Tide Pods: P&G's big innovation gone wrong

People keep eating one of Procter & Gamble's most successful innovations in years: Tide Pods.For years, ...

Posted: Jan 20, 2018 11:45 AM
Updated: Jan 20, 2018 11:45 AM

People keep eating one of Procter & Gamble's most successful innovations in years: Tide Pods.

For years, children have accidentally eaten the poisonous pods. Toddlers sometimes mistake them for colorful candy. P&G responded by putting double-latch lids on packaging.

Now #TidePodChallenge has become an online craze, with teenagers and adults posting videos of themselves biting chunks out of the laundry detergent packets.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a health alert this week in response to the "spike" in exposure to Tide Pods' toxic chemicals. YouTube and Facebook both said they would pull videos of people taking bites out of pods.

Related: Tide Pod Challenge: YouTube is removing 'dangerous' videos

P&G has been doing damage control all week.

"We are deeply concerned," the company told CNN in a statement Thursday. "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of people who use our products."

Tide's Twitter feed has turned into a rapid response center, instructing people who ate Tide Pods to drink milk and call a poison control center immediately. And the brand turned to NFL star Rob Gronkowski for help.

"What the heck is going on, people? Use Tide Pods for washing. Not eating," Gronkowski said in a video.

The crisis threatens a product that P&G spent more than a decade developing.

Tide Pods upended the laundry business when they launched in 2012. P&G heralded Tide Pods as the best thing to happen to laundry since liquid detergent.

Pods' three-chamber capsule, which contains detergent, stain remover and color protector, gave people an easier way to wash their clothes.

"They nailed it," said Ian Bell, head of Euromonitor's home care research. "I don't think the laundry care shelf ever experienced anything that looked that good. It looked out of this world."

Pods have helped P&G maintain its top spot in what Bell says is a $49 billion laundry detergent market. P&G controls 26% of the market, followed by Unilever and Henkel.

P&G doesn't break down sales by brand, but Bell estimated the company raked in $1.5 billion from pods last year, including Tide Pods and Ariel detergent pods. The two brands hold an overwhelming 80% grip on the fast-growing laundry pods market.

Pods are also more expensive than liquid and powder detergent, so P&G's profit margins are higher.

Even activist investor Nelson Peltz, who battled P&G for a seat on the board and criticized its innovation machine, applauded Tide Pods.

Related: The battle for the future of Tide

Kim Whitler, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and former executive at P&G, gave the company mixed reviews for its response to the crisis.

She credited P&G for enlisting Gronkowski to spread awareness and for working with Facebook and YouTube to remove videos.

But it isn't clear who's leading the effort. In corporate crises, Whitler explained, it's important for corporate leaders to communicate with customers.

P&G CEO David Taylor has not spoken publicly about the issue, instead letting Tide become the public face of the cleanup. That strategy carries risks.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening.

"It's hard to connect with a box of Tide," Whitler said.

--CNNMoney's Michelle Toh contributed to this story.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Washington172244
Lee156342
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Pike95137
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Lincoln84643
Monroe83155
Simpson82131
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Tate74630
Marshall7299
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Adams64226
Covington63715
Winston63516
George6038
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Smith41213
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Hancock40915
Jasper4089
Clay40414
Itawamba39510
Tippah38814
Tunica3657
Montgomery3456
Clarke34328
Lawrence3298
Yalobusha31810
Humphreys29912
Quitman2751
Carroll26211
Greene26213
Perry2488
Webster24813
Amite2406
Jefferson Davis2406
Kemper24014
Stone2245
Wilkinson22013
Sharkey2065
Jefferson1967
Benton1541
Choctaw1384
Franklin1352
Issaquena272
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 101496

Reported Deaths: 1821
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13463261
Mobile10671216
Montgomery6955153
Madison551035
Tuscaloosa432780
Unassigned398568
Baldwin371029
Shelby336137
Marshall319938
Lee272447
Morgan242520
Etowah219034
DeKalb185214
Calhoun182819
Elmore176739
Walker154865
Houston145013
Russell13912
Limestone137813
St. Clair137520
Dallas134725
Franklin130822
Cullman123812
Colbert122518
Lauderdale120320
Autauga118822
Escambia109417
Jackson10724
Talladega106914
Tallapoosa87679
Dale85029
Chambers84838
Chilton8279
Blount8255
Clarke82110
Coffee7796
Butler77336
Covington74621
Pike7167
Marion58726
Barbour5816
Lowndes57524
Marengo56817
Bullock49211
Hale48826
Winston45711
Bibb4535
Washington44913
Perry4464
Wilcox43610
Monroe4246
Pickens41110
Randolph40311
Conecuh39410
Sumter36618
Lawrence3563
Macon34114
Crenshaw3318
Choctaw28912
Cherokee2798
Clay2775
Geneva2652
Henry2643
Greene25311
Lamar2302
Fayette2235
Cleburne1291
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