Microban 24 wasn’t expected to be a major product before Procter & Gamble Co. introduced it in February. Then came COVID-19.

The sanitizing spray -- P&G’s answer to Lysol and Clorox -- is in demand with the coronavirus pandemic causing a rush for household cleaning supplies. On Monday, Microban got perhaps its biggest vote of confidence yet, as the packaged-goods giant said the spray was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as effective in killing the virus that causes Covid-19.

Kevin Wenzel, vice president of P&G’s North American Surface Care Design & Delivery unit, said in an interview that the product is “particularly important as we see sanitization habits changing through the pandemic.”

While it doesn’t have the name recognition of its rivals, Microban is one of a small number of players in a hot-selling and closely watched category of consumer products. Disinfectants have been one of the toughest items to find throughout the pandemic, even as toilet paper, soap and other supplies went out of stock and back in.

Microban is already on pace to become a US$200 million-a-year seller, the company said. P&G, best known for household staples like Tide laundry detergent and Charmin toilet paper, cited soaring demand for home-care products last week as it posted its best quarter for organic sales growth in 15 years.

Timely Debut

The sanitizing spray’s timely debut came with its own set of challenges. After a three-year development process, it was introduced just as the coronavirus outbreak was spreading across the globe. That created immediate urgency for P&G to “significantly expand” its manufacturing capacity to try to reduce out-of-stocks at retailers, Wenzel said.

Another priority was figuring out how to stand out in a category with such established competitors. With the EPA approval, Microban joins a select number of sprays, including products from Clorox Co. and Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC’s Lysol brand, to be designated as effective against the virus that causes Covid-19. And Microban offers other features, Wenzel said, such as the ability to kill bacteria from multiple touches to a surface.

“We see this as meeting an unmet consumer need,” he said.

P&G shares fell 0.7 per cent to US$141.43 at 9:34 a.m. in New York. The stock advanced 14 per cent this year through last Friday’s close, almost double the gain of the S&P 500 Index.