(Bloomberg) -- A liter of sweat, a gram of salt, a billion dead skin cells, 15 grams of body oil, plus extra cellular DNA. That’s what the human body sheds every day, according to Keith Rutherford, innovation boss for the homecare unit of Unilever Plc. 

It’s a cocktail of emissions that’s mostly invisible, meaning that even when clothes aren’t stained they may not be clean, he said, speaking at a lab in Northern England. 

Consumers are increasingly keen to tackle such soiling, Rutherford added, using daily, quick 15- to 30-minute washing machine cycles. And in a bid to cash in on the trend, Unilever has developed a new detergent, which the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant says rinses out more quickly than normal formulations. 

With an ad campaign fronted by Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, Persil Wonder Wash, which is slightly more expensive per load than regular detergent, has 35 patents pending and is a major test for new chief executive officer Hein Schumacher’s growth strategy. 

Announced in October with hopes of turning back market share losses, the plan includes focusing on innovation and the growth of Unilever’s biggest brands — including Persil, known as Omo and Skip in other markets — which generate more than €4 billion ($4.3 billion) in annual sales.

“We looked at this and we said, oh my God, this is one of the biggest markets we have in the world,” said Eduardo Campanella, president of Unilever’s home care division. He said the three Wonder Wash variants, which are very pungent compared to standard detergents, are intended to be an additional product to buy rather than replace regular Persil. 

Speaking in Port Sunlight, south of Liverpool, where William Lever built housing for his soap factory workers at the end of the 1800s, Campanella says Unilever invented the laundry capsule but quickly lost pole position and is now working to claw back market share. The company where he began his career as an intern is never short of ideas, he said, but sometimes is “short on the commitment on multiple years behind those ideas.” 

Unilever’s performance has been adrift in recent years, hampered by inflation, management turnover, restructuring initiatives, and less excitement around product launches, which are vital for driving volume and sales. Led by Schumacher, Unilever is promising investors that it’s getting back to focusing on performance and execution. 

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Persil Power Wash is sold in PET bottles costing about £7 ($8.67) for 31 washes compared to 38 washes from standard Persil liquids. Unilever may have little luck with shoppers who see all detergents as essentially the same and don’t want to pay more per wash. For others, it could be a marketer’s dream: persuading consumers to wash their clothes more frequently even if they can’t see the stains, while trumpeting the environmental benefit of washing more often but for shorter cycles. 

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On average, quick cycles use 30% less water and 60% less energy than a regular wash, said Tati Lindenberg, vice president of marketing at Unilever. Schumacher isn’t putting that claim on the bottles, though, where it could be subject to regulatory scrutiny. Britain’s antitrust watchdog is already investigating the company for alleged greenwashing over environmental claims made on its cleaning products.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, where Schumacher revealed a major scaling back of Unilever’s sustainability goals, the Dutchman said the company’s focus now has to be on innovation and performance that it can “really deliver.”   

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