Chemical Specialties: Making Cleaning Convenient

November 9, 2005

Consumers want products that clean effectively

Consumers want products that clean effectively
and quickly to give them more time to enjoy the finer
things in life.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 million people suffered from a bacterial infection in the U.S. last year and 80,000 Americans died from such infections. Experts say these disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and salmonella, are everywhere waiting to infect people.

While antibacterial products have been available for some time and many Americans regularly use household cleaners and personal care products boasting antibacterial benefits, there is still a large portion of the population that is unaware of these harmful and sometimes deadly organisms. Accord-ing to a survey conducted by the Clorox Company, 30% of Amer-icans couldn’t name a single illness-causing bacteria and 60% believe none of their family members have picked up an illness-causing bacteria from home. Also, while 85% were concerned about how well their homes were disinfected, 62% were confused about how long disinfectants last. Fur-thermore, nearly 20% of respondents did not feel a toilet seat has bacteria and 15% felt the telephone was bacteria-free. The study also showed that while household disinfecting occurs, it rarely happens beyond kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

“In reality, the toilet seat is one of the cleanest places in the home because people are more likely to disinfect this area on a regular basis,” said Dr. Kelly Reynolds, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. “Consumers need to realize how many surfaces they are touching all the time and not thinking about. That’s why it is hot spots such as doorknobs, telephones and remote controls that need to be disinfected more often.”

Clorox’s first entry into the disinfectant category has helped grow the segment, which increased 15.9% to $191.7 million during the 52-week period ended Jan. 30, according to Infor-mation Resources Inc., Chicago, IL. Launched in October, Clorox Disinfec-tant Spray is already the No. 2 brand with an 11.1% market share in the spray disinfectant category, which has long been dominated by Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol. Lysol remains the No. 1 brand in the category; its sales increased 2.7% to $157.2 million during the same period.

Clorox Disinfectant Spray is based on proprietary new technology that provides long lasting 24-hour protection from bacteria by creating a resilient shield on common household surfaces. This product innovation allows Clorox Disinfecting Spray to keep destroying harmful bacterial. In contrast, the active ingredients in other leading sprays simply fade after surfaces are repeatedly touched and recontaminated, according to Clorox executives.

“Clorox Disinfecting Spray offers consumers major advancements in fighting bacteria at home, providing longer-lasting protection and a more effective way to reduce the presence of household bacteria that can cause illness,” said Michelle Waldgeir, brand manager. “It’s especially significant because, up until now, aerosol disinfectants couldn’t claim ongoing protection.”

The spray is effective in killing 99.9% of E. coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus, considered three of the most potentially dangerous bacteria we come into contact with on a daily basis. The spray can also kill a broad range of microorganisms that cause diseases such as colds, diarrhea, influenza, hepatitis A, herpes and athlete’s foot. The product is available in three deodorizing scents: fresh, citrus and floral fresh with an average retail price of $3.99.

Wiping Off Germs
Americans are on the go and want their homes clean but want to spend as little time as possible getting it that way. To make cleaning easier for their consumers, many companies have been creating new product forms that provide a quick and easy cleaning experience and leave homes clean and germ free. “Cleaning products evolve as society changes and new technology becomes available,” said Janet Donohue, spokesperson for the Soap and Detergent Association. “Today’s consumers recognize the benefits of cleanliness and are able to choose products that provide those benefits and fit into their busy lives.”

Last year Amway Corp. of Ada, MI introduced a convenient new towelette form of its Liquid Organic Cleaner (L.O.C.), the first product of its kind. The towelettes were the first wipes designed to clean hundreds of surfaces. The wipes, which are permeated with diluted L.O.C. And strong enough to scrub coutertops and doorknobs, have been popular with consumers, according to Lisa Zigmont, marketer, North America home care products, Amway. “Even though they are on the go, people still want to spend quality time with their loved ones,” she said. “They want to save time and money by getting the job done fast and right.”

The wipe category has quickly become an important segment of the household cleaner category. Within the past couple of months, both Clorox and Procter & Gamble have introduced similar wipe products which boast convenience and efficacy. P&G spokeswoman Jeannie Tharrington said the benefits of a Mr. Clean Wipe-Up far outweigh those of a sponge or dishrag for several reasons. “When you are using a dishrag or a sponge, you are really just pushing the germs around and moving them from one surface to another,” she said. “They’re really just breeding grounds for germs. One billion germs can grow in a sponge in one day.”

Mr. Clean Antibacterial Wipe-Ups feature advanced fiber technology that attracts and locks out dirt and bacteria. After the wipes pull in dirt and bacteria, their extra absorption capacity traps dirt and grease while citric acid effectively kills 99.9% of common household bacteria. As a result, a single, disposable wipe may be used to clean and disinfect multiple surfaces without transferring dirt or bacteria from one surface to another.
The wipes come in both kitchen and bath versions in a dispenser intended to be left out on countertops. A starter kit containing 28 wipes retails for about $4 and a refill pack of 28 wipes retails for about $3.

Clorox Wipes contain polyquaternium technology to free surfaces of dangerous bacteria. “They are convenient and portable,” said Clorox spokeswoman Sandy Sullivan. “It’s about cleaning smarter, not harder.”

Ms. Sullivan said some companies, including Reckitt Benckiser and S.C. Johnson, flirted with the wipe concept about 10 years ago launching products under their Pledge and Fantastik brands, respectively, but the idea never caught on. “Those wipes didn’t disinfect and people just weren’t ready for them,” she said. “A lot of things have to do with timing and from what we’ve seen the time is now right for this kind of product.”

