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

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.


Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

Updated 23 August 2019

Powell: No clear hint on rates but says Fed will aid economy

  • The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks
  • Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter

WASHINGTON: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent no clear signal Friday that the Fed will further cut interest rates this year but said it would “act as appropriate” to sustain the expansion — phrasing that analysts see as suggesting rate cuts.
Powell said President Donald Trump’s trade wars have complicated the Fed’s ability to set interest rates and have contributed to a global economic slowdown.
Speaking to a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell didn’t give financial markets explicit guidance on whether or how many rate cuts might be coming the rest of the year. The Fed cut rates last month for the first time in a decade, and financial markets have baked in the likelihood of more rate cuts this year.
The outlook for the US economy, Powell said, remains favorable but continues to face risks. He pointed to increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown and suggested that uncertainty from Trump’s trade wars has contributed to it.
Reacting to the speech Friday, Trump, who has relentlessly attacked Powell and the Fed over its rate policies, kept up his verbal assaults on Twitter:
“As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!” Trump tweeted. “It is incredible that they can ‘speak’without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work “brilliantly” with both, and the US will do great.”
Trump added:
“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powel (sic) or Chairman Xi?“
Powell’s speech comes against the backdrop of a vulnerable economy, with the financial world seeking clarity on whether last month’s rate decision likely marked the start of a period of easier credit.
The confusion only heightened in the days leading to the Jackson Hole conference, at which Powell gave the keynote address. Minutes of the Fed’s July meeting released Wednesday showed that although officials voted 8-2 to cut their benchmark rate by a quarter-point, there was a wider divergence of opinion on the committee than the two dissenting votes against the rate cut had indicated.
The minutes showed that two Fed officials favored a more aggressive half-point rate cut, while some others adopted the polar opposite view: They felt the Fed shouldn’t cut rates at all.
The minutes depicted the rate cut as a “mid-cycle adjustment,” the phrase Powell had used at his news conference after the rate cut. That wording upset traders who interpreted the remark as suggesting that the Fed might not be preparing for a series of rate cuts to support an economy that’s struggling with a global slowdown and escalating uncertainty from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
There was even a difference of opinion among the Fed members who favored a rate cut, the minutes showed, with some concerned most about subpar inflation and others worried more about the threats to economic growth.
Comments Thursday from Fed officials gathering in Jackson Hole reflected the committee’s sharp divisions, including some reluctance to cut rates at least until the economic picture changes.
“I think we should stay here for a while and see how things play out,” said Patrick Harker, the president of the Fed’s Philadelphia regional bank.
Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank and one of the dissenting votes in July, said, “While I see downside risk, I wasn’t ready to act on that relative to the performance of the economy.”
George said she saw some areas of strength, including very low unemployment and inflation now closer to the Fed’s target level. She said her decision on a possible future rate cut would depend on forthcoming data releases.
Robert Kaplan, president of the Fed’s Dallas branch indicated that he might be prepared to support further rate cuts.
If “we are seeing some weakness in manufacturing and global growth, then it may be good to take some action,” Kaplan said.
George was interviewed on Fox Business Network; Harker and Kaplan spoke on CNBC.
The CME Group, which tracks investor bets on central bank policy, is projecting the likelihood that the Fed will cut rates at least twice more before year’s end.
Adding to the pressures on the Fed, Trump has kept up his attacks on the central bank and on Powell personally, arguing that Fed officials have kept rates too high and should be cutting them aggressively.
Trump has argued that a full percentage-point rate reduction in coming months would be appropriate — a suggestion that most economists consider extravagantly excessive as well as an improper intrusion on the Fed’s political independence.
The president contends that lower rates in other countries have caused the dollar to rise in value and thereby hurt US export sales.
“Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “They put us at a disadvantage against our competition.”
Earlier in the week, he had told reporters, “If the Fed would do its job, you would see a burst of growth like you have never seen before.”
Powell has insisted that the White House criticism has had no effect on the Fed’s deliberations over interest rate policy.