Propellant-free, refillable aerosols take on conventional products

Nine months after Procter & Gamble launched its novel propellant-free "Pump & Spray" aerosol hair spray and refill pack on the UK market, competitors are beginning to introduce similar products. But consumers are proving slow to change their purchasing habits.

P&G's "Pump & Spray" air-powered hair spray and refill packs were launched under the Vidal Sassoon brand name last August (ENDS Report 199, pp 23-24). The company claimed that the product performed as well as conventional aerosols, but had much smaller environmental impacts. These include no added propellant and, after three or four refills, lower energy and water consumption and less solid waste generation as well.

Evidence that producers of conventional aerosols perceived themselves to be under threat from the new system came when the British Aerosol Manufacturers Association complained about P&G's environmental claims to the two advertising watchdogs. But both rejected the complaint (ENDS Reports 202, pp 4-5, and 206, p 23 ).

P&G says it is "very happy" with UK sales of the primary unit to date, and "reasonable quantities" of the refill have also been sold. But its failure to follow-up a German launch of a "Pump & Spray" deodorant suggests that it may not be convinced that UK consumers are ready for the new technology in sufficient numbers.

On 31 March, a day after P&G's exclusive rights to the "Pump & Spray" device ended, SmithKline Beecham launched a Silvikrin "Pumping Spray" hair spray. The system uses the same pumping device, which is manufactured by the Dutch company Airspray International, and also comes with a refill pack. This costs £1.99, 60p more than P&G's refill. The higher price may have a bearing on whether consumers come back for refills and the full environmental gains are realised.

Tesco has also launched a pump-action hair spray, a range of air fresheners and a deodorant. However, only the deodorant has refill packs and the associated environmental benefits. The 100ml deodorant costs £1.49 for the primary pack and 99p for the refill, compared with a conventional 200ml aerosol at £1.12. This makes the new product appear expensive, but a significant proportion of the conventional unit consists of propellant.

The deodorant is filled by Nichol Beauty Products, which is also using the technology in an own-brand air-freshener. The firm says that this has met with a "certain amount of consumer resistance because it involves effort," and it has been forced to withdraw a test batch from one of the main retail chains.

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