Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has launched a new brand in the naturals segment called Nature Protect. After beauty, skin and hair care, this will be the fourth brand in HUL's naturals or herbal portfolio, targeting home care. Analysts say that HUL is filling "white spaces", tapping areas where there is significant consumer momentum.
"Hygiene has grown exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nature Protect is an answer to the felt need for good household products that are sustainable at the same time," says Kaustubh Pawaskar, associate vice-president, research, at brokerage Sharekhan.
In response to a mail, an HUL spokesperson said that hygiene was a lifestyle issue and required a holistic approach. "Nature Protect is an indigenously developed and a 360-degree range for India, keeping in mind every surface and touch-point that is a potential source of germs and causing consumer anxiety. This launch brings together three important pillars like efficacy, safety and naturally derived, which we believe is a gap in the market," the spokesperson said.
The new range uses plant-based extracts such as neem for hygiene requirements and has detergents, germ-kill sprays and wipes, surface disinfectants and floor cleaners as well as fruit and vegetable cleaners.
While HUL's naturals portfolio has been led largely by brands such as Ayush (Ayurvedic line of beauty and personal care products) and Indulekha (hair care), Nature Protect, says Abneesh Roy, executive vice-president, research (institutional equities), Edelweiss, could help expand its reach in the herbal category even further.
"This is the right time to launch a hygiene brand, since people are learning to live with the virus. Many want an efficacious product that has natural extracts," Roy said. "The brand (Nature Protect) will ride on the distribution might of HUL, helping it gain a foothold in the market," he said.
HUL says that its existing naturals brands (such as Ayush and Indulekha) will continue to be part of its portfolio. The company had introduced global skin care brand Citra in India in 2017 to strengthen its naturals skin care range. But some analysts say that Citra and Ayush have seen limited success, prompting HUL to introduce newer products to keep the excitement going in the category.
"Ayush was an answer to Patanjali as well as other competitors such as Dabur active in the naturals segment. However, it is a challenge to grow in a market where there are strong incumbents. Which is why HUL is now looking at getting newer brands in the category," said Sachin Bobade, vice-president, research, at brokerage Dolat Capital.
However, the HUL spokersperson said that Covid-19 has led to structural changes in the market, prompting a response from the company.
"Constant cleaning and sanitising is the new normal. As things normalize, this will get adjusted. But the surface cleaner market will continue to be a high-growth segment – given that even in the largest segment of floor cleaners, only 1 in 5 households use a branded floor cleaner and for other surfaces it is less than 1 in 100 households," the spokesperson said.