The changing strategies in the battle for consumers’ pockets in the detergent market have remarkably shifted the overall narrative of brand activities in the sector.

The laundry soap product line in the country has two major categories: hand-wash and machine-wash. Powder detergents and bar detergents form major portions of the hand-wash segment. In the machine-wash segment, powder detergents and liquid detergents are the main types. Of the two categories, that of the powder detergent seems to be more popular and highly patronized by households in the country.

This week on consumers and product review, we look at how major brands in the powder detergent market are competing for market share and profitability.

OMO seems to have lost its place

Once upon a time, OMO detergent (a household name which stands for “Old Mother Owl”) from the stables of Unilever has adjudged the king of detergent in the Nigerian market. In those days, the exploits of OMO as the detergent of choice dwarfed the performances of rivals as it boxed the likes of Elephant from the stables of PZ Cusson, Surf detergent made by Unilever, and other small players, into a tight corner.

Its dominance in the market was such that its television adverts which promised that, “Super Blue OMO washes brighter and it shows” became an anthem among children who grew up in the early 90s.

However, the arrival of Eko Supreme Resources, makers of So Klin, sometime in 1996 was the beginning of fall of the “king”. The brand, So Klin, which started nibbling at the fringes of OMO’s market share came into the market with an innovation, white detergent which was an industry first.

Business day

In addition, its offer of a detergent with a deep-washing function gave Nigerians reasons to switch their loyalty to the new brand. With So Klin, they did not need to spend extra money to buy bleach for their white laundry, unlike the blue OMO which they suddenly noticed turned their white clothes, blue. Also, the fact that So Klin came in small affordable sachets added another perk to its handful of benefits.

Interestingly, the “game plan” to overthrow OMO, initiated by So Klin, was played to the hilt by Ariel detergent from the stables of Procter & Gamble (P&G) a late-comer to the detergent market in the country.

At the beginning of the race, So Klin was more interested in marketing than brand-building, this was the deficiency that was leveraged by Ariel, which was first launched in 1998, to upstage the competition in the detergent market.

Deal book 300 x 250

Unlike So Klin, Ariel boasts a rich parentage (P&G) that could match OMO’s parent brand money for money, in terms of investment in research and development, advertising and marketing support and distribution logistics.

Bearing in mind the various challenges posed by new entrants into the detergent product line, major producers now have more threats from the ‘not so huge players’ such as Nasco Industries, producers of Brytex and Bonus, and Limex Global, manufacturers of Miss Bimbo who are now making huge impacts in the detergent market.

However, major FMCGs in the country, Unilever Nigeria Plc, makers of Sunlight detergent and OMO detergent, Procter & Gamble (P&G), producers of Ariel, and PZ Nigeria Plc, manufacturers of Canoe are unrelenting in their quest to dominate and hold the ace in the detergent market.

 What big players are doing

Findings by Nairametrics show that the big players in the market have also considerably added more value to their product offerings, such as pleasing fragrances to attract and retain consumers’ interest.

Re-branding, re-packaging, re-designing and reducing sizes to be more pocket-friendly with the reduced purchasing power of consumers are some of the other strategies employed by these big players to ensure that they capture more of the market for themselves.

New washing technology and chemicals for commercial laundry service providers, such as stain removers, also serve as added value.

In 2010, Ariel improved on its products with a technology that introduced more enzymes and polymers that remove tough stains in ‘one wash that most detergents can’t remove in two washes,’ which other detergent brands have tried to beat thereafter.

It is also noteworthy that Sunlight, another detergent from Unilever, has also gained market share.

 What consumers say

A Lagos-based housewife, Mrs. Esther Essien, said she grew up with only two brands in mind, OMO, and Elephant; but today, she buys more of Sunlight.

In her words:

“Well… as far as I am concerned, there is no detergent I prefer to Sunlight lately. My aged mother used to send me to buy OMO and Elephant in those days, but now, Sunlight comes with different things that attract me, most especially the perfume it and the fact that it is available everywhere.”

Another mother, Mrs. Ngozi, said that what she likes about the brands is that they all have cleaning power,

”… unlike in those days when one had to scrub and scrub before getting results, the detergents have all improved greatly.” she stated.

Mr. Paul, a consumer who owns a dry-cleaning outfit, said that most of the detergent brands are doing well in the market basically because they all recognise that consumers want more for little amounts, i.e., they consider price, size, and packaging when deciding on a brand in the market.

“Some have gone ahead to infuse other washing ingredients and technology into their brands to enhance their acceptance in the market.” he stated.

According to him,

“most times, I use two of these brands — So Klin and Sunlight. So Klin for its stain magnet and colour guard technology, and Sunlight for its freshness and fragrance.”

On the market leadership, a retail owner at Ogba, a suburb of Lagos, noted that the limitations of traditional bar soaps have led to the development of synthetic detergents that are superior in performance. He noted that Sunlight, Ariel and So Klin are major contenders for the leadership position in the market, but that the odds favour Sunlight and Ariel.

Respondents on Facebook Osokoya Mustapha, claims that Ariel is for the Elite while other brands are for the masses. LarrySmith Osahon also said Klin or Ariel for purely white, while he uses Sunlight for colored clothes. Chinedu Amah also revealed that he is back to Omo/Sunlight, and using Klin to wash looks like an adhesive

 The verdict

From responses garnered so far, Ariel seems to be the favorite of many detergent consumers in Nigeria for now, followed by Sunlight, So Klin, OMO, and others.

A poll on our social media platform shows that Ariel got 42% of the votes, Sunlight got 38%, OMO got 13% and Klin got 7%.

For this week, Ariel is the winner. However, players in the detergent market must know that most Nigerian consumers don’t always have permanent loyalty because an innovation from any other brand can tilt the changeable market preference, placing that brand at the topmost position.







  1. i disagree the way you do your analysis of products/brands in the country. Ask Costco Warehouse, you should analysis every segments of the products from the ingredients, qualities, costs, effects on environment and people and why we should buy this or that product. Not necessarily the brand or company name.


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