The air freshener market now offers a wide range of products and a variety of solutions.

When Alisha Mahajan, who recently relocated from Guwahati to Bangalore, set foot in a store to buy an air freshener for her 1,500 sq. ft. apartment, she was amazed at the offerings on the shelves.

The middle-aged homemaker, who had graduated from aerosols to electric plug-ins, was taken aback by the array of choices – more than three brands and their varied offerings.

For a generation that had grown up on the odour of naphthalene balls in the cupboard and the aroma of incense sticks, the choice is now large and varied. In sprays and plug-ins, all offerings have been transformed into lifestyle statements. Marketers have unleashed innovation as a byword for product differentiation.

The air care market, a Rs 50-crore niche about a decade ago, is now pegged at Rs 300 crore, and is growing at an average of 20 per cent year on year, according to industry analysts.

Emerging ambience

The journey began in 2008 when Reckitt Benckiser launched the first “air freshener”, called Air Wick. Available in cans, the products created a niche in FMCG.

However, since then, several international and domestic brands have introduced different types of air fresheners in India such as aerosols, electric air fresheners, gels and candles, car fresheners, room and bathroom fresheners.

The flurry of activity that followed saw brands such as Dabur’s Odonil, Sara Lee Corp’s (now P&G) AmbiPur, JK Helene Curtis’ Premium, Henkel’s Renuzit and SC Johnson’s Glade.

In July this year Godrej re-entered the segment with its Aer brand.

“We think there is immense scope for growth in the segment, especially as it is still very nascent,” P. Ganesh, vice-president - finance and commerce, Godrej Consumer Products, said.

(Godrej, incidentally, is a market leader in the segment in South-East Asian market through its Stella brand of fresheners.)

Product Evolution

According to industry observers, Godrej’s re-entry into this growing segment of homecare marks the completion of a circle. Godrej had exited the segment in 2010 after P&G bought out the AmbiPur brand from Sara Lee .

When Godrej vacated the space, it had said Sara Lee products were not big contributor to its top line. But the situation seems to have changed now.

The change can be gauged from the product varieties and re-branding exercise carried out by the existing players, market sources said.

Reckitt Benckiser’s Air Wick and Henkel's Renuzit include a range of electric room fresheners, aerosols, and sprays.

Helene Curtis’ Premium offers room fresheners and a fridge freshener – Smell Well. Fridge fresheners are another unheard of product for the older generation.

Glade has a collection of candles, sprays, oils and gels, and plug-in home fresheners.

Ambi ur, previously the market leader in car fresheners (perhaps the only category that saw mass popularisation with the increase in car sales), has extended its offerings to room fresheners.

Odonil, which started out as an odour removal product for bathrooms – through scented blocks – now has its presence in all the existing air-care sub-categories that include sprays and pluggies.

Godrej's Aer will have plug-in, aerosols and car fresheners as the three primary category offerings.

“The market, though nascent, is heading for a competitive run. While air fragrance still continues to be a minuscule segment in the total home care segment that includes insecticides, floor cleaners and other stuff, there remains scope for a brand to come in and gain sufficient presence. Godrej's re-entry underlines this simple reality,” an industry observer said.

Edelweiss Research analyst Abneesh Roy also felt the same way. “There is enough room for fresh entries in this fledgling market,” he said. P&G, however, declined respond to BrandLine’s queries on the market.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, the conventional odour-removal products are reasonably priced.

Aerosol air fresheners comprise the standard segment.

Moving up the ladder, the sub-categories such as electric air fresheners and car fresheners make up the premium segment in terms of product categories (called A and A+ markets in FMCG parlance).

While most products have similar pricing, Aer comes at a premium of 20 per cent to competition.

“The offerings are placed in the mid- and high-end segment. But considering the fragrance and overall experience, we expect good uptake,” Ganesh of Godrej Consumer added.

(This article was published on August 9, 2012)
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