P&G Adjusts Tide Pod Packaging

CINCINNATI — In response to reports of calls to poison control centers, P&G will adjust the packaging of its Tide Pods and air consumer-education ads.

The pods, which combine detergent, stain remover and color brightener into a dissolving single use pouch, were an eagerly awaited product launch. But these brightly colored swirled pods have had unexpected consequences: approximately 250 calls to poison control after children ingested what they thought was candy.

Suzette Middleton, external relations manager for Tide, said the biggest issue was that it was a new product and there needed to be more education about keeping the product out of the reach of children. “With the new smaller packages it's easier not to think about them in the same way as large amounts of powder and liquid,” she said.

Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director for Datamonitor, a product sales monitoring service said that the design of the pods also played a role. “The pods are colorful like candies in a way that suggests a burst of flavor,” he said. But the packaging of Tide Pods was an unfortunate marketing decision, said Vierhile referring to the see-through plastic tubs the pods are sold in. Other brands in the rapidly growing single-use detergent segment — such as Arm & Hammer and Purex — use opaque plastic bags.

“It’s a fine line with being innovative with your product packaging,” he said. “You want people to notice but not create a hazard.”

Tide spent eight years developing the pods, involved 6,000 consumers in research, and sketched more than 450 product and packaging images. Middleton reported that the sales of the pods were doing “a little bit better” than expected. “Consumer response has validated our research,” she said.

New television ads now include a reminder for parents to keep the product out of the reach of children. And in July, a double latch will replace the single latch currently on the package.

Vierhile pointed out that the pods were an extension of the trend toward a blurring of the line between product forms that are and aren’t for consumption including Downey Unstoppables, a shake-in laundry scent booster, Gain Fireworks scent boosters, and medicines such as gummi vitamins and Chloraseptic sore throat lollipops.