Just a few days ago, biscuit manufacturer, Parle Products forayed into a new category - hand sanitisers. This is not a temporary launch. Parle products, which sells close to a billion packs of Parle-G biscuits, plans to continue manufacturing hand sanitiser even in the post-COVID era.
The company has already launched a 5 litre pack and will soon be rolling out smaller SKUs for the convenience of consumers. Over the last month, there have been more than a dozen companies from different sectors who have decided to foray into this space.
At the beginning of 2020, India's hand sanitiser market had only 3-4 prominent players like HUL, Himalaya Drug Company, GCPL and Reckitt Benckiser. For most of these players, the sales of hand sanitisers made up only 1-2 percent of their overall revenues.
Sales of these hand sanitisers zoomed in early February and by the end of February hand sanitisers were out of stock. The reason for this was because the demand for this 'upper and upper-middle class' product had never been this high. Nielsen data indicated that hand sanitisers saw value growth of 53 percent in February 2020 versus an average growth of 11 percent.
Seeing a surge in demand, the Indian government had pronounced hand sanitizers and masks as essential commodities in March. It also placed price caps on sanitisers to make them more affordable and prevent companies from profiteering from them. In March, the government permitted distilleries and sugar mills to manufacture hand sanitizers in bulk to meet the demand.
What followed was more than a flood of companies launching hand sanitisers. The most recent being JSW Paints which launched Securall hand sanitizers. The company is expected to roll out the hand sanitiser brand in May 2020. Other paint-maker Asian Paints also recently announced its foray into the hand sanitiser space with its brand - Viroprotek. This will be manufactured in the company's Gujarat plant.
"Everybody is preparing for the post-pandemic period. There is a sense that personal and hand hygiene will take top priority in the minds of consumers. Therefore companies with the available adjacency are seeing this as an opportunity and additional stream of revenue," said an FMCG consultant.
Existing players in the hand sanitiser space have significantly ramped up capacity and also launched variants in the hand hygiene space. For instance, ITC converted the production line at a newly installed perfume plant in Himachal Pradesh to a sanitiser manufacturing unit.
It also launched the Savlon surface disinfectant spray. Himalaya had seen a 10x surge in demand for hand sanitisers in February and had decided to scale up the manufacturing of hand sanitisers in two additional facilities.
Other companies that decided to foray into the hand sanitiser space include the likes of Emami, Nivea, Dabur, Dukes India, Bajaj Consumer, Jyothy Labs, Cavin Kare, Patanjali Ayurved, Zydus Wellness and many more. Many big alcobev companies also repurposed their lines to manufacture bulk quantities of hand sanitisers.
"The hand sanitiser marker is suddenly getting very crowded. This may be a good time to launch products like hand sanitisers since there is a huge demand for them. But, we will have to see how many companies continue the manufacturing of these products later," said a top industry official.
First Published: IST