs—or even its “mood”—can fluctuate on a daily basis, and they are borrowing knowledge from the boom of skincare to apply in their shower routine. One day, I may want to use Coconut Milk & Sugar Lychee for that creamy coconut feel; the next day, I may want a serene, spa-like experience with Macadamia Milk & Willow Lavender."
She closed with, "If you’re willing to pay for premium, you deserve the personalization element. And people know you no longer need to break the bank to treat yourself and give your skin the sensorial experience it craves."
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