Britain loves a bar of soap

In an effort to reduce plastic usage, UK consumers are turning to good old-fashioned bar soap...
08 August 2019
coloured bars of soap
Tim Nancholas

Strategic Insight Director

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The nostalgic, aesthetic and – crucially – environmentally-friendly facets of ‘the rise of bar soap’ seem to resonate strongly with the British public.

Liquid soap became popular in the 1990s, but in the year to 14 July 2019, shoppers spent £68.6m on bars of soap, up 4% on the year before. Meanwhile, shower gel is rising at just 1.1%, and liquid soap sales are actually declining 4.5% year on year. 


Asda has seen growth of bar soap sales of 8.5%, while 5.7% more bar soap is being sold at Tesco.


Reducing plastic usage

Last year, Kantar found* that 44% of people are now ‘more concerned’ about single-use plastic, and 70% say they play to shop more sustainably, using alternatives or buying less.

Indeed, 49% of bar soap users agree that they ‘avoid products harmful to the environment’ and this has grown from 43% last year. 42% agree that they choose/prefer natural products – which is in line with total consumers.

Similarly, work conducted by Kantar's Insights Division last year found that many shoppers are thinking about reducing the amount of plastic packaging in the world. 63% of Brits are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about reducing the amount of packaging they require, particularly when it comes to plastic bottles and plastic bags, as well as single-use cups and straws. Indeed, when it comes to the factors that shoppers take into account when making a purchase, packaging concerns’ are now the highest of the various environmental considerations, with 17% saying it is important to them.


A concern for all?

What this study uncovered was that older people were likely to be more concerned about plastic, and this plays out in the data around bars of soap. They are much more likely to be used by 55-74 year olds than other age groups, and other Kantar data also shows that 55+ are more likely to agree that they avoid products harmful to the environment (50% v 46% of 11-55s).

With publicity to date focused on straws, takeaway coffee cups and plastic bottles, it seems consumers are looking even closer to home and making small but important changes in their bathrooms to counter the environmental harm caused by plastic waste.

Of course, part of the increase could also be linked to the luxury brands who are embracing this trend. Bar soaps are now slightly more indulgent than they have been in the past, as there is now a bigger opportunity for a more premium offering.


Editor's notes

*Based on 21,545 Shoppix app responses, collected on 11 May 2018

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