Aligning hand hygiene products with regulatory frameworks in the age of COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic in its second year, the consumer hand hygiene product category is gaining much attention. But there are many factors that manufacturers need to consider. For instance, is it better to opt for cosmetic or biocidal product positioning? What are the key factors driving purchase, how important is scientific evidence of effectiveness, and do people trust the claims made on product labels? This report looks at a consumer study conducted by TSG Consulting. We consider how manufacturers can respond to heightened demand while navigating complex hand hygiene product regulations both within and between international markets.

Increased demand for hand hygiene products

When COVID-19 first hit the headlines in 2020, sales of hand hygiene products such as antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer soared. Around the world, retailers’ shelves were stripped bare of these products as consumers stocked up. A global shortage prompted several distilleries and breweries to switch from producing alcoholic beverages to alcohol-based hand rubs. In some countries, this was facilitated by regulatory adjustments to expedite production.

What’s the situation now?

Today, the supply issues affecting hand hygiene products have largely been resolved, but they remain in high demand. According to research we commissioned in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and USA, hand hygiene products were more likely to be purchased than any other hygiene goods in response to COVID-19. On average, 67% of adults in the six countries have purchased hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wash due to the pandemic.

The purchase rate exceeded 75% in the UK (77%) and Spain (83%); see a full breakdown in Figure 1. The next most popular product was antibacterial sprays and wipes, purchased by 47% of adults across all six countries. (A dedicated report looking at household products is available at

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