Lighter Laundry Detergent

LIGHTENING THE LOAD — The Tide Eco-Box, produced by P&G, along with Seventh Generation have introduced redesigned laundry detergents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas.

NEW YORK — Amazon’s rise is forcing laun­dry detergents to shrink.

Tide and Seventh Gen­er­ation have introduced re­de­signed laundry de­ter­gents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas. They’re making the chan­ges to please Amazon and other online stores: Lighter packaging means retailers pay less to ship the detergent to shopper’s doorsteps, making each sale more profitable.

For consumers, the new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking. The challenge, however, is getting online shoppers to buy detergent that looks nothing like the heavy bottles they are used to.

Tide is putting its de­ter­gent into a card­board box, making it 4 pounds lighter than its 150-ounce plastic bottles, but still able to wash the same 96 loads. Seventh Gen­er­a­tion went with a compact plas­tic bottle that’s less than 9 inches tall and has no measuring cup.

When Tide unveiled photos of its new pack­ag­ing this fall, social media users joked that it looked like boxed wine. And when Seventh Generation test­ed an unlabeled version of its new bottle, some mistook it for shampoo.

The downsized deter­gents are a sign of Amaz­on’s growing influence. Com­panies that have de­signed products for dec­ades to stand out on store shelves are now being pressured by on­line retailers to make their packaging lighter to cut shipping costs, said Gary Liu, VP of marketing at Boom­erang Commerce.

Amazon, for example, may drop products from its website that cost too much to ship and aren’t making it enough money. Retailers decide how much to charge shop­pers, but Tide and Sev­enth Generation say they expect the lighter detergents to cost the same as traditional ones.

Tide says its Eco-Box has 60% less plastic and uses 30% less water in its soap than its 150 ounce bottles. The boxed de­ter­gent doesn’t need to be packed in another box: on­line retailers can just slap an address on it, another way to save costs. Tide, which is owned by Procter & Gamble, says the boxed detergent will be sold at online retailers next month, and it will still sell its traditional bottles.

Seventh Generation spent about three years developing its smaller bottle. At 1.6 pounds, it is 5 pounds light­er than its standard 100 ounce bottle. It still wash­es the same 66 loads as the heavier one, the com­pany said. The meas­ur­ing cup was re­placed with a cap that auto­mat­ically squirts out the right amount of detergent for a single load.

To ensure the new bot­tle could withstand de­liv­ery, it was sent to a lab that mim­ics conveyor belt vibrations and bumps on a de­liv­ery truck.

Leaky detergents are a pain for shop­pers and can be ex­pensive for retailers. Ken Day, who or­ders detergent online, said a traditional bottle of Seventh Generation showed up at his Quincy, Mas­s., home this summer with a loose measuring cup. After he com­plained, the retailer re­placed the detergent.

Seventh Generation, which started selling its new bottle on Amazon in October, eventually plans to offer it to physical retailers. But a small bottle sitting next to a bigger one on a store shelf may be a tough sell, since shoppers have been trained to think a larger bottle means more washes, said Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein. To educate shoppers, Seventh Generation posted videos and graphics on Amazon that show how to use the new bottle and how it can wash the same amount of loads as larger bottles.

“Changing people’s behavior is always a challenging thing to do,” Bergstein said.

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