P&G is Keeping Fit
P&G has created another new category with the launch of Fit, a fruit and vegetable wash that is being introduced this month.“P&G has a history of getting things clean and we found that most consumers didn’t feel they were getting their produce clean enough,” said public relations manager Kelly Anchrum. “Fit is a good solution for people who are now washing their fruit and vegetables.”

Clinical studies have shown that Fit removes up to 93% of wax, 95% of handling residues and is 98% more effective than water at removing pesticides. It can be applied to produce in two different ways, soak or spray. The spray method is most effective when used on produce that is easy to hold and simple to rub such as pears, tomatoes, apples and celery. The soak method is most effective on large quantities of produce such as grapes, strawberries and broccoli.

“We can relieve the fear people have about eating produce,” Ms. Anchrum said. “More people are eating produce today than ever before but most of them think water is not cleaning it properly.”

Because it is ingested, P&G wanted to make sure Fit contained only natural ingredients found in food. Some of these ingredients include baking soda, citric acid and grapefruit juice. “We wanted to focus on ingredients found in everyday food. It took time to find the right level,” Ms. Anchrum said. “Once you soak or spray the produce, Fit is washed off. All that’s left is fresh natural goodness, what nature intended.

Fit is available in three sizes, an 8.5-oz. spray bottle, $4.99, a 32-oz. soak/refill bottle, $5.99 and a 64-oz. soak/refill bottle, $9.99. A Fit wash and rinse system, which includes an 8.5-oz. spray bottle, a 32-oz. soak/refill bottle and a bowl and basket set, retails for $9.99.

P&G will launch Professional Line Fit Antibacterial Produce Cleaner, a powder that dissolves easily in water, this summer. It is said to be more effective than water at removing dirt, chemicals, handling residues and harmful bacteria from cut, chopped, sliced and processed produce.

Clean Shower Gets a Boost
Although household cleaner manufacturers are looking at new products such as disposable wipes and produce washes for gains, they are not forgetting the sharp growth another new category, daily shower cleaners, registered for them just a few years ago.

Manufacturers still seem bullish about this segment despite its recent leveling off after a few years of sharp gains. According to IRI data, sales of nonabrasive tube and tile cleaners fell 9.1% last year. Segment pioneer Clean Shower saw its sales plummet 57.1% due to fierce competition in the segment.

Executives at Church & Dwight, the Princeton, NJ-based company that bought the Clean Shower brand from Automation in November, said the sales decrease does not concern them. “The old company really didn’t promote the brand for about six months before we bought it and during this time a lot of the bigger companies with national trademarks introduced products,” noted Mike Simone, director of marketing, household cleaners. “But there is still opportunity for growth in this segment. The two largest brands have decreased their spending and there is only 30% penetration.”

To help boost sales, Church & Dwight plans to attach its well-known Arm & Hammer trademark to Clean Shower. This will be further supported by a radio campaign, starring Tony Randall, the actor who played neat freak Felix Unger on TV’s The Odd Couple. “By using the Arm & Hammer trademark, we can really bring credibility to the brand itself,” Mr. Simone said. “Consumers really look for the corporate logo.”

Racine, WI-based S.C. Johnson has competed heavily in the daily cleanser category, reaping success through its Dow Scrubbing Bubbles brand. Sales of the company’s Antibacterial Scrubbing Bubbles brand skyrocketed 216% last year while its daily shower cleaner Shower Shine was able to capture a 7.1% of the market during its first year.

“The daily shower cleaner segment seemed to really take off because it was a relatively new product on the marketplace and it offered the two most important things to household consumers,” said Kerry Clair, manager, worldwide public relations, S.C. Johnson. “It was easy to use and saved time.”

Relief for Allergy Sufferers?
Recent introductions in the household cleaner category prove that consumers want two things from their cleaning products, convenience and the ability to clean well. These wants have largely contributed to the success of new product segments including daily shower cleaners, electrostatic cleaners, home dry cleaning kits and disinfecting wipes. What will be the next new category demanded by consumers remains to be seen. After all, not every new product is a hit with consumers. S.C. Johnson took a gamble on targeting people with allergies through its AllerCare line. AllerCare Dust Mite Carpet Powder and Dust Mite Allergen Spray were said to be effective in removing dust mites, the No. 1 indoor allergen, from carpet and upholstery. The company voluntarily removed these products from store shelves, however, after some consumers complained of reactions to the level of fragrance in the products.

“Household cleaners for people with allergies is truly a consumer need,” said S.C. Johnson spokeswoman Cynthia Georgeson. “At this time, however, we have no plants to reintroduce the line.”

Meanwhile S.C. Johnson’s competitors are using the anti-allergen angle. P&G, for example, bills its Swiffer cleaning system as an efficient way to remove cat and dog allergens from floors than a variety of traditional cleaning methods. Swiffer picked up 93% more cat and dog allergens than a broom, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia. S.C. Johnson has a similar product, Pledge Grab-It but, at this time, is not touting any allergen removal benefits.

“Removing or reducing allergens in your home can greatly improve the quality of life for people with allergies,” said Mary Worsell, executive director of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “Since allergens are often tiny particles, getting rid of them can often be a cleaning challenge. That’s why people will allergies welcome products that make this cleaning process easier.”

With more people suffering from allergies than ever before, more products boasting allergen removal, may be on the horizon of the household cleaner category. While no one knows what will be the next big thing, one thing is for sure. If consumers express a need for something, companies such as P&G, Clorox, Church & Dwight and SCJ will do everything they can to bring it to the market.

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