Automation has been a most welcome advance in today’s society and is increasingly being implemented in various consumer sectors. Not surprisingly, this is a trend that is well received given that automation has labor saving benefits which ultimately translate into more convenience for the consumer. Mintel reports that 72% of European consumers in the age groups 45-54 and 55+ think that it is important to have products that reduce steps in common cleaning tasks. Fifty-eight percent of consumers 16-24 also share this thinking. Given these statistics, it is understandable that manufacturers of household products are meeting the need by launching more convenience-based products- based on data showing that the introduction of cleaning products in this category escalated from 5.4% in 2005 to 26.3% in 2012. Consumers also want ‘natural’ products. Mintel reports that a 2012 survey of UK consumers revealed that 68% thought that it was important that products are made from natural ingredients. Here too, manufacturers seem to be acquiescing by ramping up introductions of ‘natural’-based household products from 9.0% in 2005 to 14.9% in 2012. While these reports establish that consumers strongly endorse convenience-based and ‘natural’ products, the data also indicates that they are less enthusiastic about paying for these kinds of products. For example, when probed about their willingness to pay more for self-cleaning surfaces and fabrics, European consumers responded accordingly: Given that innovation usually comes at a cost, this consumer sentiment presents a challenge for formulators and manufacturers who must develop the technologies that deliver these benefits. The technical community cannot recoil from these challenges, but face them with a continued commitment to meet the needs of the consumer, while continually exploring opportunities to minimize costs.
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