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Sales of bar soap down as consumers turn to liquids

| Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

When it comes to soap, fewer Americans are hitting the bar.

The reason? They say they simply can't be bothered.

More than half of consumers — 55 percent — say bar soap is inconvenient when compared to liquid varieties, according to a new report by research firm Mintel. Among their chief complaints: Bar soaps leave residue in the shower, require a dish for storage, and aren't as long-lasting as liquid options.

As a result, sales of what was once a shower mainstay have been slipping for years. Bar soap sales dipped 2.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, while overall sales of bath and shower products grew 2.7 percent during the same period, according to Mintel.

Today, about 64 percent of U.S. consumers use bar soap in some capacity, although men and older Americans are more likely to do so. The survey found 53 percent of men said they were willing to wash their face with bar soap, while just 36 percent of women agreed to the same.

Researchers also found a generational divide.

“Sometimes suffering from an old fashioned image, bar soap is more widely accepted among more mature Americans, with as many as 60 percent of those aged 65+ happy to use bar soap on their face, a figure which declines to just one third (33 percent) of those aged 25-34.”

An earlier study by Mindel found millennials are eschewing cereal for similar reasons. About 40 percent of those surveyed by Mindel said “cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it,” according to The New York Times. Cereal sales have slipped by nearly 30 percent since 2000.

“Convenience is the one thing that's really changing trends these days,” Howard Telford, an analyst at market research firm Euromonitor, told The Washington Post last year.

But when it comes to soap, the perception of cleanliness may be a factor. Nearly half of those surveyed believe bar soaps are often covered in germs, a view that was more widely held among younger consumers than older ones.

But it may not be all bad news for bar soap. More than 60 percent of consumers said they might consider buying “premium” varieties of the item, which could help companies reclaim business, said Margie Nanninga, a beauty analyst for Mintel.

“A broader variety of scents can help bar soap brands tap into the success of aromatherapy claims, positioning lemon as an energizing scent or amber as a relaxing fragrance,” she wrote in an email, adding that brands may also begin offering bar soap in “a greater variety of shapes.”

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