The air-treatment product category expands as consumers show more concern for air quality
By David Gill
Consumers' understandable desire to make the air they breathe at home as healthy as possible has opened many doors in the air-treatment product category.
Growth opportunities have emerged specifically for humidifiers and purifiers. For this reason, manufacturers have not only launched new products, but have sought out new distribution channels.
Among the new products is the Humio from Tribest, which marks the company's first humidifier. Tribest has looked for ways to expand its line beyond juicers, according to Joseph Renteria, director of marketing and sales. "When we decided to add a humidifier to our line, we really kept our friends and supporters in mind since they are the reason why we are in business," Renteria said. This was a key reason, he said, to add the Humio to the line and make it a combination humidifier and night lamp.
The Humio is a solution-based product in a very personal sense, as far as Tribest is concerned. It was developed because Jae Choi, the company's president, suffers from a sinus problem and decided to shop for a humidifier for his office. When Choi came back dissatisfied by the products at retail, he led the way for Tribest to develop its own humidifier.
"Most of the humidifiers on the market were either big and bulky or in the shape or form of a child's toy," Renteria said. "So he decided it was time to make a humidifier that he would use on a daily basis while in the office and that offered more than just relief from dry air, but also ambience, decor and a soothing light that is therapeutic to the senses." The Humio is compact, operates up to 10 hours per half-gallon of water and is shaped to fit into any living space.
The Humio is an example of the innovations that are a key element in the growth of the air-purifier business. Along with compactness, another rising trend, according to Kayla Murata, product manager of comfort appliances for De'Longhi USA, is products that have the whole air-treatment package--air conditioner or heater, purifier, dehumidifier--in one unit. "De'Longhi has integrated heat pumps, as well as fully functioning and independent pump-system dehumidifiers, into our portable ACs to have a unit that cools, heats, has a pump dehumidifier, has advanced filtration and a fan-only function," Murata said.
Another trend, she added, is more design-centered units. "Consumers want sleeker, slimmer units in more modern colors like black and silver," Murata said. "They also expect to see technology keeping in pace with the higher-end electronics of today, such as backlit LCD displays, touch screens, remote controls, etc."
Another area of innovation is filtration. Jarden (which is making a major statement in the overall health and wellness category; see separate story) is planning on a line of air purifiers with a HEPA filter that contains silver--an element that has been used in fiber form in the construction of mattresses in recent years.
"This filter removes germs and bacteria caused by airborne particles," said Vera Bevini, Jarden's vice president of marketing for health and wellness. The purifiers with this new filter will make their debut under both the Holmes and Bionaire brands.
New retail channels have emerged in the humidifier market, according to Mark Ulrey, director of sales at Essick Air. Most of its products are distributed in the major home-improvement retailers and in hardware stores. "The one channel where we have seen rapid and consistent growth is virtual retailers or Internet companies," Ulrey said, "and given the number of major retailers who are getting in this, it is obvious. Because the replacement wicks for our humidifiers are such a major part of the business, these companies are perhaps even more dynamic for us."
In air purifiers, mass merchants have begun to occupy a larger market share. When Jarden recently introduced its new Holmes Air Platform, it was with the major mass merchants in mind, Bevini said.
"We worked heavily on the packaging for this product so that it makes the emotional connection between parent and child, that it is about efficacy, improvement of the quality of life, the holistic aspect of how you are going to live better," Bevini said. "The mass merchants do a tremendous job with this. They advertise regularly, put these products on end caps and in circulars, and do a great job online. The latter is important because 56 percent of consumers research these products specifically online before going to the store."