Swine flu lifts sales of Purell sanitizer, Clorox wipes, other consumer products

As my husband was recently struggling to sleep while battling his swine flu symptoms -- I wish I could get one of those test kits to determine for sure what he has -- I made a shopping list. I added disinfectant wipes after swabbing down the phone and remote controls he used. Also on the list went bleach after noticing I was low when I cleaned the bathroom. Surgical masks and Purell -- the bottle was nearly half empty I realized in alarm -- made it on too, after I reckoned it was impossible to keep a wide enough berth (six feet is recommended distance) from someone with whom I share a house.

I'm not the only one who's got swine flu prevention on the brain. This scenario is playing out all over the country in households with sick persons, or just those preparing for the likely event that someone could get infected. Some 63 percent of the population could catch the virus by year's end. The happy consequence, of course, is that several consumer product companies are seeing sales and bottom-line growth as a result. Here's a run-down of some of the more prominent beneficiaries:
Purell is perhaps the most obvious product to see growing sales. Ohio-based Gojo Industries invented Purell, the top-selling hand sanitizer. DailyFinance's Alex Salkever recently noted how Purell, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), has seen impressive revenue growth. And according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., overall hand sanitizer sales jumped 17 percent this year. In August, they jumped 50 percent over August of 2008.

Clorox (CLX), the maker of sanitary wipes, cleaning supplies such as bleach and Brita water filter, saw its first quarter profit grow 23 percent. Bleach and wipes accounted for about 30 percent of sales. The company hiked its fiscal year forecast as a result.

Ecolab (ECL) saw strong demand for sanitizer in its latest quarter. Its U.S. Cleaning & Sanitizing operating income rose 17 percent and it said it saw a significant increase in orders for the sanitizing gel in the third quarter.

3M (MMM) said demand is rising for its respiratory masks. Its third quarter results benefited from strong sales of health-care products, especially in Asia. Revenue from products like face masks jumped 4.7 percent to $1.1 billion. Earnings beat analyst projections. 3M estimates demand related to swine flu fears added between $80 million to $100 million to third-quarter sales. The company said it was ramping up its capacity to make more face masks.

Kimberly-Clark (KMB) also reported increased sales of face masks. The company said that "approximately 40 percent of the total gain in health care volumes in the quarter was attributable to increased global demand for face masks as a result of the H1N1 flu virus." That gain helped boost third-quarter profit by 41 percent. The Dallas-based company also hiked the prices of Kleenex and Huggies diapers.

While not exactly consumer products companies, Cardinal Health (CAH) and Alpha Pro Tech (APT) also make N95 surgical masks. Another company positively affected by H1N1 is Walgreen (WAG), which saw its sales rise, getting a boost from flu vaccinations at its pharmacies. Finally, Quest Dianostics (DGX) could see sales boost after the FDA issued emergency use auhorization for its H1N1 diagnostics kit made on 3M equipment.

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