Mean, Green, Cleaning Machine

April 11, 2006

Surface cleaner sales are declining due to consumers’ increasingly hectic lives, while the demand for convenient products is pulling the market forward.

Mean, Green, Cleaning Machine

Surface cleaner sales are declining due to consumers’ increasingly hectic lives, while the demand for convenient products is pulling the market forward.

Susan A. Eliya
Associate Editor

Has the greatest generation given way to the sloppiest generation? The U.S. household cleaner market has witnessed struggling sales since 2000, according to Packaged Facts, publishing division of MarketResearch.com. Sales, which exceeded $4.1 billion in 2000, fell to below $4 billion in 2004. Packaged Facts notes that the market includes 10 broad categories, (air fresheners, bathroom/toilet bowl cleaners, treated wipes and scouring pads, floor cleaners, oven/appliance cleaners, glass cleaners, multipurpose cleaners, dish/dishwasher detergents, furniture cleaners and miscellaneous cleaners).

Euromonitor International, Chicago, IL noted that sales of specifically surface cleaners declined 5% in 2004, due to continued consumer migration to retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and club stores offering low prices. While multi-purpose cleaners remained one of the largest surface care product categories in 2004, with total sales of $816 million, sales have declined every year since 2000.

Cluttered Lives

Scrubbing Bubbles’ Fresh Bruch makes toilet cleaning easy with a flushable brush
Why are sales declining? Is today’s generation messier than ever? In fact, consumers just don’t have enough time to clean their houses anymore. Packaged Facts said that the number of small households with two members working has increased. Dual-income households are on the rise, leaving no one person responsible for homemaking and cleaning activities. Such busy households have had to prioritize on cleaning activities and have managed to find time only for the extremely necessary (e.g., toilet bowl cleaning) or the extremely easy chores. Other activities, such as window cleaning, have taken a back seat because they are not on consumers’ immediate-need lists.

“Convenience is what consumers are really after. Nobody wants to spend their free time cleaning—and especially not the dreaded chore of cleaning the bathroom,” said Petrell Ozbay, spokesperson, SC Johnson, Racine, WI. “Our products deliver by providing that convenience to make the task easier.”

One example is the Scrubbing Bubbles Flushable Bathroom Wipes. They offer a quick, easy way to touch up bathroom surfaces in between deeper cleaning or to quickly spruce up the space before company arrives.

“It’s great because they are flushable, so you can quickly clean and flush them away,” she said.

The company conducted a survey two years ago which concluded that 97% of consumers believe there are germs on used toilet brushes; 57% said that after use, water drips off the brush and causes a mess; 50% said they struggle with a good place to store a toilet bowl brush; and 38% said the brush head stays dirty after the toilet bowl is cleaned.

“The Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush really delivers on these concerns,” explained Ms. Ozbay. “We’re in the business of making products that make consumers’ lives easier. We know consumers want products that are convenient, quick, easy to use and reliable.”

The extendable pole from Mr. Clean makes cleaning hard-to-reach places easier to reach.
“Consumers are looking for more cleaning power, but also greater cleaning simplicity,” said Glenn Williams, external relations manager, North America, fabric and home care, Procter & Gamble. “They’re saying, ‘I don’t always have the time to clean like I want to, so I’m looking for solutions that are faster and easier—but I definitely am not willing to give up cleaning effectiveness if that’s the price for simplicity.’”

With this in mind, P&G introduced Mr. Clean Magic Reach, an all-in-one tool with an extendable pole to help make bathroom cleaning easy, thorough and quick. It was designed to clean hard-to-reach places, such as behind the toilet, around the sink and in corners of the tub/shower.

“Mr. Clean Magic Reach was invented to enable consumers to clean hard-to-reach areas in the home that were otherwise overlooked by other products,” explained Mr. Williams. “Mr. Clean [products] provide simplicity and ease of use, work in a variety of applications, yet sacrifice nothing in terms of cleaning power.”

Another line of bathroom cleaners that make the task of bathroom cleaning less mundane is Church and Dwight’s Scrub Free line.

“Church and Dwight provides the consumer with high-quality, effective household cleaning products at a better value,” said Wendy Bishop, brand manager, household cleaners, Princeton, NJ.

Ms. Bishop explained that Church and Dwight company conducts extensive consumer research to help identify new and merging needs and then they tailor their products to those needs.

“Consumers are looking for easier ways to clean showers without the harsh chemical smell,” she said. “We designed the chemistry so that the consumer can spray the product and wipe it clean without the hassle of heavy scrubbing. The chemicals penetrate the surface and consumer just wipes them away.”

