Category Report: Paint 

Recent innovations in the paint aisle have led to some differences — and even clashes — among players in the competitive field. 

For instance, Benjamin Moore challenged Sherwin-Williams’ claims that its Harmony line of paints was “no-VOC” or “zero VOC.” Everyone agreed Harmony’s base paint is free of volatile organic compounds, but when conventional colorants are added, the VOC levels increase above the accepted definition.

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended Sherwin-Williams modify or discontinue its advertising claims that the line was completely free of VOCs.

Sherwin-Williams declined to be interviewed for this article. But at Benjamin Moore, Dana Autenrieth, director of product marketing, said her company has not embarked on VOC-focused campaigns. “Rather, we have focused on extolling the virtues of our breakthrough products tinted on our zero-VOC waterborne platform,” she said. 

Dick Wise, merchandise manager, paint and sundries, for Do it Best, said the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based co-op is doing well with the low-VOC or no-VOC program, since most members that want to buy those products are in states where regulations require it. “Where members have a choice, they normally continue to buy the national formula which has higher VOCs,” Wise said. 

The paint-and-primer-in-one concept has its own contentions. Some see it as an over-hyped product, but not The Home Depot. Speaking at the Atlanta-based retail giant’s fourth-quarter and year-end conference call in February, Craig Menear, executive VP merchandising, said: “A third-party leading consumer publication” chose the Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint-and-primer-in-one “as its best buy across all dominant sheens for the second year in a row.” Menear said the citation “reinforces the fact that we have an incredibly strong offering for our customers in the DIY paint space.”

True Value, which in March announced the introduction of a 2-in-1 — paint plus primer — paint called EasyCare Platinum, said the paint cuts the time and resources required for DIY paint projects in half. “As more and more people tackle home improvements on their own, we’re constantly looking for ways to help them spend less time and money to get the job done right,” said Anh Gibson, True Value brand manager. Gibson added that EasyCare Platinum offers “the perfect balance.”

At Benjamin Moore, Autenrieth told HCN that “most consumers never cared” about the self-priming products. That is, until Behr and Home Depot “changed the conversation” by pushing the technology in their advertisements, she said. 

Do it Best’s Wise agreed that advertising has changed people’s perceptions. “We have had a number of members asking for this [self-priming] line of paint, which we stock in our RSCs in both Sherwin-Williams and Valspar paints,” he said. “They are asking for it because their customers are seeing it advertised on TV.”

What most advertising doesn’t say is that there are some jobs that still require special priming, even with the paint-and-primer-in-one product, he said.