Cleaning Innovations

November 14, 2005

Of course household sprays and liquids have to get surfaces clean, but they better do it fast and make chores a little fun, too.

The next big thing. Whether it’s the latest fad in fashion, the newest blockbuster movie or the hottest idea in home cleaning, consumers are eager to experience the latest and greatest. “Experience” is the key word here, since even in the staid world of home cleaning, marketers are trying their best to make the “experience” memorable. Of course, most folks would never forego a Saturday night out to clean their toilets, but they are looking for something a bit more satisfying than a spritz-and-paper-towel kind of clean.

Marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Clorox are happy to oblige by introducing a host of products aimed at making cleaning easier and more fun. What’s more, much of this new technology isn’t cheap, so marketers and their retail customers can enjoy higher margins.

Household Cleaners: It’s a Tough, Dirty Game
Pricing pressures are forcing marketers to discount products as soon as they hit store shelves. Despite lower prices, sales of household cleaners in many segments aren’t exactly cleaning up. Data are from food, drug and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) for the year ended 10/4/03. Note: remaining cleaners category includes septic tank cleaners, rust removers, metal cleaners, paste & jelly cleaners, humidifier/vaporizer cleaners, premoistened towels, upholstery, floor care and allergen control. Source: ACNIelsen Strategic Planner.
Category $Sales %Change Unit Sales %Change
Abrasives 115,882,302 -3.1 89,632,939 -8.6
Ammonia 18,749,074 -8.4 15,453,540 -10.9
Bathroom cleaners 223,280,646 -1.2 79,475,018 -4.6
Disinfectants 139,956,447 -6.1 39,567,793 -7.1
Liquid cleaners 661,843,465 10.3 252,993,581 7.9
Oven cleaners 43,043,392 7.4 11,930,894 6.6
Powdered cleaners 3,844,599 -23.8 1,179,381 -22.7
Remaining 195,241,386 -30.5 52,209,507 -36.0
Rug cleaners 157,853,910 -9.8 23,461,843 -12.3
Toilet bowl cleaners 275,581,736 -6.9 121,702,080 -5.9
Window cleaners 119,480,614 -8.9 42,771,784 -9.5
Total: $1,954,757,572 -4.3 730,378,360 -5.6

At the same time, however, consumers are savvier than ever when it comes to shopping. They expect new products to be heavily promoted with coupons and they’ll turn their backs on a product in favor of the newest technology to hit store shelves. Add to this is the ever-growing impact of Wal-Mart with its everyday low-pricing strategy as well as the renewed popularity of dollar stores and other deep discounters that are finding new audiences in the middle and upper class.

Breath O’ Pine, the leading brand in the Brondow portfolio, is celebrating its 60th anniversary. One of the earliest bottles is shown at right with a modern version (left).
All of these outside pressures are impacting household cleaner sales. According to data from ACNeilsen Strategic Planner, sales of household cleaning products in food, drug and mass merchandisers fell 4.3% to $1.95 billion for the year ended Oct. 4, 2003 (see chart). Those figures, however, do not include Wal-Mart sales data.

While Wal-Mart captures all the headlines, one of the fastest-growing channels in all of retail are those humble dollar stores. The three main players in this segment include Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree. Together they’ve opened more than 3,200 stores since 2000, according to ACNielsen data.

“A lot of people shop at Wal-Mart and price clubs, but what if you don’t want a five-pack of shaving cream? If you only need one, you’ll go to the dollar store,” observed Ken Wasik, director of the consumer group at Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin. “The best performing dollar stores are located across the street from Wal-Mart.”

Trying to compete against the likes of Wal-Mart and dollar stores has put the sequeeze traditional grocery chains at the retail level and is putting pressure on marketers to cut costs at every point in the supply chain.

To meet these demands, household cleaning product companies have developed elaborate programs to squeeze costs out of the supply chain. One of the best at this game is Reckitt Benckiser, which continues to roll out new products even as it reduces its manufacturing and production costs.

“Reckitt has done a great job. They have an uncanny ability to pick the right niches and learn how to dominate them,” observed Mr. Wasik.

That kind of domination shows up in the bottom line. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Reckitt Benckiser’s sales rose 7% and net income jumped 20%.

SDA Annual Meeting: Creating Value Through Innovation
The Soap and Detergent Association will hold its annual meeting in Boca Raton, Jan. 27-31. “Creating Value Through Innovation” is the theme for the 2004 convention. Fran Keeth, president and chief executive officer, Shell Chemical LP will be the keynote breakfast speaker on Jan. 29. In October 2002, Ms. Keeth appeared on Fortune’s list of the top 50 most powerful women in business in the U.S.

Karen Hughes, former counselor to President George W. Bush, will be the keynote breakfast speaker on Friday morning, Jan. 30. Mrs. Hughes served as communications director to President Bush when he was Governor of Texas beginning in 1994. She then served as counselor to the President for Mr. Bush’s first 18 months in office and was widely recognized as one of the most influential members of the President’s inner circle. Ms. Hughes is expected to provide insight into the upcoming Presidential elections. Given the fact that the New Hampshire presidential primary takes place Jan. 27 and the South Carolina, Arizona and Missouri primaries take place on Feb. 3, Mrs. Hughes’ appearance could not be more timely, according to organizers.

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, SDA senior staff will provide a thorough review of the top regulatory, scientific, legislative, communication and consumer issues facing the cleaning products industry at the annual issues briefing.

