Features

Household Cleanser Update 2004

November 22, 2005

After a tough year, household cleanser marketers are hoping to sweep up the pieces and revive the category.

In 2004, household cleaning product marketers expected to clean up.

Instead, the category was a washout. For the 52 weeks ended Oct. 3, 2004, nearly every sub-segment of the U.S. household cleaners category reported a loss in sales.

According to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, for the 52-week period, all purpose cleaners and disinfectants fell 4.3% to $417 million; glass cleaners declined 3.9% to $186.4 million and abrasive tub/tile cleaners suffered a 5% loss, to $102 million. As a whole, category sales declined 3.8% to nearly $1.6 billion. (These figures do not include Wal-Mart sales.)

Yet, industry experts insist consumers are more worried about home hygiene than ever, and seek products that clean surfaces, floors and even the air. In a germ-obsessed nation, why aren’t cleanser sales stronger?

Household Solutions
All purpose cleaner/disinfectant sales slipped 4.3% to $417 million for the year ended Oct. 3, 2004, according to IRI. Here are sales of the top 10 brands in the category for the 52-week period. Figures do not include Wal-Mart sales. All dollar figures are in millions.
Brand $ Sales % Change
Pine Sol 65.2 -11.8
Lysol 64.1 1.1
Clorox Clean Up 42.4 -0.6
Mr. Clean 41.3 5.0
Formula 409 36.9 -15.5
Fantastik 26.0 -20.6
Private Label 18.0 14.0
Murphy’s Oil Soap 16.6 1.8
Fabuloso 13.3 -10.2
Spic & Span 10.8 -2.8
Category Total 417.0 -4.3
Source: Information Resources, Inc.Chicago.

Part of the reason may be that chores are just that: chores. Two-income families are more pressed for time than ever, with little time to spare at the end of the week for cleaning. Families with one stay-at-home parent also have their hands full to overflowing as kids are more involved in extracurricular activities than ever before.

Not to worry. Time-saving, easy to use products are cropping up in the household cleanser category as marketers attempt to meet the needs of a health conscious but busy society. New innovations promise to make consumers’ chores easier and, hopefully, boost cleanser sales in the process.

A Household Name
Recently, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Cincinnati, decided to investigate the reason why consumers don’t clean as often as they would like in particularly dirty areas of the home, such as the bathroom.

The company discovered that most folks dislike cleaning such areas because: 1) it is physically difficult, involving bending, stretching, kneeling and scrubbing; 2) it is “disgusting” to touch such areas and 3) too many products—buckets, tools, sprays, scrubbers—are required.

P&G came up with a product that does it all: the Mr. Clean Magic Reach, due out in stores late next month.

As a household name, Mr. Clean is synonymous with a sparkling home. Magic Reach is just one of many Mr. Clean products to have been introduced during the years, but this product is different, executives said.

“We realized there was a lot of frustration with bathroom cleaning,” said Sally Sarratt, Mr. Clean Magic Reach assistant brand manager. “So we wanted to revolutionize the cleaning process and make it easier for consumers to clean the bathroom than ever before.”

Mr. Clean Magic Reach is “revolutionizing bathroom cleaning,” according to executives.

Mr. Clean Magic Reach contains the tool (a lightweight, extendable pole), the applicator (a pivoting football-shaped head) and the cleaning fluid (impregnated pads) all in one. Better yet, it can be used for every surface in the bathroom, Ms. Sarratt said.

“The Magic Reach can be used on the floor, behind the toilet, on counters, even on tiles,” she said. “It does a brilliant cleaning job using a lighter, more user-friendly fragrance with no fumes.”

The product retails for just $12.99 as the initial purchase; refills can then be obtained as needed.

“Mr. Clean is a brand we’ve all known and trusted for 40 years, so it is very exciting to be a part of a product that will revolutionize bathroom care,” said Ms. Sarratt. “We believe this product will bring a whole new way of cleaning into the bathroom, combining a thorough and effective clean with modern ease.”

If the success of P&G’s Swiffer is any indication, consumers are quick to reach for an easier cleaning method. Swiffer, introduced just five years ago, now commands about 70% of the market for bucketless mopping and dusting systems, according to P&G executives.

“Consumers are really looking for an easy way to clean, without having to sacrifice a thorough clean,” Ms. Saratt pointed out. “We’re leading the way on this. Mr. Clean Magic Reach is the ultimate cleaning tool for the bathroom.”

A Home Away From Home?—I&I Benefits
from Increased Travel
Household cleanser marketers say consumers are spending more time on beautifying their homes than ever before. However, many are taking baby steps out into travel, a category that until now has been down following 9/11.

As families explore areas beyond the front door, the I&I cleaner market is gaining new ground, say suppliers.

“We are seeing steady demand in the traditional food processing and healthcare-related sectors,” revealed Conrad Kempinska of Lonza, Allendale, NJ. “Food service and hospitality appear to have rebounded in line with business and personal travel, as well as entertainment.”

“Lonza customers are finding an increasing demand for disinfectants and cleaners as the U.S. economy continues to slowly rebound,” added Bill Woods of the company. “Increase in travel has resulted in an increased demand for cleaning products in food service, lodging and general institutional markets.”

Hand sanitizers are important to this market too, with hand hygiene products growing at a fast clip, Lonza executives insisted. “Clean hands are fundamental to good health,” Mr. Woods pointed out.

Still, needs are the same all over: “Improved cost-performance, new or enhanced claims that meet a previously inarticulated need and perceived environmental friendliness are perennial drivers,” said Mr. Kempinska.

Meanwhile, “green” cleaning products are beginning to gain traction. This has the potential to encourage growth in a whole new category for I&I.

“The federal government has begun to define (the green market) as a separate category,” said Mr. Woods. “The U.S. Department of Interior has issued its GS-37 for janitorial floor cleaning products. The GS-37 standard is being adopted by an increasing number of other federal agencies, state and local governments. It’s having an impact on formulators’ choices.”

It’s a Dirty Job...And Nobody’s Doing It
Other marketers agreed with P&G’s assessment: cleaning anything is tough; cleaning the bathroom—specifically, the toilet—is a definite chore.

One major reason consumers hesitate to tackle toilets is what more than one called “the ick factor.”

Clorox launched the Clorox ToiletWand Disposable toilet system “to eliminate the ‘ick’ factor often associated with a standard toilet brush,” said Vicki Friedman, public relations manager, The Clorox Company. “The Clorox ToiletWand makes cleaning the toilet easier than ever. Simply click on a disposable sponge head, pre-loaded with cleanser, to the reusable wand, swish it around the bowl and toss the sponge in the trash can.”

Ms. Friedman said consumers are looking for increasingly easy ways to clean and disinfect the common areas of their homes. “Between work and spending time with famiy and friends, consumers are time-starved. They’re relying on products that will help them easily keep a clean home,” she said.

Orange Glow’s Kaboom brand introduced Kaboom Thick Liquid Toilet Bowl cleaner in January. The latest addition, Kaboom Bowl Blaster, is a powerful scrubbing foam that rises to the toilet rim and breaks down tough grime, dirt, rust and calcium according to company executives.

“You can use a brush (after applying the Bowl Blaster) if you want to, but you only need it for really tough stains,” said an Orange Glow executive. “It is phenomenally popular. We’re finding consumers are really excited about it because it is new and different.”

It’s soy good: Bi-O-Kleen offers safe, environmentally friendly cleanser options using such natural ingredients as orange peel extract and soy.

Bi-O-Kleen, Vancouver, WA, takes a gentle approach to the unsavory chore. Bi-O-Kleen launched Soy Toilet scrub to clean effectively but gently, according to company executives. Other new launches included Hand Dishwash liquid and Automatic Dish powder.

“Soy has a lot of different properties,” said Cindy Rimer, vice president of sales and marketing, Bi-O-Kleen. “Healthwise it has long been used in foods, cosmetics and personal care. But it has cleaning properties as well. In its purest form, it’s a mild solvent, but it does not harm surfaces or leave scratches.”

In addition to soy, the product contains natural organic pearlite and mint essential oil. Bi-O-Kleen products are available in natural food stores and in select grocery stores and supermarket chains.

A Gentle Touch
Companies like Bi-O-Kleen maintain that consumers seek products that clean well, but without irritating chemicals or overpowering scents.

“We are seeing a trend toward more natural products in the cleaning industry,” said Ms. Rimer of the company. “It can already be seen in the mass market, with companies trying to at least include natural ingredients, even if the base product isn’t natural.” But for the consumer who wants a truly natural product, “Just adding in the name of a plant to the ingredient label won’t work,” she said.

Jim Rimer, founder of Bi-O-Kleen, added, “We create products that exceed ‘green’ standards set for natural cleaning products. We don’t wait for an ingredient to be deemed harmful. We work hard to find the right natural ingredients in safe percentages for the environment and the health of all living things.”

The company works with Content Verified, Inc., to verify that the products are compatible with NOP Organic standards. “We will be the first company offering such products to this important segment of the industry,” Mr. Rimer said.

In addition to Soy Toilet scrub, the company launched Soy Cream cleaner, which acts like a soft-scrub product due to the presence of natural volcanic pearlite. It is safe for stainless steel, stove tops and counters. “The product is really amazing; it gets stains right out,” Ms. Rimer said. “It’s not just a play on using soy. Soy really does have powerful cleaning properties.”

Fruits & Passion USA, Quebec, Canada, which maintains additional offices around the globe, is also passionate about keeping products natural. “People are looking for more environmentally-friendly, less chemical-based cleaning products,” said Heather David, director of business development.

As an alternative to petroleum bases, for example, the company uses coconut oil and corn starch. For fragrance, essential oils such as lavender are used in formulations.

“People are spending more time at home. They’re entertaining more at home and are taking the time to decorate. They shop specialty stores, and they are more likely to use specialty cleaning products,” Ms. David commented. “There’s no reason to believe this trend is slowing down, so that’s one of the keys to growth in the cleaning category.”

Art Home executives said people who shop in specialty stores also seek specialty cleaning products.

During the past year, Fruits & Passion introduced the Art Home mini-kit containing products in the Art Home line, such as Ecological Home cleaner, Natural carpet deodorizer and a microfiber wipe to use while cleaning. Plans for 2005 include a blue lavender and tulip scented fabric softener.

“It’s wonderful to come home to a house that smells like lavender or mint instead of chemicals,” said Ms. David. “At the same time, consumers can feel good about helping the environment.”

A Splash of Citrus
Citrus cleansers are also a major trend that began a few years ago. The citrus kick is still going strong, according to industry experts contacted by Happi.

However, one of the first companies to take advantage of the citrus cleaner trend, Orange Glo International, stepped out of the box to launch the Hardwood Floor system in January. The all-in-one kit does not contain the company’s famous orange ingredients; it is a refinishing system specifically made for hardwood floors.

Orange Glo executives said traditional water and vinegar solutions can ruin hardwood floors, yet refinishing has so far been left to professionals. The Hardwood Floor system is unique in that it is available at retail.

“We saw an opportunity to offer consumers a much-needed solution in hardwood floor care,” said Joel Appel, president, Orange Glo International. “This aligns perfectly with our company’s mission to provide innovative solutions that fulfill unmet home care needs. We expect to shake up this neglected category and change consumer expectations.” Piscataway, NJ-based Bio-Ox did get in on the citrus trend. The company launched Bio-Ox Citrus concentrate with “bubble-up technology” that utilizes the power of oxygen to remove dirt, stains, odors and soil. Bio-Ox uses only non-toxic ingredients, according to company executives.

The Citrus concentrate is said to replace more than 25 common household cleaners including ammonia, carpet shampoos and deodorizers, glass cleaners, degreasers and tile-and-grout cleaners.

A Green Clean
Though traditional mass-marketed cleansers still hold top spots in sales, the general “green” trend continues to gain momentum, and many marketers believe it is the wave of the future.

“More grocery chains are starting to pick up natural lines, putting them in with the conventional cleaners,” said Ms. Rimer of Bi-O-Kleen.

Meanwhile, one prohibitive feature of natural products—the price—is being whittled down. “When you look at some of our products, they may be a little more expensive than off-the-shelf items,” said Ms. Rimer, “but you use much less of our product than the competitor’s, so per use, we actually end up being more economical.”

Other marketers are focusing on products that make the sticky process of cleaning easier. “There is a lot of frustration with cleaning,” said Ms. Sarratt of Mr. Clean Magic Reach. “Most consumers want products that do a thorough job, but aren’t overwhelmingly time-consuming. We are meeting that need. And any time you meet a consumer need, that’s the sweet spot.”

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