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Dispenser trends21st of September 2012
Do today’s customers demand style, hygiene and sustainability from their washroom dispensers, or do they merely want a functional system that works? ECJ looks at current trends in the washroom dispenser market.
When washroom dispensers were first developed, early models tended to be functional white boxes with sharp corners and even sharper teeth for pulling out lengths of paper. But over the years various factors such as sustainability, fashion, technology, hygiene awareness and cost have all helped to shape market trends. So which of these factors resonates most with today’s customers?
The answer is all of them, says European communication manager of Tork manufacturer SCA Alexandra Grubb. “Customers want a dispensing system that is hygienic and convenient to use, but the total cost - including cost-in-use and maintenance - should also be right,” she said.
Touch-free systems that are easy to clean are particularly popular with today’s hygiene-aware customers, she says. “Some companies offer dispensers with antibacterial coatings but it is a big challenge to develop an efficient solution that has no negative impact on the environment once it is taken of the wall.”
She says systems like the C-fold towel dispenser, which can give out more towels than the user needs, are going out of fashion. “Most newer systems have tried to address this and we have come up with roll towel systems and new folding technologies to secure one-towel-at-a time dispensing,” she said. “We are also seeing a trend towards higher-capacity dispensers to reduce the frequency of refilling to help control costs.”
According to Grubb there is a growing trend for dispensers equipped with a video screen for showing commercials, or smart devices for tracking and communicating consumption data.
“There is also a general trend towards sustainable solutions, though the economic situation is competing with the environmental aspects of sustainability,” she adds. “The recycling of used dispensers is becoming increasingly important as more of them are equipped with batteries. I think the next big thing will be batteries with a longer life and touch-free systems that require less energy.”
She feels that convenience and ease of use are a potential future trend. “This has been a focus for Tork for quite some time,” she said. “For the user a washroom dispenser needs to be intuitive, easy to understand and capable of delivering an open towel ready to use in a hygienic way. And for the cleaner it should be easy to open, refill and clean while offering sufficient capacity to reduce the frequency of refills.”
The company’s Tork Elevation washroom dispenser line is designed to address all these trends, according to Grubb. And she claims that design is also an important trend today, whether customers recognise it or not.
“Customer surveys indicate that design features, matching dispensers and quality finishes do not figure high on the customer’s wish list, but our experience does not support this,” she said.
“We have observed that an attractive dispenser design can be a deciding factor. But while eye-catching colours are good at attracting attention in adverts and trade shows, this is seldom reflected in sales when customers tend to choose more traditional white, black and grey.”
Metsä Tissue UK and Ireland sales director Mark Dewick feels that dispenser design and finish are only deal-clinchers for the very top tier. “A Michelin-starred restaurant or an elegant hotel will spend a lot of money to ensure its facility is unique and state-of-the-art – and they will want their washrooms to reflect this,” he said.
Manufacturers are increasingly looking for hygienic systems where the visitor only touches the product they use, says Dewick. However he adds that such technology needs to fit the environment. “It is no good if a delay between dispensed sheets causes unacceptable queues in a high-volume washroom,” he explained. “Likewise if the size of the sheet is restricted by the technology, this can result in more than one sheet being required and increased product usage.”
He agrees that end user convenience and ease of use are important issues. “If users have difficulty trying to pull out a sheet they will take three, four or five in frustration.
“Electronic systems also need to be easy to open, fill or load. Cleaning staff have minimal time to carry out cleaning and FM providers may be nervous of technologies that make this function more complicated.”
He says sustainability has become increasingly important and customers are looking towards environmental labelling and WWF advice to see which manufacturers best meet sustainability goals. Other demands include systems that avoid the product running out between maintenance checks - though cost in use is still key according to Dewick. “However all these needs vary from washroom to washroom even within any single organisation, so the real key is flexibility.”
Customers are increasingly looking to customise their washroom dispensers says washroom category manager for Kimberly-Clark Jonathan Green.
“They want to do this either through different colours or having their logos or messages displayed on the dispenser,” he said. “For this reason we have launched the new Aquarius range of hand wash and paper towel dispensers which can be customised using coloured window inserts.”
He says consumption and cost control continue to be major trends. “Hygiene is also a major consideration and we have found that an increasing number of customers are seeking sustainable dispenser solutions.”
Marketing manager for PHS Washrooms Keri Reynolds agrees that many customers are seeking to give their washrooms a more personalised, high-end look. The company offers a range of dispensers, hand dryers and sanitary disposal units with Steritouch antimicrobial additives and coatings claimed to reduce the spread of pathogenic germs.
