A Green Clean

March 28, 2008

Led by marketers such as Method and Seventh Generation, the home cleaning sector is awash in innovation.

A Green Clean

Led by marketers such as Method and Seventh Generation, the home cleaning sector is awash in innovation.

Tom Branna
Editorial Director

Who knew that cleaning a toilet or kitchen counter could be a lifestyle choice? Swayed by companies such as Simple Green, Method and Seventh Generation, consumers are turning away from traditional cleaning formulas in favor of ones that are touted as being safer for human use and better for the environment. In fact, according to SPINS, a market research firm, sales of natural household cleaners and supplies jumped 26% for the 12 months ended January 2008.
“Consumers are looking for a better health story,” explained Cara Morrison, founder of Cogitamus Inc., a market research company. She noted that more consumers are concerned about the presence of traditional cleaners in the home and a potential link to asthma in children.
A new look for Clean Shower.
“Consumers are making cleaning a lifestyle choice instead of a chore,” Ms. Morrison told Happi. “They recognize that cleaning is part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s right up there with brushing your teeth and exercising.”
The success of these smaller players has convinced multinationals to expand their green offerings throughout the household cleaning segment. Better products at better price points are helping to drive demand for green cleaners—demand that has leaders in the category seeing green as well.
While the overall market may be flat, Method and Seventh Generation continue to post big gains. For example, according to Ms. Morrison, Method’s sales surged more than 32% last year, while Seventh Generation’s sales growth was even more spectacular—jumping 123% last year.
“Originally, consumers were skeptical about green cleaners, but all that is changing as product performance has improved,” explained Ms. Morrison, who recently completed a study of the U.S. household cleaning category. The report, now available from Packaged Facts, found that U.S. sales of household cleaners rose just 1% in 2007 to $7.3 billion (retail).

Function First

But before companies start going green in a big way, Adrian Atterby of Euromonitor International warned that a product launch from the major players has to initially focus on the new benefits it brings to consumers in terms of its key functions.
“If they were to focus solely on green straight away it could prevent consumers from sampling the new products,” he told Happi.
For example, when 2X concentrated laundry products were first launched in the UK, advertising focused on informing the consumer about the relative strength of the products compared to conventional liquids.
“It is only now, six to nine months after launch, that advertising is focusing on the environmental benefits on the products,” he explained. “Acceptance of the green trend is developing rapidly, however, and it is likely we’ll see an increased focus on ‘eco friendly’ within marketing messages in the coming future.”
Indeed, some consumers remain skeptical that a truly green cleaner can tackle really tough jobs such as cleaning the bathroom. But Method is out to change all that with the launch of Lil’ Bowl Blue toilet bowl cleaner and Le Scrub bathroom cleaner. Phosphate-free Lil’ Bowl Blue contains lactic acid to deep clean, deodorize and decalcify porcelain, while Le Scrub contains finely-milled marble that removes scum, grime and hard water stains from bathroom surfaces.
According to Method spokesperson Katie Molinari, the marble “is an effective way to remove tough stains using a natural ingredient.”
But Method co-founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry aren’t content to have their products under a consumer’s kitchen sink—they want to be on her bookshelf too. This spring, the duo published Squeaky Green, the Method guide to detoxing your home.
“Our objective is to educate readers on how to create a healthy home,” explained Ms. Molinari.
The light-hearted tome takes some serious shots at conventional cleaning products. For example, according to the authors “traditional cleaning products contain chemicals that can be found in the bloodstreams of newborn babies. Many of those chemicals have been connected to all sorts of health-related problems.”
Also this spring, Method is relaunching its O-Mop floor care kit in packaging that is made almost entirely from bamboo and recycled newspaper. But Method is much more than a home care company. This month, Method will roll out a four-item line for infants called Method Baby. It includes lotion, diaper cream, hair and body wash, and bubble bath. In addition, Method is introducing a body care collection that includes body wash, body bar and hand wash. All formulas are said to be 95-99% natural and are paraben- and EDTA-free.

Where the Growth Is

While Method is seeking its fortune in the personal care sector, opportunities remain in the household cleaning segment as well, say industry observers. Although sales of wipes and scouring pads rose just 2% in 2007, according to her estimates, Ms. Morrison insisted that the category has plenty of room to grow.
“Wipes are exciting because there’s a huge opportunity for marketers to go green,” she explained. “To sustain growth companies must find a new angle.”
One way to accomplish that would be to create wipes based on recycled material. As Ms. Morrison noted, marketers wouldn’t even need to change the formula.
“The biggest opportunities in the household cleaning segment are in all-purpose wipes and floor cleaners,” agreed David Cohen, vice president of household, Church & Dwight. “Both categories are recording double-digit gains and there is a lot of new product activity in both of these areas.”

Cleaning Fundamentals Seminar Precedes CSPA Mid-Year Meeting

The challenges and opportunities in the cleaning product category will be in the spotlight May 5, when the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) sponsors its popular Cleaning Products Fundamentals seminar at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. The seminar immediately precedes the CSPA mid-year meeting, which will be held May 6-9.
    The all-day seminar will provide  details on the chemistry and theory of cleaning products, both industrial and consumer. Developed by the Education Committee of the CSPA Cleaning Products Division, the seminar is the latest in a series of teaching sessions designed to present a basic overview of cleaning-product technology and is designed especially for:
    • Formulators new to the cleaning products industry;
    • Training opportunity for new personnel in the cleaning products field and
    • Industry professionals desiring a refresher course.
    Here’s a closer look at topics and speakers:
    • Introduction and Background, Su- san Yearsley, Glenn Corporation;
    • Surfactant Types, Terri Germain, McIntyre Group;
    • Detergent Builders, Molly Busby, Dow Chemical Company;
    • Solvents, Leslie Sakshaug, Dow Chemical Company;
    • Performance Additives, Jan Shul- man, Rohm and Haas Company;
    • Household Formulations, Jackie Pytel, Stepan Company;
    • Industrial & Institutional Formu- lations, Ken Roach, JohnsonDiversey, Inc.;
    • Product Forms, Terri Germain, McIntyre Group;
    • Product Evaluation, Gregory Van Buskirk, Clorox; and
    • Green Cleaning, Virginia Lazar- owitz, Cognis Corporation.
    CSPA’s cleaning division provides three educational programs that feature leading industry experts and timely topics including emerging technologies and regulatory requirements. They include one-day Cleaning Products Fundamen- tals, two-day Cleaning Products Interme-diate Formulations (held every two or three years) and the three-day New Horizons conference which will be held Oct. 19-22 at the Inverness in Englewood, CO.
    “The Fundamentals and Intermediate programs are geared toward enhancing knowledge of ingredient selection for quality cleaning products,” explained  Susan Yearsley of Glenn Corp. “We provide overviews of global market trends, global regulatory requirements, raw material standards as well as new technology, product forms, test methods, and washing procedures. Additionally, all provide forums for exchanging ideas and developing professional relationships.”
    Ms. Yearsley noted that The Fundamentals program is designed for beginners such as new chemists and sales and marketing representatives, while the follow-up Intermediates program is for a more experienced audience. New Horizons is designed for the most experienced audience and focuses on new technology. More info: www. cspa.org
Marketers big and small are rushing to join the green movement, and Sunshine Makers Inc., better known as Simple Green, has been waiting for them, insists Denise Dochnahl, marketing specialist for the company. She noted that company founder Paul FaBrizio and his son, Bruce, developed the original, nontoxic formula to remove tannic acid in coffee roasters 35 years ago. Today, Simple Green offers a wide array of environmentally-friendly products for the household and industrial and institutional markets.
“We’ve been throwing a green party for 35 years and now the guests are showing up,” laughed Ms. Dochnahl. “We’re glad that consumers are conscious of the green movement.”
Next month, the company will introduce a new cleaner designed for all-terrain vehicles and similar “extreme sport” vehicles. The yet-to-be-named product is similar to the company’s Extreme Simple Green Aircraft and Precision Cleaner.

Church & Dwight Reworks Lines

As some companies go green, Church & Dwight has turned yellow—reworking several brands to leverage the success of its Arm & Hammer brand. In recent months, the company has rolled out new branding and packaging for its Clean Shower and Scrub Free under the Arm & Hammer masterbrand. According to company executives, the move will grow the franchise because of high purchase intent among A&H loyalists. In fact, according to Church & Dwight research, purchase intent jumped 19% using the masterbrand strategy. Furthermore, shoppers could locate products more than two times faster using the masterbrand strategy.

Sales of Toilet Bowl Cleaners Plunge, While Spray Disinfectants Post Modest Gain

Demand for most household cleaners declined in food, drug and mass merchandisers for the year ended Feb. 24, 2008, according to Information Resources, Inc. Still, spray disinfectants posted a modest gain. Here’s a look at sales in all cleaning categories. Results do not include Wal-Mart’s sales.