The Soap Scum Remover and Mildew Stain Remover claim to dissolve on contact. The Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner can be used for the entire bathroom, from the bathtub, tiles and shower stalls to cabinets, plastic surfaces and metal surfaces.

The company will launch a new version of the Church & Dwight shower cleaner that helps keep the shower clean without scrubbing, along with a fresh smell. No launch date has been announced.

Spring Bling

According to a survey by the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), spring cleaning is still in season for most Americans. The 2006 Spring Cleaning Survey reveals that 60% of Americans say spring is the best time to rid the house of dirt and clutter.

“People still believe that spring is an optimal time for major cleaning projects,” said Brian Sansoni, vice president, communication. “And it is, in our perspective, because you are just coming out of a winter’s worth of dust and dirt. The sun shines, it gets warm, you can open the windows again. People literally spring into action to get the house back in shape.”

The survey shows that 54% of Americans prefer to clean on a daily or weekly basis. This makes bigger cleaning products, such as spring cleaning, easier. However, consumers still don’t have the time they used to.

Mr. Sansoni explained that spring cleaning is a built-in memory for a lot of people, being passed through generations. He said that the benefit of today’s generation is that the cleaning tools are much easier and much more efficient.

“It’s not mopping or scrubbing anymore,” he said. “The daily or weekly tools that can be used make things a lot easier…these products weren’t around 10 years ago.”

Daily preventative products can make cleaning much easier, and almost eliminate some chores. Arm & Hammer Clean Shower is a daily spray that prevents soap scum and mildew stains, according to the company.

“Consumers demand effective, easy-to-use products that fit their lifestyle,” stated Mr. Williams.

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser was created to fit consumers’ busy schedules. The product can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, according to P&G. It features a soft cleaning pad that removes tough dirt and grime and works with water alone. The product retails for $2.19 (two-count) and $4.19 (four-count).

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser stands out from other products because it allows consumers to clean (with one small cleaning pad) what once required a multitude of cleaning products,” said Mr. Williams. “The ability to streamline your normal cleaning routine to one simple product is enough to attract anyone.”

The SDA study noted that 91% of those surveyed agreed that cleaning products are more convenient than ever and 80% agreed that cleaning products have evolved to better fit their lifestyles.

SC Johnson has also created an automatic shower cleaner. The Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner automatically sprays a formula to help eliminate the build up of tough soap scum, mold and mildew within days, according to the company. The cleaning formula combines with the water on the shower walls to immediately begin working.

“The Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner takes cleaning convenience to a whole new level,” said Ms. Ozbay. “We know that the majority of consumers find cleaning the shower more difficult than the toilet, and this helps provide a hands-free, easy approach.”

To Dust is a Must

Other easy-to-use products include P&G’s Swiffer Sweeper and Swiffer Duster Allergen. The Swiffer Sweeper allows the consumer to sweep and mop with one tool. The new design provides a soft handle for better control, increased head size and wet cloths that now feature a new scrubbing strip to break up tough spots. The sweeper is also designed with a swivel head that can get into hard-to-reach places.

According to the company, Swiffer Dusters pick up dirt and dust to remove common household allergens. Using thousands of fluffy fibers that change shape to fit anywhere, the product can be used for picking up dust, dirt, cobwebs, pet dander and human hair, all of which contribute to household allergens. Once the Duster is filled with grime and dust, the consumer can toss the dirt and unwanted allergens away. The product is also available with an extendable handle expanding up to three feet.

Swiffer Dusters can be used to pick up dirt, dust, cobwebs, pet dander and human hair.
“Many consumers face the task of having a need but not having the proper tools to fulfill that need,” explained Mr. Williams. “Swiffer Dusters were developed to enable consumers to quickly and easily trap and lock dirt, dust and allergens throughout their home—even on electronics and antiques.”

Mr. Williams noted that the Swiffer Sweeper picks up what a mop and broom leave behind and it can be used on dry, hard surfaces, such as waxable and non-waxable linoleum, vinyl, ceramic and finished wood floors. He explained that P&G (specifically Swiffer) has continuously remained conscious of consumers’ needs by producing products to meet these needs.

“We spend a lot of time talking with consumers,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time listening. Staying connected is the best way to make sure we are addressing consumer needs and desires.”

Tree Huggers

There are always consumers looking for environmentally friendly products.