In addition to these sessions, the annual meeting will include a family and friends program feature experts from the Antiques Roadshow on PBS, an opening cocktail reception and a president’s reception and dinner featuring rock legend Pat Benatar.

Companies can get closer to new and current customers and business contacts at the event through a new sponsorship program. Details are available SDA’s website at www.cleaning101.com/meetings/ 2004Sponsorships.html.

Also, the Hall of Fame, which was unveiled at the 2003 annual meeting, is a specially designated, prominent area of the resort that displays SDA member company posters. Members are invited to depict a company’s brand(s), vision, purpose, achievements, innovative research, consumer outreach or other special messages that could help showcase some aspect of their business. For more information on the Hall of Fame, contact Billie Robinson at brobinson@sdahq.org.

A new, easy-to-use online registration process can be accessed on SDA’s website at www.cleaning101.com. Contact Billie Robinson at 202-662-2515 or brobinson@sdahq .org for more information.

Liquid-Plumr Kitchen builds on Clorox’s well-known Liquid-Plumr franchise.
A Lysol Cleaning Contraption
The good times for Reckitt Benckiser are expected to continue well into 2004 based on the company’s strong pipeline of products. For instance, Lysol Ready Brush is debuting in the U.S. right now. Like many other new product launches in the houseeold cleaning sector, it forces consumers to spend $6.99 to $8.99 for a starter kit that includes a storage caddy, a Lysol Ready Brush and a foaming aerosol can. To convince consumers to make the investment, Reckitt Benckiser is offering a $3 coupon for the kit.

According to the company, each can provides seven cleanings and the Lysol Ready Brush system lasts about one year with regular use.

One year? Perhaps 18 months? That’s about all a marketer can hope for when it comes to getting the most bang for its buck from a new product launch. Retail partners and consumers expect a constant flow of innovation and companies are rushing to meet their demands. Clorox, for example, introduced 11 new products in its fiscal first quarter that concluded Sept. 30. Although much of the fanfare was devoted to the new Glad Press’n Seal sealable wrap, the company also introduced the Clorox Bleach Pen filled with an all-new gel form of bleach that promises to “write” out stains in the laundry and around the house. A 2-oz. pen retails for $2.99 before rebates.

As previously reported in Happi (Oct. p. 79), Procter & Gamble introduced Mr. Clean Magic Eraser which promises to eliminate scuff marks from walls. Each eraser retails for $1. Most recently, P&G extended the Mr. Clean brand into car care with the Mr. AutoDry Carwash system that made its debut last month.

All of these cleaning systems come with a price point that’s often higher than those of traditional cleaners. Still, price erosion is taking place in this segment of the household cleaning market too. For example, when Clorox ReadyMop made its debut, a starter kit could cost as much as $20. Today, a starter kit costs as little as $8.

In a recent conference call with analysts, Clorox chief executive officer Gerald Johnston admitted that although the company was the early leader in the wipes category, shares are declining. “Some products don’t have a long lifespan. Some do,” he reasoned. “We’re very happy with our wipes business, despite the heavy competition.”

To stave off that competition, in August the company rolled out Clorox Disinfecting Wipes with Teflon Surface Protector. The added benefit is just another example of extending a good idea even further, according to company executives, who think the new Teflon-based wipes could help stop share erosion in the wipes segment.

Clorox used a similar strategy when it introduced Liquid-Plumr Kitchen. Likewise, S.C. Johnson expanded its Grab-It franchise with the recent introduction of Vinegar Wet Floor wipes and Orange Wet Floor wipes. Meanwhile, S.C. Johnson introduced a new Fantasik variant that uses the cleaning power of oxygen.

A New Idea from Brillo
Even a 90 year-old brand like Brillo is being reinvented. Earlier this year, Church & Dwight introduced Brillo Scrub’n Toss cleaning pads. According to the company, the disposable sponges help prevent the development of odor-causing germs that can cultivate in traditional scrubber sponges. The pads can be used on everything from cleaning stainless steel sinks to removing soap scum in the shower, according to Church & Dwight.

Also new is Arm & Hammer Carpet Deodorizer with Pet Hair Release. The product is aimed at dog and cat owners who are trying solve pet odor problems.

“Pet hair is a widespread problem,” explained Lillie McNeill, director of marketing, household cleaners. “We’ve been learning more about the cat and dog market ever since we acquired the Lambert-Kay pet business.”

While more marketers add bells and whistles to their existing brands, some companies are extolling the virtues of the tried and true. Brondow Inc., Tuckahoe, NY, for example, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its Breath O’ Pine cleaner/disinfectant. The company boasts that more than 75 million bottles of the stuff have been sold over the years.

“We have very loyal customers who appreciate the high quality of Breath O’ Pine,” explained company president Tim Kelly. The product’s high pine oil content (19%) is the primary reason for that loyal following. By comparison, the pine oil content of most national brands is 15% or less and some private label products contain as little as 2% pine oil. Piling on the pine is one reason the company’s sales are expected to jump more than 12% this year, even though privately-held Brondow has to battle multinationals for shelf space.

Brondow’s success proves that you don’t need a multibillion dollar brand to compete in the category. But it sure helps to have a million-dollar idea to help stand out on crowded store shelves.

Looking for a new ingredient for your household cleaner? A list of them can be found on p. 100 in the print version of Happi.