Bar Soap Market Review RSS

Posted February 2016

According to Mintel, the US Soap, Bath and Shower industry is a $5.5 billion business. Although body wash is the largest dollar category, bar soap leads in number of individual units sold by approximately 2-to-1. The bar soap category has retail sales of $1.7 billion, which is larger than liquid hand soap, hand sanitizer and bath accessories combined.

We see two market segments within the bar soap category growing considerably – natural and dermatological. While natural is not strictly defined, it is generally classified as a vegetable based bar soap with natural fragrances and/or organic ingredients. Dermatological formulations, which must be gentle on the skin, are made with synthetic cleansers and feature a pH value of 5.5 to 7.


Within the natural category, Nielsen reports double digit growth for market leaders Shea Moisture, Dr. Bronner’s and Kirk’s Castile.

Approximately two-thirds of consumers say that seeing “contains natural ingredients” on the package is an important claim. The most frequently cited reason to buy natural products is that they don’t contain unnecessary ingredients or chemicals, with 58% of consumers stating that as a top concern.

Reasons for purchasing natural products also vary by age. The older consumer is looking for overall health and wellness; younger consumers tend to think that natural products are better quality.


Bar soap has also evolved from being purely about cleansing to offering a host of skin care benefits, which is contributing to the growth of dermatological cleansing. Mildness and moisturizing are the leading call-outs, but there are a host of other claims that resonate with consumers depending on what they want in a cleanser.

When consumers look for a cleanser to address skin care issues such as acne or eczema, synthetic bars are recommended because they work better with active ingredients like salicylic acid and benzyl peroxide. In the US, sales of products that treat acne are increasing because, in addition to the traditional teenage acne treatment market, older consumers are looking to address adult acne.

The US bar soap market is almost evenly divided between synthetic cleansers and traditional tallow/vegetable based soaps, with synthetic cleanser sales at a 51% market share, or $885 million, according to Nielsen. The synthetic based Dove family of beauty bars represents 38% of US bar soap retail sales, which means that approximately 13% of synthetic based US bar sales come from other brands. Many of these, including Cetaphil, CeraVe and Vanicream, have seen strong growth in recent years.

Please contact Bradford at to discuss formulation options in both the natural and dermatological category.