Their names are evocative: Mountain Rush. Wild Rain. Tsunami. Clean Impact. Voodoo. Fresh Blast.
Their labels, provocative: "Caution: Habitual use ... could lead to seriously close encounters," reads one. "Leaves you feeling fresh, clean and ready for action, even when you push your limits," suggests another.
The product? Body deodorant sprays for men.
The major players -- Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Gillette and Coty -- have all jumped in the game within the last year, filling U.S. store shelves with at least five varieties and more than three times that number of scents.
Since its U.S. introduction late last summer, Axe, for one, has rung up almost $30 million in sales through this spring, according to retail tracker Information Resources Inc.
Unlike antiperspirants, body deodorant sprays are meant to be spritzed beyond a man's underarm territory, then last all day.
"It stops guys from smelling bad and makes them smell good," said Unilever's Michelle Holland, the maker of Axe. "It's one thing to wear a cologne that will mask smell. It's another thing to stop odors emitting from the body."
And, Holland points out, guys are realizing there are multiple emitters -- 15, to be precise, according to Unilever's research and development director Judy Rahn -- underarms, feet, inner elbows, hands, backs of knees, groin, back, chest, scalp and neck. (And yes, women have the same odor areas.)
The reason such attention is being paid to how men smell is simple enough: The market is hot and that means big bucks. The number of new toiletries for men rolled out in 2001 doubled over those introduced in 2000, then doubled again in 2002, according to research company Mintel's Global New Products Database.
Brent Miller of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which makes Old Spice, said, "The men's grooming market [in the United States] is growing at twice the rate of the women's grooming market," -- to the tune of about $4.3 billion in 2000. It's expected to grow about 5 percent a year, according to Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research.com.
Those dollar signs, coupled with high-profile advertising campaigns by Unilever, Gillette and Procter & Gamble, prompted "body spray wars" in the U.S. market, according to one Packaged Facts report.
Such sprays have been in Europe for several years. So why the delay in bringing the product here?
"A lot of the [antiperspirant] market in the United States tends to be more stick-based vs. the aerosol," said Miller. "The European market tends to be very aerosol-based."
Furthermore, for years many guys used bars of soap to wash their hair.
That has changed.
Not only are they using shampoo now, but they're also conditioning -- and using a separate facial cleanser and moisturizer and exfoliating scrub.
"We're seeing activities that are new to the male consumer," Miller said. "It's essentially because Generation X and Generation Y have really broken down a lot of the barriers that existed for older men that kept them from using grooming products. . . . Guys are watching MTV. There are a lot more young-guy-oriented programs out there that have increased their image consciousness and told them it's OK to groom."
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.