Lighter load: Laundry detergents shrink for Amazon

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File photo showing the Tide Eco-Box. (P&G via AP)
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File photo showing Seventh Generation laundry detergent in New York. (AP)
Updated 27 December 2018
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Lighter load: Laundry detergents shrink for Amazon

  • Amazon may drop products from their website that costs too much to ship and aren’t making it enough money
  • The new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking

NEW YORK: Amazon’s rise is forcing laundry detergents to shrink.
Tide and Seventh Generation have introduced redesigned laundry detergents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas. They’re making the changes to please Amazon and other online stores: Lighter packaging means retailers pay less to ship the detergent to shopper’s doorsteps, making each sale more profitable.
For consumers, the new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking. The challenge, however, is getting online shoppers to buy detergent that looks nothing like the heavy bottles they are used to.
Tide is putting its detergent into a cardboard box, making it 4 pounds lighter than its 150-ounce plastic bottles, but still able to wash the same 96 loads. Seventh Generation went with a compact plastic bottle that’s less than 9 inches tall, rectangular in shape and has no measuring cup.
When Tide unveiled photos of its new packaging this fall, social media users joked that it looked like boxed wine. And when Seventh Generation tested an unlabeled version of its new bottle, some mistook it for shampoo.
The downsized detergents are a sign of Amazon’s growing influence. Companies that have designed products for decades to stand out on store shelves are now being pressured by online retailers to make their packaging lighter to cut down on shipping costs, said Gary Liu, vice president of marketing at Boomerang Commerce, which makes software for consumer goods companies.
Amazon, for example, may drop products from their website that costs too much to ship and aren’t making it enough money. Retailers decide how much to charge shoppers, but both Tide and Seventh Generation say they expect the lighter detergents to cost the same as traditional ones.
Tide says its Eco-Box has 60 percent less plastic and uses 30 percent less water in its soap than its 150 ounce bottles. The boxed detergent doesn’t need to be packed in another box: online retailers can just slap an address on it, another way to save costs. Tide, which is owned by Procter & Gamble, says the boxed detergent will be sold at online retailers next month, and it will still sell its traditional bottles.
Seventh Generation, which is owned by consumer goods company Unilever, spent about three years developing its smaller bottle. At 1.6 pounds, it is 5 pounds lighter than its standard 100 ounce bottle. It still washes the same 66 loads as the heavier one, the company said. The measuring cup was replaced with a cap that automatically squirts out the right amount of detergent needed for a single load of laundry.
To make sure the new bottle could withstand delivery, it was sent to a laboratory that mimics the vibrations of Amazon’s warehouse conveyor belts, the bumps of a delivery truck and any accidental drops by warehouse workers, said Jerica Young, Seventh Generation’s senior packaging engineer.
Leaky detergents are not only a pain for shoppers — they can also be expensive for retailers. Ken Day, who usually orders detergent online, said a traditional bottle of Seventh Generation detergent that he bought this summer showed up at his Quincy, Massachusetts, home with a loose measuring cup. After he complained, the retailer replaced the detergent, as well as the two other items that were in the box.
Seventh Generation, which started selling its new bottle on Amazon in October, eventually plans to offer it to physical retailers. But a small bottle sitting next to a bigger one on a store shelf may be a tough sell, since shoppers have been trained to think a larger bottle means more washes, said Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein. To educate shoppers, Seventh Generation posted videos and graphics on Amazon that show how to use the new bottle and how it can wash the same amount of loads as larger bottles.
“Changing people’s behavior is always a challenging thing to do,” Bergstein said.


‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

Updated 23 min 6 sec ago
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‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

  • This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei
  • Another critical partner, ARM Holdings, said it was complying with the US restrictions

BEIJING: While Huawei’s founder brushes aside a US ban against his company, the telecom giant’s employees have been less sanguine, confessing fears for their future in online chat rooms.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei declared this week the company has a hoard of microchips and the ability to make its own in order to withstand a potentially crippling US ban on using American components and software in its products.
“If you really want to know what’s going on with us, you can visit our Xinsheng Community,” Ren told Chinese media, alluding to Huawei’s internal forum partially open to viewers outside the company.
But a peek into Xinsheng shows his words have not reassured everyone within the Shenzhen-based company.
“During difficult times, what should we do as individuals?” posted an employee under the handle Xiao Feng on Thursday.
“At home reduce your debts and maintain enough cash,” Xiao Feng wrote.
“Make a plan for your financial assets and don’t be overly optimistic about your remuneration and income.”
This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.
Another critical partner, ARM Holdings — a British designer of semiconductors owned by Japanese group Softbank — said it was complying with the US restrictions.
“On its own Huawei can’t resolve this problem, we need to seek support from government policy,” one unnamed employee wrote last week, in a post that received dozens of likes and replies.
The employee outlined a plan for China to block off its smartphone market from all American components much in the same way Beijing fostered its Internet tech giants behind a “Great Firewall” that keeps out Google, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other foreign companies.
“Our domestic market is big enough, we can use this opportunity to build up domestic suppliers and our ecosystem,” the employee wrote.
For his part, Ren advocated the opposite response in his interview with Chinese media.
“We should not promote populism; populism is detrimental to the country,” he said, noting that his family uses Apple products.
Other employees strategized ways to circumvent the US ban.
One advocated turning to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao to buy the needed components. Another dangled the prospect of setting up dozens of new companies to make purchases from US suppliers.
Many denounced the US and proposed China ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all-American movies and TV shows.
“First time posting under my real name: we must do our jobs well, advance and retreat with our company,” said an employee named Xu Jin.
The tech ban caps months of US effort to isolate Huawei, whose equipment Washington fears could be used as a Trojan horse by Chinese intelligence services.
Still, last week Trump indicated he was willing to include a fix for Huawei in a trade deal that the two economic giants have struggled to seal and US officials issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban.
In Xinsheng, an employee with the handle Youxin lamented: “I want to advance and retreat alongside the company, but then my boss told me to pack up and go,” followed by two sad-face emoticons.