The PR Newswire headline reads: “Helen of Troy Limited Announces Definitive Agreement to Acquire PUR Business from The Procter & Gamble Company.” Cincinnati.com, the website of P&G’s hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, trumpets the more important story: “P&G Brands Water Purifier.”
The purifier P&G is putting its name on is not a typical commercial product, however. The product that will carry the didactic label “P&G Purifier of Water” is a packet of powder developed by P&G in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “enable[s] people anywhere in the world to purify dirty water in a simpler, more affordable and convenient way,” according to the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) website. CDSW distributes the product at cost to governments in need.
Based on technology similar to municipal water systems in developed countries, the powder removes pathogenic microorganisms and suspended matter, making contaminated water clean.
“P&G remains committed to the life-saving work we do through our Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program to provide clean drinking water to countries throughout the world,” says chairman and CEO Bob McDonald. “As a natural extension of that commitment, we are rebranding the water purification packets with a new P&G logo, visibly standing behind a product that embodies our purpose, to touch and improve lives.”
Good for Procter & Gamble. It could have divested itself of the responsibility of maintaining the program along with the sale of its PUR water filters and pitchers business to Helen of Troy. The latter is a “serial acquirer of P&G orphan brands, including Pert Plus, Sure and Infusium23,” as Jack Neff puts it in Ad Age.
Other familiar brand names under Helen of Troy’s umbrella include OXO, Personal Care: Revlon, Vidal Sassoon, Dr. Scholl's, Pro Beauty Tools, Brut, Vicks, Braun, Honeywell and SoftHeat. But Helen of Troy certainly has nowhere near the global clout and resources that P&G can summon to keep the ambitious CSDW program going. That need is almost unfathomable to those of us who have been blessed with reliable sources of clean water.
“Every day more than 4,000 children in developing countries die, simply because they don't have clean drinking water,” according to the CSDW website. “P&G has committed to save one life every hour in the developing world by delivering more than 2 billion liters of clean drinking water every year by 2020, helping save an estimated 10,000 lives and preventing 80 million days of diarrheal illness on an annual basis.”
“I’m so thrilled with this change -- what a huge statement of support by P&G for the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program -- to not only keep it but to put the P&G name on a product for the first time in 100 years,” says Greg Allgood, director of the program. (That product was P and G White Naphtha Soap in 1904.)
Cincinnati.com’s David Holthaus reports that Allgood was “partly responsible for persuading P&G to keep PUR powder several years ago, when it considered selling it.” And if you’ve any doubt about Allgood’s enthusiam for the project, take a look at the video of his mixing up a packet with four kids here.
Back to El Paso, Texas-based Helen of Troy’s acquisition, which includes the worldwide PUR trademark, its product line, manufacturing equipment and more than 200 patents. Projected sales for 2012 are about $110 million.
Ad Age’s Neff reports that the market, which is currently dominated in the U.S. by Clorox’ Brita brand (67% to 26% for Pur, according to SymphonyIRI), is expected to grow considerably both in the U.S. and globally.
“And Unilever has stated ambitious goals for its water-purification business globally, last year setting the target of having its PureIt water-filtration brand provide safe drinking water to 500 million people -- more than currently living in South America -- by 2020,” Neff writes.
"PUR adds an important brand to our strong portfolio of well-recognized and widely-trusted brands for our retail partners and consumers,” says Helen of Troy chairman, president and CEO Gerald Rubin, “and is in line with our overall corporate strategy of adding businesses with value-added consumables, such as the proprietary filters that are important in this category.”
P&G purchased PUR in 1999 but no longer considered it as part of its core business, according to Tom Finn, president of P&G’ Global Personal Health Care. “We are pleased to sell it to a company for whom it is a close fit and where it will receive greater focus," he says.
It’s all good (Helen of Troy was up 5.31% on the news), one is tempted to think, as well as Allgood.