Health and Science

CEO of Lysol maker says sales are still up as a result of coronavirus pandemic

Key Points
  • Lysol maker Reckitt Benckiser has continued to see strong demand for its disinfectant products as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with sales in the first quarter up 50% year over year, CEO Laxman Narasimhan told CNBC on Thursday. 
  • "We're making 20 times the amount of sanitizer in July as we did last year. It just gives you the sense of the demand that there is," Narasimhan said on "Squawk on the Street." 
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved two Lysol products as effective in killing the coronavirus on surfaces.
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CEO of Lysol maker says sales are still up as a result of coronavirus pandemic

Reckitt Benckiser CEO Laxman Narasimhan told CNBC on Thursday the Lysol maker has continued to see strong demand for its disinfectant products as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sales in the first quarter were up 50% year over year, Narasimhan said on "Squawk on the Street." Other products, such as those within the disinfectant brand Dettol, also have seen a boost in sales, he said. 

"There's clearly a big hygiene sensitivity," Narasimhan said, which has helped expand the market for Lysol and other products and increase how frequently people buy them.

"We don't expect that to stick for a long period of time, but we do expect it to be at higher levels," he said, noting that similar trends played out after the initial outbreaks of SARS and MERS

Reckitt Benckiser has responded this year by ramping up production capacity, he said, referencing changes to manufacturing at a factory outside Wuhan, China. "If you look at the amount of sanitizer we're making, we're making 20 times the amount of sanitizer in July as we did last year. It just gives you the sense of the demand that there is."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved two of Reckitt Benckiser's Lysol products as effective in killing the coronavirus on surfaces. It marked the first time the agency has confirmed a surface disinfectant does kill the virus after conducting tests and data reviews.

The British firm, which makes other consumer products such as cold medication Mucinex and Durex condoms, has seen an increase in online sales as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. In the first quarter, e-commerce revenues grew more than 50% across its portfolio, Narasimhan said. 

"If you think of Durex and how it plays in the e-commerce space, it is absolutely set up for it," he said. "We have operations in 53 countries. Durex had a big quarter online, and we continue to see great progress in that direction as people look for privacy as well in this area." 

However, sales of Durex overall have been affected negatively by the pandemic, Narasimhan said. "The number of intimate occasions is down in a few countries because, if you think of it, the level of socialization is low, and so it has had an impact on Durex."