American Industry Overview: Soap and Other Detergents, Except Specialty Cleaners

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the manufacture of soap and detergents. It includes companies who make crude and refined glycerin products from fats, or synthetic detergents such as laundry detergents, dishwashing compounds, and personal cleansing bars.

Industry Snapshot

The U.S. soap and detergents market, valued at $11 billion in 2008, faced increasing competition during the 2000s. Convenience was a major driver of growth in this mature market. With disposables, preventables, and aromatherapy products driving sales, it was likely that consumers would enjoy cleaning again, or at least not dread it.

Liquid detergents outpaced powders, having captured nearly three-quarters of the overall market by 2003. Detergent modifications also were spurred by technical innovation, such as bleach additives, better optical brighteners, and improved technologies to release soils. Marketers packaged products differently to meet the needs of specialized users such as households with infants or with men performing tasks traditionally associated with women's roles. To meet the needs of various market segments, the industry introduced a proliferation of brands and varieties. For example, a typical large supermarket might contain more than 40 varieties of laundry detergents, including liquids and powders.