Skip to main content

Leading the Charge


Despite slow growth in a mature category, some segments of the battery category have seen an uptick. Overall, the category has had sluggish growth at 1.5 percent for the 52 weeks ending April 17, according to IRI data.

Still, Chicago-based IRI finds that higher-priced premium performance alkaline batteries, which last longer than traditional alkaline batteries, are becoming a bigger part of the category and driving profit. Rayovac’s high-performance Fusion brand incredibly grew more than 1,000 percent in the 52-week period, while Duracell’s Quantum grew 15.8 percent and Quantum Powercheck surged an impressive 51.9 percent.

Energizer’s Eco Energizer, the first AA battery made with 4 percent recycled batteries — and the brand’s highest-performing alkaline battery — skyrocketed an amazing 500 percent in dollar sales for the 52-week period, proving that consumers will pay more for sustainable products as long as they perform well.

St. Louis-based Energizer recently introduced Energizer Recharge, the first rechargeable AA and AAA batteries made with recycled batteries, also featuring 4 percent recycled battery material. Since consumers have been slower to adopt rechargeables, it will be an interesting product to watch.

Premium batteries have had an impact on private label, which holds a 12.5 percent share of category sales, down 2.6 percent from a year ago, according to IRI. A dependence on promotions, such as the buy-two-get-one-free recently run by Ahold USA-owned supermarket chain Giant Landover in Washington, D.C., on its Smart Living alkaline batteries, deliver turns but not dollars to the segment, which continues to face competition from higher-performing products.

Merchandising around growth brands lifts the category. “Retailer merchandising needs to signpost the category and support the brands that drive higher value,” says William De Groot, assistant brand manager at Bethel, Conn.-based Duracell a Procter & Gamble brand. “Price-only tactics at the battery shelf will not yield category growth.”

With so many choices and price points, consumers can be confused about which product to choose. “As we talk to consumers about the battery category, we hear that they are not aware of some of the differences among the battery type,” notes Ann Rule, senior director of marketing, North America batteries at Rayovac, part of Madison, Wis.-based Spectrum Brands.

To help consumers better understand their products, Rayovac updated its packaging to clearly communicate which batteries are best suited to specific electronic devices. The new packaging debuts this summer.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Hearing aid batteries, fueled by an aging Boomer generation continuing to enter the segment, is growing at 2 percent to 3 percent a year. “The growth is driven by an increase in the population of those age 65-plus who are in need of aids as hearing deteriorates; however, there are 23 million Americans over the age of 65 who have untreated hearing loss, and we are trying to educate and inspire them to take action with their hearing health to not miss important moments in their life,” asserts Duracell’s De Groot.

To that end, the brand recently launched Stay Connected, a campaign that includes a video addressing the importance of treating hearing loss, kicking of the campaign in May with an appearance by John Slattery, of TV’s “Mad Men,” a.k.a. “silver fox” Roger Sterling.

Since new technologies within hearing devices are being introduced regularly, and many require more battery power and put more drain on the hearing aid batteries themselves, manufacturers are launching premium batteries in this segment as well.

Energizer has improved the performance of its hearing aid batteries so that they now last up to 30 percent longer than previous designs in wireless devices and are designed to prevent damaging leaks. “Our hearing aid batteries also have long tabs, making it easier for consumers to handle and insert [them] into the hearing aid,” says Michelle Atkinson, chief consumer officer at Energizer.

“We are seeing consumers migrate to smaller hearing aid devices, which have made some of the smaller sizes the fastest-growing SKUs, namely size 312,” observes Rayovac’s Rule, adding that secondary displays, which are successful across the store, are particularly important for hearing aid batteries when placed near pharmacy. “Making this category easy to find and easy to shop is critical in converting hearing aid battery shoppers into buyers,” she notes.

De Groot agrees. “We have found that display locations within the pharmacy area are best for merchandising these batteries,” he says. “However, including them in the home battery location drives maximum hearing aid battery sales.”

Portable Power

Other segments can also boost sales. Flashlights, headlights and other portable power sources are important ancillary segments for emergency preparedness and can be a strong segment during the summer storm season and for outdoor activities during the warmer months.

In the light segment, Energizer offers a high-performance lightweight headlight suitable for a number of activities that require two hands. “The Vision HD+ Focus LED Headlight, one example of [our] line of high-performance headlights, features a 250-lumen powerful beam with three light modes, including night vision, digital focus and memory recall, and a pivoting functionality to direct light where you need it,” says Atkinson. “It runs up to six hours, has a beam distance of 240 feet, [and] is water-resistant and drop-tested to stand up to harsh conditions.”

Energizer has the flashlight segment covered with its 2AA LED and 3AAA LED models, both made of commercial-grade aluminum that delivers custom optics, and featuring digital switching for three modes: high power-saver and emergency strobe.

For its part Duracell recently launched a line of mobile/portable power-charging packs under the Duracell Mobile subbrand which includes portable power packs in a variety of sizes.

“Price-only tactics at the battery shelf will not yield category growth.”
—William De Groot, Duracell

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds