Household Fragrances: All the Comforts of Home

November 14, 2005

Marketers try to sway consumers with an array of fragrance options.

Home. With real estate booming, house hunters must choose among condos, capes, split-levels and colonials. There are also a heck of a lot of options in decorating, renovating and even cleaning. In the midst of all this activity, marketers are trying to make it easy for consumers to decide how their houses should smell through the use of cleaning products, which are expected to be effective and convenient too.

Experts told Happi that cleaning product fragrances often do make a point of difference in-store, in addition to cleaning ability claims. But perhaps the message is not getting through to time-strapped to consumers.

Sales in the $1.68 billion household cleaning industry segment dropped 4.4% for the year ended Nov. 2, 2003, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago. This does not include Wal-Mart sales. Unit sales were also down 6% to nearly 658 million for the period. Maybe consumers aren’t cleaning like the housewives of yesteryear, or maybe it takes less product to get the same job done. Regardless, executives hope a slew of new products this year will wake up the sleepy category.

Inspirational Issues
So where do new household cleaning fragrances come from? Just about anywhere, according to Liz Harvey, senior vice president-general manager, air fresheners, The Dial Corp., which was recently acquired by Henkel. “Fragrances in household cleaning products follow fragrance trends established elsewhere, such as fine fragrances or personal care products,” she said.

And the choice to go beyond trusted lemon and pine scents is often a profitable one. “During the past few years, consumers have voted with their pocketbooks for fragrances that are more sophisticated and complex while staying within the proven, preferred fragrance scent camps,” Ms. Harvey insisted. “Fragrances, like everything in life, need to be refreshed regularly to stay current and relevant.”

Ms. Harvey pointed to the popularity of nostalgic and edible scents like vanilla. Recent research illustrates the strong link between emotional memories and fragrance; a link that is even stronger than stimuli such as music or the spoken word.

“We know now that it is specifically the experience of smell that elicits emotional memories more than any other memory cue,” noted Rachel Herz, Ph.D, assistant psychology professor at Brown University. “People are more into these memories emotionally and viscerally. This has been proven both neurologically and behaviorally.”

Emotional memories can transport people to past feelings, though the memory may not be accurate.

“The content of memories and emotional memories are disassociated,” Dr. Herz said. “A smell or a word can enable you to remember with equal accuracy, but if your memory comes back to you through odor, then it is extremely emotional and you remember your feelings. It is a fully rounded, ‘I’m in the here and now’ experience.”

Dr. Herz added that when people are emotional about memories, they tend to believe them more.

All this scent-psychology may not have a direct impact on how you feel about your mother or cleaning your toilet for that matter, but there’s no denying that marketers keep rolling out new fragrance variants.

Odors Be Gone
Dial Corp.’s new Renuzit Super Odor Neutralizer (SON) is a fine mist air freshener that eliminates tough odors in the air and on fabric such as pet odors and tobacco smoke. Executives said the sprays do not use propellants and leave behind a fresh, clean, long-lasting fragrance. They are available in Orchard Garden (fruity and herbal fresh), Citrus Sunburst (citrus, water floral accord and sheer musk) and Herbal Blossoms (herbal, green and light floral) fragrances.

Dial executives said fruit and floral fragrances combined account for more than 60% of the air freshener market. SON also offers consumers a twist on the air freshening idea.

Several new household cleaning fragrances have trickled down from air care.

“Consumers want a product that doesn’t just mask a foul odor, which in their minds creates a new combination of ‘funk & fragrance,’” said Dial’s Ms. Harvey. “Instead, they want the malodor gone and a clean scent to remain.”

The new fragrances target women ages 25-54, who typically buy air fresheners, according to Ms. Harvey. “The SON consumer is looking for more than just fragrance from her instant action products and typically prefers lighter, clean smelling scents,” she added.

SON has the added benefit of working on fabrics and carpets and is highly concentrated with fragrance oils. Executives said one SON bottle freshens the same amount as 2.8 cans of a top-selling aerosol.

Procter & Gamble has expanded its Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent with a sub-brand called Fresh Escapes. The scents available include Citrus Burst, Wildflower Medley, Apple Blossom and Herbal Breeze.

For those wanting a fresh, clean scent, look no further than Clorox Wet Floor wipes. Executives said these pre-moistened floor wipes quickly clean up everyday messes. They feature a two-layered pad designed to trap dirt and leave floors shiny clean. Clorox Wet Floor wipes can be used on sealed and finished wood, vinyl, linoleum, tile, laminate and marble floors. And in a nod to competitors, Clorox noted that its wipes can also attach to a variety of tools from other companies, such as Swiffer or Grab-it Sweeper.

A Tropical Oasis
In keeping with the use of fragrance to create an escape, some companies are looking to the islands for inspiration. These scents also offer nostalgia for people who grew up in tropical climates. In March, Colgate-Palmolive launched Fab Caribbean Fresh. Inspired by specialty stores, executives said it replaces the Fab Sun Shower Fresh scent. Fab Caribbean Fresh also has bright new packaging with high-impact graphics and a fuchsia bottle. It sells in powder and liquid forms.

Colgate executives said the $6.6 billion (retail) heavy duty detergent category translates into an average household spending of about $66 a year. Within the category, original and bleach alternative variants are growing, but fragrance is rising even faster, taking over 28% of the market in just four years, according to executives based on ACNielsen data from 1998-2002. Colgate-Palmolive stated this growth began with Fab Rain Forest.

“While Fab Rain Forest continues to exceed our performance expectations, new Fab Caribbean Fresh provides consumers with yet another alternative—one that safely cleans colors and whitens whites while delivering a fresh, tropical fragrance,” said Peter Ryan, vice president and general manager, U.S. home care, in a statement.

This launch also introduced bilingual packaging, recognizing the growing impact of Hispanic consumers in the marketplace and their fragrance preferences. Eventually, all Fab detergents will shift to similar bilingual packaging, according to executives.

Lemon Aids
When entering a new product sector, household cleaning product manufacturers tend to be more cautious in their fragrance offerings. In August, Colgate-Palmolive revolutionized dishwashing with the introduction of Palmolive Dishwipes. The wipes come in two traditional fragrances, Original and Lemon Grove. Executives said these disposable, cloth-like wipes give consumers a new way to wash dishes by simply adding water to form a lather. Each wipe is pretreated with Palmolive dish liquid and is designed to last through a load of dishes. The wipes also contain a durable triple-layer construction with a top textured layer to clean dishes, a middle layer of suds and a bottom layer of soft fibers for hands.

Colgate executives said the household cleansing wipes category is growing rapidly and now comprises 18% of the total wipe market. In 2002, the category was worth $350 million and is estimated to reach $1 billion by 2006, Colgate said in a statement, citing ACNielsen data from 2002.

During the past two years, the number of consumers who are purchasing wipes has also doubled, due, in part, to consumers’ busy lives and a need for convenient one-step cleaning products.

“Palmolive Dishwipes are the next logical innovation in dishwashing—providing an opportunity for Colgate-Palmolive to grow an entirely new premium category,” said Colgate-Palmolive’s Mr. Ryan.

P&G’s Swiffer brand, the No. 1 cleaning tool/mop/broom with sales of $88.4 million for the year ended Nov. 2, 2003, according to IRI, has added a new fragrance, Lemon Burst. These scented cloths release a burst of freshness with each use, according to executives. Just like the original, Swiffer Lemon Burst also has electrostatic action and pockets that trap and hold dirt, such as dust and hair. The Swiffer brand also added a scrubbing head on the Swiffer WetJet PowerMop.

The Apple of Your Eye
However, lemony scents are not always the first fragrance choice in every product category. Reckitt Benckiser executives said non-lemon fragrances are growing in the auto-dish category. In fact, distinct fragrances account for nearly 19% of all auto-dish dollar sales and executives are always on the lookout for new fragrance trends. Executives said the green apple fragrance is popping up everywhere, from car fresheners to shampoos, primarily because apple is said to signify a clean feeling.

“Reckitt takes inspiration from branded fragrances, life experiences, color and fashion trends and lifestyles,” insisted Michael Murray, vice president of sales, Reckitt Benckiser. “We always monitor the competition, and here, we’re enhancing a strategy to deliver new fragrances.”

This month, Reckitt is launching several Electrosol products in a Green Apple fragrance, such as 20-count Powerball, 20-count Gelpac and 75-oz. Green Apple gel. Various Electrasol products are also available in Sparkling Citrus, Orange Blossom and Lemon scents.

Reckitt also added the Green Apple Breeze fragrance to its Lysol brand. Lysol disinfectant spray ranked No. 2 in the household cleaner category in 2002, with sales of $87.3 million, according to IRI. Executives said new scents help to drive sales, revitalize old, flagging scents and keep the line current. Lysol Green Apple Breeze Disinfectant spray followed the introduction of Spring Waterfall, which grew the category 3.5% between June of 2000 and June 2001, according to an ACNielsen consumer panel. Green Apple Breeze is described as a blend of crisp green apples, golden pears and sun-ripened peach.

In the disinfectant spray sector, Reckitt said fragrance factors into 34% of buying decisions, trailing only decisions based on brand and impulse. Other Lysol Disinfectant spray fragrances include Crisp Linen, Summer Breeze, Country, Soft Powder, Pine Breeze and Original. Unlike Spring Waterfall, Green Apple Breeze was supported by national media and strong consumer promotional vehicles such as free-standing inserts.

“We would like to enhance the cleaning experience of all consumers, both existing and new,” explained Mr. Murray. “We also want to have consumers choose personally the fragrances that they enjoy.”

Reckitt Benckiser executives said its Green Apple fragrance is very much on-trend.

Reckitt executives said the all-purpose cleaners market is fiercely competitive and promotions can only do so much. Executives found that consumers desired value, so in July, Reckitt introduced 32-oz. all-purpose scented triggers for $2.79, the same price as the 22-oz. sizes. The Apple Action scent, containing natural extracts, was also added to the line. The other scents available are Lemon Scent and Fresh Orange Breeze.

In other fruit news, Bounce Summer Orchard dryer sheets are the latest members of P&G’s Bounce family. They feature a fresh, floral scent, highlighted with a hint of citrus. P&G executives said the fragrance gives fabrics the breezy scent of an orchard in summer.

A Vote for Vinegar
SC Johnson is offering fruit and vinegar in its latest batch of products. SC Johnson’s pre-moistened Grab-it Wet Floor wipes, available in Vinegar and Orange scents, are said to thoroughly clean floors and leave behind a fresh scent. Executives said each wipe cleans approximately 100 square feet and leaves no dulling residue.

“Consumers have long associated vinegar with cleanliness, so this product makes perfect sense,” noted Steve Peckham, senior public relations manager, SC Johnson.

Orange also remains a popular fragrance in the household cleaning market. The Grab-it Orange Wet Floor wipes contain pure orange oil to loosen and quickly cut through tough grime on vinyl, ceramic tile, linoleum, sealed wood and laminated floors.

“Certainly the orange trend is very strong,” Mr. Peckham said. “In terms of other emerging trends, we’re constantly talking to consumers about their preferences, changing needs and wants.”

Other recent citrus additions, such as Fantastik Orange Action wipes and Scrubbing Bubbles Soap Scum Remover with Orange Action, were inspired by other categories. “Employing fragrance to create product differentiation and enhance the user experience started in the air care and personal care categories and in recent years has migrated to home cleaning products,” Mr. Peckham explained.

“Many SC Johnson home cleaning brands are now available in multiple fragrances,” he continued. “The most recent trend is the use of orange oil and fragrances in home cleaning products.”

Jet-Dry Rinse Agent with Orange Scent is a recent addition to Reckitt Benckiser’s Jet-Dry family. Executives said it has the same spot and residue fighting power of other Jet-Dry rinse agents plus a natural orange fragrance. The company said this is the first orange-scented rinse agent.

“We focused on using orange oil for its known cleaning efficacy; therefore, it communicates freshness and also has enhanced performance,” said Reckitt Benckiser’s Mr. Murray.

Also new on the market is Spic and Span’s Touch Up spray with Orange Cleaning Power to spot-clean floors between moppings.

Brondow’s orange-scented Clean Fresh is the company’s latest fragrance addition.

Pine Is Devine
Pine, a fragrance staple in the cleaning industry, has also been updated. Pine-Sol, a Clorox brand, recently introduced a new formula that pulls dirt to the bottom of a mopping bucket to prevent spreading on the floor. Executives said the products also leave behind a long-lasting scent. Pine-Sol is available in Lemon Fresh, Orange Energy, Meadow Fresh and Rain Clean variants.

Spic and Span recently added Sun Fresh and Pine Fresh scents to its product portfolio.

Brondow Inc.’s Breath O’Pine brand marked its 60th anniversary in September. Executives said more than 75 million Breath O’Pine bottles have been sold on the East Coast over the years. The company celebrated by donating bottles to Habitat for Humanity in New York and updating the company’s website.

Once a byproduct of the paper industry, Brondow president Tim Kelley noted that pine oil has long been associated with clean dwellings.

“Pine cleaners have been on the market for a long time, and as old as they are, they have become familiar over the years and associated with a clean home,” he said. “There is a mental association with cleanliness, cleaning ability and disinfecting.”

In fact that is exactly how certain fragrances become part of the consumer’s psyche, according to experts.

“Fragrances are associated with various moods and concepts because of how we have learned them through exposure,” explained Brown University’s Dr. Herz. “Lemon and pine are connected to cleaning solutions in the U.S. If you go to South America, there is not the same connection. It has nothing to do with the odor itself; it is how you have constructed the association.”

Mr. Kelley said one of the values of pine cleaners is that the scent tends to linger long after cleaning. But that’s not all Breath O’ Pine can do. Customer testimonials report a variety of uses from repelling ants to washing dogs!

Pine is not the only fragrance the company offers. Under its Clean and Fresh banner, Brondow has Lemon, Potpourri, Orange and Lavender offerings. The latest addition, Orange, has enjoyed a surge in popularity, but Mr. Kelley predicts this sales spike will not last much longer.

“Orange cleaners have become quite popular in recent years; they offer clean, natural fragrances people are used to smelling,” Mr. Kelley commented. “But they came to market in a short time. They have hit their high point because the market has become inundated with many knockoffs.”

Executives insist pine-scented cleaners will continue to hold their ground because of heritage and also universal acceptance across ethnic groups. “We may uncover little niches here and there, but I wouldn’t expect huge growth,” added Mr. Kelley.

Brondow will introduce cleaning products with apple and natural fragrances in the near future.

The Comforts of Home
New household cleaning fragrances and concepts are all designed with one thing in mind—comfort. This is especially pertinent with the renewed focus on the home, as consumers search for a place to relax and escape.

“We will continue to offer consumers choices in home cleaner fragrances that are attractive and exciting, and bring a bit more pleasure into their everyday lives,” said SC Johnson’s Mr. Peckham.

The evolution of household cleaning fragrances will continue, beyond tropical and green apple, without forsaking the cleaning ability of formulations. “In the past decade, fragrances have highly evolved, from pine to lemon to more hedonic or refined-type smells,” said Mr. Murray of Reckitt Benckiser. “We want a pleasant smell that’s not just functional, but also delivers more performance.”