Skip to Content

Why Americans Are Dumping Bar Soap for Liquids

Glycerin Soap in Soap DishGlycerin Soap in Soap Dish
Bar soap sales are continuing to decline. Photograph by MyLoupe UIG — Getty Images

Like Google displaced Yahoo, it seems that liquid soap is disrupting the traditional bar soap business.

Despite accounting for 30% of soap, bath, and shower sales, traditional bar soap revenues continue to fall. According to the research firm Mintel, sales of bar soap fell 2.2% between 2014 and 2015, even though the overall market grew 2.7% during that time.

And as bar soap sales fall, so does its usage. Mintel also reported that the percentage of households using bar soap slid 5 percentage points in the five years between 2010 and 2015, from 89% to 84%.

The reason for the decline? Convenience. Mintel research found that over half (55%) of all consumers think that traditional bar soap is less convenient than liquid soap.

See also: Why Hong Kongers Are Lining Up for Hours for Nutella

But that’s not the only reason. The ick and old fogey factors also play a role in traditional bar soap’s decline.

People who choose liquid soap over bar soaps often have negative perceptions of the latter, with 48% of U.S. consumers believing that bar soaps are covered in germs after use. Sixty percent of consumers aged 18-24 feel particularly strong about bar soap’s germ factor, compared to only 31% of consumers who are 65 and older.

The study notes that bar soap is more widely accepted among “more mature Americans,” and often suffers from an old-fashioned image.

 

This embrace of convenient liquid soap comes as Americans boost spending on in-shower moisturizers, delivering another blow to the traditional bar soap world. Faced with limited soap budgets, consumers may find it tempting to switch from high-end bar soaps to inexpensive varieties in order to have money to splurge on their in-shower moisturizers, Mintel says.

“In order to turn sluggish sales around, new bar soap product launches could incorporate a wider variety of claims, especially for more luxury and premium bar soap offerings,” said Margie Nanninga, beauty analyst at Mintel.

Overall, only 64% of all American consumers use bar soap, with 68% of men reporting traditional bar soap usage compared to 60% of women.

In 2015, liquid body soaps were valued at $2.7 billion and accounted for 47% of category sales, Mintel reports.