The new Cif Ecorefill: how much would consumers pay for sustainability?

Unilever’s Cif Power & Shine cleaning range has just added new Ecorefill bottles to its lineup with the aim to “dramatically cut plastic use and transport emissions”, according to a related company press release. Each Ecorefill is a 70ml fully recyclable plastic bottle containing ten times more concentrated kitchen or bath cleaning detergent, intended to be diluted with water in the consumer’s existing regular Cif Power & Shine trigger spray bottle through an innovative ‘twist and click’ technology. Usage instructions state: “simply fill the bottle with ordinary tap water, twist and click the ecorefill and concentrated liquid is seamlessly released into the bottle”.

The manufacturer has claimed that diluting the product at home would mean “97% less water being transported, 87% fewer trucks on the road and less greenhouse gas emissions” and promised that diluting would have no effect on product performance. Most importantly, the refill bottle is made from 75% less plastic, which reflects commitments within the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to ensure all plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Last week the refills were introduced in Sainsbury’s at the promotional price of £1.50 but Grocery Trader reported that the RRP of the new products would be £2.50 after the promotional period ends. This price is lower than Power & Shine original sprayers, with RRP of £3.30, but is it low enough for the consumers to switch to refilling their old bottle? We were interested in establishing which price would make best profit for the company while keeping consumers satisfied.

Vypr has two types of pricing steers and we ran both of them for the Ecorefill in order to compare results. The reference pricing steer compares the new product with an existing option, aiming to establish how much consumers are ready to pay for the new launch based on pricing information regarding the existing product. In this case we considered that comparing the refill with the original sprayer bottle would be most informative for consumers, helping them to understand what the product is. We selected a £2.30 price for the reference product, as at the moment this represents the average in retail. The graph below shows the result obtained:

In the descriptions of both the reference product and the new launch we included the fact that each lasts for 583 cleans, to make sure that consumers understand that the options are comparable, despite the much smaller size of the refill. The result highlighted a profit maximising price of £1.90, provided that the unit cost is anything below £1.35. Under these circumstances, around 57% of our consumer community would buy the product, compared to 32% who would buy it at £2.30 and 22% – at the suggested RRP of £2.50.

Qualified ‘Would Pay’ Pricing uses a different method for enquiring about best price. It first asks a qualifier question, which in this case was “Do you buy cleaning products?”, followed by a pricing question. The panel was in this way narrowed down to people who buy cleaning products and are, therefore, likely to recognise the brand due to its popularity.

This steer gave us a similar profit-optimising price of £2, provided that the unit cost is below £1.40. In this scenario 71% of our panel would buy the product, compared to only 35% of people willing to buy it at £2.50. As a take-away, it seems that consumers require to be able to make a more substantial saving when they opt for refill products, therefore brands need to consider rewarding shoppers more for reusing their old bottle in an effort to reduce plastic waste. 

Once consumers get to know the new refill products and are convinced that they are as effective as the original spray, they might be likely to opt for promotional packages comprising a sprayer bottle and refill. We took at look at what the best price for such offers would be. The RRP of the original spray is £3.30 but it is sold by Sainsbury’s at a regular price of £3, currently running a promotion at £2. The price of the refill is expected to vary between the promotional price of £1.50 and the RRP of £2.50. In a reference steer we used a Cif Power & Shine Bathroom Spray priced at £2.50 as a reference product, obtaining the following result:

The profit maximising price for the promotional pack is £3.50, assuming that the unit cost is £2.50. The ratio of consumers who would buy it at this price is low, at 22%. The Qualified ‘Would Pay’ Pricing steer for the pack had a similar result:

Around 25% would buy the pack at £3.50 and around 19% – at £4. The only method to attract a majority of consumers is to include the refill for free in the pack as part of the promotion. 65% of our panel would buy the pack for £2.50.

Unilever has stated that according to its research two-thirds of the public felt guilty when throwing away plastic and shoppers were looking for easy switches that can have a positive impact on the environment. The question arises whether consumers are indeed ready to pay more for sustainable products. Practicality is leading in consumers’ choices of household products and companies should aim to market refills as good value. Unilever is aware of this principle and seems to be willing to incorporate it in its new Cif Ecorefill range, although our analysis shows hitting their target pricing may be a struggle.

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