Sales of bar soap continue to slip slide away in the United States, and one group of consumers is taking the blame: millennials.
A new study from Mintel, a global consumer research firm, finds that Americans continue to prefer liquid soap over bar soap, accounting for a 2.2 percent drop in bar soap sales from 2014 to 2015 even though the overall market grew 2.7 percent at the same time.
The percentage of American households that use bar soap dropped 5 percentage points, from 89 percent to 84 percent, between 2010 and 2015, according to the Mintel study.
So what’s going on with bar soap? Mintel’s research reveals that 48 percent of American consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use. A third of soap users age 65 and older believe that.
But 60 percent of consumers ages 18 to 24 think bar soap is covered with icky germs after use, a belief reflected in advice given by some health authorities who recommend liquid soap over bar soap for washing hands.
The Minnesota Department of Health, for instance, says germs can grow on bar soap and spread easily from one person to another, which is why it recommends not using it in a household where someone has skin infections or in public places.
“Does the news that millennials are no longer using bar soap have you all worked up in a lather?” Jezebel wrote in response to the Mintel study.
“Bar soap should not be going out of style because bar soap has a very specific place in this world and that place is on your shower rack in your shower.
“Despite your squeamishness about ‘germs’ ... bar soap is the best soap for body-washing, probably better than actual body wash, because bar soap is better for your skin (evidence: anecdotal) and better for the environment (less packaging).
“Getting grossed out about sharing bar soap is silly because you do not need to to touch it directly to most of your bod. Put it between your hands, work up some suds, then use your mitts to scrub up in those hard to reach places.”
Still, Americans are showing preferences for bar-soap alternatives — including liquid body washes and liquid hand soaps, said Mintel’s beauty analyst Margie Nanninga.
More than half — 55 percent — of all consumers believe bar soap is less convenient than liquid varieties.