According to Packaged Facts, companies made significant new product introductions in 2004. These innovative products increased usage and sales of natural household cleaners (including laundry detergents). In fact, sales rose from $140 million in 2000 to $290 million in 2004. Natural products represented the bulk of product launches with 25% of product introductions tagged “natural,” “biodegradable” or “no-chemicals.”

“Toxic chemicals found in everything from cleaning products to paint to playtime bath foam can be really dangerous for our bodies,” insisted Linda Zielski, chief executive officer, Seaside Naturals, Short Beach, CT. “There are more great products coming out that are effective and safe. I see more and more household cleaning and personal care products with fewer toxic chemicals in them.”

Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface cleaner is gentle enough to be used around kids, pets and food.
She explained that more products made from bio-sustainable materials, such as hemp, organic cotton and bamboo, are beneficial because less forests  where so many creatures of our ecosystem thrive are being cut down.

“The less exposed we are to the constant chemicals and carcinogens in our environment, the more likely we are to have a better quality of life, and are less likely to have as many allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, cancer and chemical sensitivities,” said Ms. Zielski.

But not everyone agrees with Ms. Zielski’s assertions. Industry veterans insist home care products have been safe for years.

“By and large, our industry has been environmentally responsible for decades, throughout each generation, reducing the environmental footprint of the overall product—with recycled content, packaging, refillable containers and ultra-concentrated products,” said Mr. Sansoni. “[Many people] may take that for granted, but the fact is that our industry has been at the forefront of product stewardship and sustainability and that’s an important attribute for a segment of consumers.”

In addition to product packaging, manufacturers have made the ingredients eco-friendly as well. To meet the consumer’s desire for natural products, Seaside Naturals offers Simple Pure Clean household cleaning products made with all-natural, non-toxic ingredients and pure essential oils. The products contain plant- and vegetable-based ingredients with pure essential oils added for their cleaning properties and aromatherapy health benefits.

“We are on the road to a chemical- and pesticide-free lifestyle,” stated Ms. Zielski. “I believe more companies are working toward not only carrying less toxic products, but also toward finding natural raw materials to replace synthetic chemicals. This way we are supporting the indigenous growth of plants in many areas around the world and we don’t have to tear down forests to create room for something that does not belong there.”

The Simple Pure Clean line includes all-purpose, bathroom and glass cleaners. According to the company, the cleaners are effective, non-toxic, biodegradable and safe for kids, pets and the planet.

Seaside Naturals’ Simple Pure Clean line are non-toxic and biodegradable, as well as safe for pets, kids and the environment.
The all-purpose cleaner is effective on grease, mold and mildew. It kills germs and is ideal for countertops and bathrooms. The glass cleaner contains pure peppermint essential oil, dries with no streaks and can be used on glass, mirrors, stainless steel, appliances and granite countertops. The bathroom cleaner is recommended for sinks and toilets, and kills germs, mold and mildew leaving a light citrus scent. The products are offered in scented or unscented and retail for $6.99 (32oz.) and $19.99 (1 gallon).

Major players, too, are benefiting from the demands for safe products. Clorox recently launched Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface daily sanitizing spray, a sanitizing product that can be used around kids, pets and food. According to the company, the product is as gentle as water, yet is still strong enough to kill 99.9% of bacteria when used as directed. The company states that it is so gentle that it can even be sprayed on a pacifier and given to a baby without rinsing. A 22-oz. bottle retails for $2.99.

“People are starting to realize the impact chemicals are having on humans, as well as our environment, and more and more people are getting together and talking about it,” said Ms. Zielski. “Especially where children are concerned, the rise of asthma, allergies and chemical sensitivities is not a coincidence. Our kids do not need to be exposed to these products in their homes, in daycare, schools, and everywhere else they go.”

Pushing the Product

According to Packaged Facts, companies have made significant marketing efforts to induce consumers to use more cleaning products. Industry giants have spent enormous amounts on advertising, promotions and new product development. Still, Packaged Facts noted that the market has shown negative growth and estimates the market will slide 1.1% during 2005-2009. Retail sales are expected to fall to $6.3 billion in 2009.

More specifically, Euromonitor forecasted surface care to decline by 11% in constant value terms over the 2004-2009 period, as the pace of sales development is likely to be outpaced by the rate of inflation. Contributing to this lackluster outlook is a number of factors. For instance, surface care is already quite mature, with very high rates of household penetration for most products.

Despite the increasing demands for convenient products that keep up with changing lifestyles, the market is struggling. Euromonitor said that it is always possible that an innovative new product or category of products will be able to drive overall surface care sales, but such innovations are difficult to predict with any reliability.