P&G ready for big innovation after Tide Pods delay

CINCINNATI Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:29am EST

CINCINNATI Feb 15 (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co regrets the long-delayed debut of its new Tide Pods detergent and intends to introduce more new products and brands that can shake up the market, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

CEO Bob McDonald would like to see the household and personal-care products leader have more of what he calls "discontinuous innovation," creating new categories, new brands and new technology to use across the entire company, he told a group of reporters at a P&G event in Cincinnati.

P&G is hailing Tide Pods as its biggest product innovation of 2012, despite a variety of setbacks and limited marketing support. Tide Pods -- a single-dose, dissolvable packet of detergent, stain fighters and brighteners -- were expected on store shelves in August 2011, but are just now appearing at retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Although major advertising will not begin until later this year, stores are receiving the product now, but without the separate displays that typically accompany a launch in the household products industry.

"While we do take responsibility" for the delay of Tide Pods and "we regret it," the company introduces about 27 big, new items each year, he said. "We want to do better, we will do better, we didn't do as well as we would like on Pods."

Getting it right with Tide is important for P&G's reputation. Tide was the company's first brand to surpass $1 billion in annual sales in the late 1980s and McDonald, CEO since July 2009, and A.G. Lafley, his CEO predecessor, are among the executives to have worked on the brand.

Analysts were surprised by the delay, as P&G is renowned for spending $2 billion a year on research and development and more than four times that amount on advertising.

"It is unclear what happened to the P&G that 'painted purple' U.S. stores when it launched Prilosec," Consumer Edge Research analyst Javier Escalante said, referring to that product's distinct packaging.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Connie Maneaty trimmed her fiscal 2012 profit expectations, including a reduction of 5 cents per share tied to the delay of the Tide Pods launch, even before the company issued second-quarter results last month.

It is not the first time in recent memory that a P&G product launch has had hiccups. There was the glitch in 2011 when Gillette could not make enough Fusion ProGlide razors.

Tide Pods are priced at a premium to traditional powder detergent, which may make it tough to entice shoppers. The pricing is more on par with Tide liquid detergents that have added benefits, such as Tide with Febreze, McDonald said.

While P&G delayed its product launch to get production levels right, competitor Church & Dwight Co Inc is already selling its Arm & Hammer Power Paks single-use laundry detergent.

The single-packet concept however, has yet to fully catch on with consumers in the United States.

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