Tide detergent, Pantene shampoo and Gillette razors have filled cupboards for decades. But being a household name isn’t good enough anymore.
Procter & Gamble, which makes those products and more, is facing increasing competition. Shoppers are buying more store brands, which cost less and get prime shelf space in supermarkets and big box stores.
And then there’s the rise of hip online startups selling razors and natural deodorants directly to a younger generation.
P&G has been buying some of those new brands, such as the maker of Bevel razors, aimed at young men of colour.
David Taylor, P&G’s CEO, says the company is also tweaking products to appeal to older folks, who are quickly becoming a big chunk of the population. In the U.S., for example, the government expects adults over 65 to outnumber children for the first time in 2034.
Taylor, who has run Cincinnati-based P&G since 2015, recently talked to The Associated Press about the rise of online shopping and his take on reducing plastic waste. The questions and answers below have been edited for clarity and length.
P&G launched a razor aimed at caretakers that’s designed to shave someone else. Are there other products you’re thinking about for older generations?
There is an aging population around the world: take Japan, take Italy, take the U.S. We have tried to make sure that we broaden the audience that we serve. The aging population is a huge, and in many ways, underserved group. It can be everything from how easy it is to read the package, how easy it is to open the package, or the design of the formula to appeal to the specific issues that you may have. Your hair needs are different when you’re older. Your skin needs are different when you’re older.
Why do you think it’s an underserved market?
If you look in the marketplace there are just countless examples, whether it’s packaging or formulation that is designed for the 18-to-49-year-old, which has been more of a historic target audience for many consumer products.
How closely do you work with Amazon?
Amazon is a very valued customer, but so is Walmart and Target and Walgreens and Kroger and Costco and Sam’s Club. We want to be agnostic to where consumers want to shop. Our e-commerce business is passing US$5 billion and grew 25% last year. It’s a big part of our business. But in the context of our total company, it’s just under 10% of our sales.
Do you think that’s going to change?
Yeah, it’s no question. E-commerce is growing faster than bricks and mortar.
How are you dealing with stores creating private-label brands that compete with your products?
Any competition is a challenge. We see that as an opportunity for us to elevate the performance of our brands. We have grown share at the same time private label has grown, and P&G is still growing.
P&G has bought some smaller brands. Will you buy more, or is it easier to create them?
It varies. Generally, P&G is able to invent most things. We have over 175 active experiments going on in the company. Call it small startups: a few people working on an idea, trying to address a consumer problem. On the other hand, there may have been an entrepreneur that’s done a really good job in an area that we say, “That’s ahead of what we’re doing,” or they identified a new area and it may be better to go ahead and acquire that. So we’re open to both.
Plastic is a big environmental problem, and P&G uses it for packaging. How are you addressing that?
You will see manufacturers like us working to use more recycled plastic. You will see us look for alternatives to plastic. The biggest issue is not plastic, it’s when plastic gets into a river that goes into the ocean and degrades and gets into either the food supply or water supply. We are part of The Alliance to End Plastic Waste. It’s a global cross-industry effort, and we’ve raised over $1 billion dollars over five years working with many non-profit organizations and municipalities to get new technologies and solutions so that plastic waste gets addressed, collected and processed.