Dry-cell batteries have always been a relatively low-profile affair, with most consumers paying little attention to which brand they use for their flashlights or remote control devices.

But domestic makers have begun marketing new battery products like the gadgets they power to fend off an influx of cheap imports from China and South Korea.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. in April released Oxyride, which the company calls a next-generation dry-cell battery, following the alkaline battery introduced four decades ago.

Oxyride has more power and durability than its alkaline rivals. The firm said the battery combines manganese dioxide, which is also used in alkaline batteries, with nickel oxyhydroxide.

In its first six months of release, Oxyride exceeded Matsushita’s initial annual sales target of 50 million units, despite costing between 10 percent and 20 percent more than its alkaline counterparts, the firm said.

Aggressive promotions also helped.

Matsushita said it spent an “unprecedented amount of money for a battery” on TV commercials during the spring promotional campaign. It plans to run another campaign during the yearend shopping season.

Matsushita, the largest dry-cell battery maker in Japan, said there is increasing demand for powerful batteries due to the popularity of digital cameras.

“Users have to change batteries often when they use alkaline batteries,” said Naoyuki Tada, a Matsushita marketing official in charge of battery products.

“Our test with the top 10 popular digital cameras showed Oxyride lasts twice as long as alkaline batteries, on average.”

The firm estimates the nationwide market for dry-cell batteries to be around 1.8 billion units a year. But growth has been virtually flat for several years.

Japanese batteries are losing their market share to Chinese and South Korean imports, which sell for between a third and half of the cost of domestic batteries, typically at 100 yen shops.

Matsushita hopes its new battery will insulate it from fierce price competition.

Domestic rival Hitachi Maxell Ltd. rolled out its New Dynamic battery in September. The battery is alkaline for a reason.

New Dynamic boasts all-purpose versatility as a power source for devices that include TV remote controls and digital cameras.

Matsushita’s Oxyride lacks such versatility, and some makers warn against its use in their products, saying its high voltage could cause malfunctions in strobes, clocks or other devices designed to run on conventional batteries.

New Dynamic also has a longer shelf life, according to Hitachi Maxell, which says its patented chemical additives curb natural deterioration in the battery. Its use-by date is four years, twice that of Oxyride and conventional batteries.

Hitachi Maxell hopes this feature will prompt consumers to buy the battery in bulk. It also hopes to encourage retailers to give the battery a greater proportion of all-important shelf space, company officials said.

Consumers have no particular brand in mind when buying batteries, said Tatsuya Takemura, a Hitachi Maxell marketing official.

“Sales depend on how many stores give our products space,” he said.

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