“Hand dryers that use less energy are a current trend since these do away with the need for paper towels,” said Reynolds. “Sustainability is also big issue and it is something to which PHS is totally committed.” The company has had the carbon footprint of its waste disposal services calculated by the Carbon Trust and holds the Carbon Reduction Label.
Brightwell Dispensers has noticed an increasing demand for foam product dispensers according to international marketing executive Suzanne Gardent. “This might be explained by end customers' appreciation of the soft, bubbly qualities of foam soap and the fact that it helps to reduce consumption since one shot of foam typically represents 0.3ml-0.6ml of liquid,” she said.
“Many customers are also seeking ‘greener’ products and more durable dispensers instead of cheap ones that need replacing or maintaining. And we are seeing a growing trend for flexible, one-dispenser-fits-all solutions.” Brightwell’s Modular and Mercury dispensers can dispense soap in foam, spray, or liquid formats by changing the pump.
“There is also a growing awareness of health and hygiene,” said Gardent. “Touch-free solutions are a growing trend and an increasing number of customers are requesting disposable pouch-and-pump systems instead of the traditional disposable pouch with fixed pump.”
She says dispenser design remains key in the hotel, bar and office sectors. “We are also finding that larger multinationals are seeking a bespoke design to match their brand identity.”
European marketing manager for Gojo Europe Suzanne De Maine says aesthetics play a valuable role in encouraging people to develop healthy hand care habits. “Dispensers that look good and are easy to use - with soap textures and fragrances more associated with luxury consumer brands - are bound to be popular,” she said.
Touch-free appliances and consumption control are other current trends, she says. “Controlling consumption helps companies with their ‘green’ aims, as can touch-free dispensers that give out just the right amount of product such as our LTX range. Meanwhile reducing the amount of packaging and materials used in the manufacture of dispensers and refills is also important.”
Gojo’s Smart-Flex bottles are made from recyclable PET and are said to use 30 per cent less material than rigid HDPE versions.
According to Bobrick vice president Andrew Sweibel touch-free dispensing and sustainability are today’s major trends. “Adjustable dispense amounts on soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers not only reduce consumption and consequently waste, they also reduce operating costs,” he said.
“Post-consumer waste is another important issue since controlling the quantity of paper dispensed reduces the amount of trash. And the material used to manufacture the dispenser is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be. Materials such as stainless steel can contain significant amounts of recycled and/or recyclable elements.”
He says today’s customers appreciate attractive design but are generally more concerned with function over form. And he adds: “Cost savings are always important, but cost control is not a trend but an on-going need.”
Bobrick’s TowelMate system is designed to dispense one folded towel at a time to reduce waste. The company has also developed cost-savings calculators on its website to allow customers to calculate their monthly savings using Bobrick products.
Hagleitner marketing manager Johanna Klammer says consumption control, design and innovative technology are all key trends today. “Anti-theft protection and systems that avoid contamination are also important since they help to reduce usage,” she said.
“Meanwhile, more and more customers are seeking recycled paper or dermatologically and environmentally-friendly certified refills. This issue is increasingly becoming a deciding factor for customers. And attractive design is also important since it helps to differentiate us from the competition.”
Durable and reliable
Marketing manager of Vectair Louise Goldsmith says today’s main trends are for durable, reliable units that offer high-tech features and programmable settings. “The look of a washroom is extremely important and an attractive dispenser makes people aware that you take the washroom experience seriously,” she said. “We have recently seen an increase in customers wanting their own unique finish to a dispenser. However unusual colours are not to everybody’s taste and most dispensing systems tend not to stray from white, black or chrome.”
She says cost in use is still vital, particularly with air freshener systems. “Programmability is important since it allows the user to eradicate unnecessary consumption. For the same reason the pump system on a manual soap dispenser and the sensor on an automatic dispenser both
need to be reliable since a faulty sensor or a manual pump that sticks can increase cost in use.”
She claims interest in sustainability to be on the increase. “Demand has risen for non-aerosol fragrancing products such as wick based passive dispensers, ceramic biodegradable cartridges and aerosols that use fewer VOCs and work with no propellant.”
And convenience is another reoccurring theme adds Goldsmith. “A dispenser has to be simple to use since customers can be put off by over-complicated dispensers that need the brain of Einstein to work correctly. There is also an increase in demand for anti-microbial coatings.
“But in the end it is all about finding the dispenser that best blends all of the above-mentioned features - and that wraps them up into one affordable product.”