Brand                                                    $ Sales        % Change        Unit Sales        % Change

Abrasive Tub/Tile Cleaner               $100,777,400    -4.87            66,998,900          -6.55
All Purpose Cleaner/Disinfectant    $431,411,200    0.02          165,562,000           0.07
Chimney Soot Remover                      $17,918,000  -17.39                     2,610       -21.24
Drain Cleaner                                     $151,672,700    -0.55            33,523,230         -2.68
Glass Cleaner/Ammonia                  $150,209,600   -10.73           57,556,480       -10.58
Lime/Rust Remover                             $31,023,570   -12.61             7,778,046       -14.07
Nonabrasive Tub/Tile Cleaner        $266,280,400    -4.78             78,501,630        -3.55
Oven/Appliance Cleaner/Degreaser $54,827,080   -7.39             13,907,320         -8.92
Specialty Cleaner/Polish                     $32,087,710    -7.33               8,412,966         -9.33
Spray Disinfectant                              $105,875,600     3.55             26,747,160           0.87
Toilet Bowl Cleaner/Deodorizer         $250,315,000    -11.03      102,861,700         -8.54

Total:                                                   $1,592,398,260     -4.61         561,852,042        -4.76


This month, Church & Dwight is rolling out an improved version of Kaboom Scrub Free, a continuous toilet cleaning system. The in-tank cleaning system is easier to attach and refill, while still delivering three months of cleaning from a single product. In consumer tests, 85% of consumers said the product met or exceeded their expectations and 75% expected to purchase a new starter system after one year of use.

What’s Ahead

Today, marketers are reworking their formulas to make them greener, but Mr. Atterby predicted that the next phase in the environmental evolution will be devoted to packaging, which is generally plastic, and therefore not very environmentally friendly.
“Method, for instance, has recently produced its first cleaning bottle made out of 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic in the UK and all new bottles produced in the UK will be manufactured from 100% PCR,” he said. “They are also looking at manufacturing wipes from bamboo as it is a more sustainable material.”
One thing’s for sure, however—going green isn’t going away. As Ms. Morrison noted, the tipping point has already occurred and large companies have some serious decisions to make.
“Is there room for large companies that already have SKUs to put out a green line?” she asked. “They have some hard thinking to do and may have to cut back on some of their offerings.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Morrison predicted that more companies and consumers will be taking a hard look at the role that fragrance plays in their household cleaning formulas.
“The big guys are still obsessed with scent—they think it’s an important indicator of clean,” she noted. “But is the consumer really falling for that? Sensory experiences have been popular for years, but they may take a back seat to health issues, which is why Seventh Generation is always trying to take fragrance out of its products.”

Wipes Still Hold Promise in Household Cleaner Sector

They’ve been around for more than a decade, but wipes continue to post double-digit gains, according to a new study by Packaged Facts. Here’s a look at retail sales (in millions $):

Category                                            2003        2004        2005        2006        2007        CAGR

Dish Detergent                              2,004.7    2,162.0    2,076.0    2,258.9    2,296.8          3.5%
Bathroom Cleaners                      1,160.0    1,302.4    1,205.4    1,333.3    1,313.4          3.2%
General Household Cleaners    1,110.5    1,207.7    1,151.6    1,205.1    1,210.8           2.2%
Furniture & Floor Cleaners          1,095.4    1,211.5    1,086.3    1,168.8    1,185.8          2.0%
Wipes & Scouring Pads                   510.2       635.6       679.4       723.3        757.2       10.4%
Miscellaneous Cleaners                 488.7        527.7       527.1       567.7       567.8          3.8%

Totals:                                            6,369.4    7,046.9    6,725.8    7,257.2    7,331.7          3.6%

Fragrance isn’t the only attribute that’s drawing the attention of marketers and consumers alike. Ms. Morrison noted that, according to ProductScan data, in 2003 there were 27 new household cleaning products touted for their biodegradability; by 2007, that number had reached 59. Similarly, the number of new products available in refill format jumped from six in 2003 to 23 in 2007.
“The growing acceptance of green products is demonstrated by the fact that Seventh Generation will start to sell products through Wal-Mart despite CEO Jeffrey Hollender previous assertion that working with Wal-Mart would be akin to selling the company’s soul,” observed Mr. Atterby.
Selling environmentally-friendly household cleaners in Wal-Mart is certainly no sell-out. In fact, it’s just another example of just how far the demand for green cleaners has come in only a few short years.
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