Category Insight: Grow Your Business Despite Declining Bar Soap Sales

The Personal Care industry is growing by 5%, but traditional bar soaps are in decline. We have identified some growth areas within the bar soap market that might just be your next big thing!

Global Trends

Accounting for 30% of sales within the soap, shower and bath category, bar soap is seeing a dip in sales around the world, despite other products within the category showing growth. Whilst it should be remembered that bar soap sales are still a large contributor to the personal care industry, identifying slipping trends early on will help you to improve and capitalise on this, rather than fall behind.

In the USA, bar soap sales have slipped by nearly 3% in the last two years, with consumers showing more of an interest in liquid soap products. For the first time, liquid soaps have overtaken sales in the sector with 66% of consumers regularly purchasing liquid soap against 64% regularly purchasing bar soap.

This is reflected in the UK market. 72% of UK consumers use liquid soap regularly, compared with just 55% using bar soap. This is as high as 76% of consumers using liquid soaps in China, with just 22% of consumers interested in bar soap.

Despite this, bar soap sales continue to grow in developing countries in Africa with soap, bath and shower sales dominated by bar soap sales. South American countries as well as India and Indonesia are also seeing strong bar soap sales within the category.

Understanding global trends and identifying successful product launches allows us to understand where the growth is within the soap, shower and bath category for traditional bar soap.


According to Mintel, the most notable reason behind consumers straying away from using traditional bars is the idea that soap bars harbour germs and aren’t as effective antibacterial cleaners as liquid soap. However, research suggests that cleaning with bar soap and warm water is as effective as washing with antibacterial liquid soaps. Consumer perception is a large factor into the cleanliness of bar soap.

It is suggested that a bar soap product should address these concerns both in formulation and packaging. For example, using marketing claims such as natural, antibacterial, germ-free or cleansing might help combat these negative perceptions.


Mintel also highlights the growing global trend of health and wellbeing and how this translates into the personal care sector. As exercise becomes more of a priority amongst consumers, sales in sports or performance related products have also increased.

Deodorising formulations of bar soap could be a niche and lucrative area for product development, with recovery and revitalising focused products already storming the market despite this being a new area for development within the soap, bath and shower category.


Products with multiple uses and marketed towards saving people time on their daily cleansing routine are popular among consumers at the moment. Mintel outlines that this is a reason why liquid soaps are increasing in popularity. However, making such marketing claims with bar soap could help tap into the convenience market.

There has been an incline in the number of bar soaps with exfoliating properties, with 6% of bar soap products making this claim in 2016. In addition to this soap bars that double as in-shower moisturisers are proving popular amongst consumers. A newer addition to the category is soap and sponge combo bars, where the soap is integrated with the sponge. This eliminates the cost of purchasing separate products, whilst also acting to improve performance of the product.

Premium Positioning

The only bar soap to see a lift in sales over recent years is Unilever’s Dove brand, with their soap bar being one of the most widely used household bar soaps. The brand is primarily positioned as a beauty brand with additional skincare benefits and it is positioned highly in comparison to other mainstream soap bars.

Mintel suggests that consumers are willing to spend more on artisan, or premium soap bars but less often. 61% of people are interested in purchasing products that have quality ingredients and luxurious product claims such as aromatherapy, skincare and hygiene. Natural ingredients such as essential oils and superfood extracts will appeal to consumers.

Image Credit: Nlighten

Final Thoughts

Although there is a slight decline in bar soap sales around the world, positioning your product appropriately by identifying and working with consumer trends is key to the success of businesses relying on soap bar sales. Expanding product ranges to include liquid soap products is also recommended in order to adapt to the changing soap, bath and shower market within the personal care sector.

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