The environmentally-friendly household cleaner concept goes mainstream as major players such as S.C. Johnson, Clorox and Church & Dwight roll out new green lines.
Watch out, Method. Heads up, Seventh Generation. Multinational household cleaning product companies have taken note of your success and a page from your playbook to roll out their own versions of environmentally-friendly hard surface cleaners, floor cleaners and the like. For years, niche players had the green cleaning category to themselves, but now mainstream companies have discovered the category and industry experts predict that green cleaning sales are set to soar.
“There is continued interest in environmental products and a growing understanding on the part of the consumer about maintaining a healthy home,” said Elizabeth McDonaugh, director of product management, Seventh Generation.
In fact, Mintel International, a Chicago-based research firm, predicts sales of green household cleaners will grow 19% to $623 million by 2013—an unprecedented growth rate for the cleaning category.
“It’s an extremely bold forecast,” admitted David Lockwood, a senior analyst for Mintel. “Right now, green cleaners have a 3% share of the market, but they could hold a 30% share in five years.”
Mr. Lockwood credits that incredible gain to the fact that multinational marketers such as S.C. Johnson, Clorox and Church & Dwight have entered the green cleaning segment with a vengeance and are marketing effective cleaners that cost little more than conventional products.
That’s good news for a category that has been limping along in terms of sales growth for a number of years. For example, according to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, sales of all-purpose cleaners and disinfectants declined 2% to $416.3 million in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart and for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 25, 2009 (see chart).
Clorox got the mainstream green category rolling a year ago with Green Works, a line of household cleaners that Clorox contends is 99% natural; i.e., the ingredients come from renewable resources, are biodegradable and free of petrochemicals. Clorox admits that the products do contain synthetic preservatives and colors, but maintains that it is working to develop 100% natural formulas. Clorox also admits that it can’t develop a 100% natural disinfecting formula, but research in that area is ongoing.
For now, consumers will have to be content with the introduction of Green Works Natural Biodegradable Cleaning Wipes, which are manufactured using 100% cellulose fibers and derived from renewable farm-grown trees.http://www.happi.com/articles/2009/03/online-exclusive-green-works-adds-wipes
Following the launch of Green Works, Church & Dwight kept the green cleaning conversation going with the introduction of Arm & Hammer Essentials, a line that now includes multi-surface cleaner, cleaner and degreaser and glass cleaner as well as liquid laundry detergent, fabric softener, powder laundry detergent, deodorant and even kitty litter.
Prior to the launch of the cleaners, a Church & Dwight executive told Happi that compared to conventional products, the refill system reduces the waste stream by 80%. Moreover, the starter kit price is similar to leading products in the industry, but the refill will offer consumers a terrific savings, according to Church & Dwight.
“We think it’s a wonderful environmental story,” the C&D executive said. “It’s a combination of reducing the packaging waste stream, while having the ability to deliver superior cleaning using topflight formulas based on plant-based ingredients.”
The launch of these lines caused Simple Green’s sales to slip—but the company is fighting back. Nearly a year ago, it launched Simple Green Naturals, which contain 100% naturally sourced ingredients—no synthetic preservatives, colorants or fragrances.
|Sunshine Makers, Inc. is reclaiming its share of the fast-growing natural cleaner market with the rollout of Simple Green Naturals.
“We had been working on these naturally derived formulations for about one-and-a-half years prior to the launch,” explained Carol Chapin, senior director, research & development, Sunshine Makers, Inc., the parent company of Simple Green. “We were aware that there was a consumer demand for products made from natural or naturally derived ingredients and wanted to respond with a Simple Green brand.After all, our mission statement calls for innovation in developing the most effective environmentally responsible products possible.”
Ingredients in Simple Green Naturals come from bio-organics such as chicory, coconut, corn, palm, minerals, salt and sugar. In addition, the scents are 100% natural essential oils and plant extracts manufactured to the most stringent regulations of the International Fragrance Association, which the company notes ensures skin-sensitization does not occur when these products contact skin.
The full line of Simple Green Naturals includes liquid hand soap, dishwashing liquid, glass and surface care, bathroom cleaner, multi-surface care, floor care, concentrated cleaner and carpet cleaner.
Just last month, five of the products in the Simple Green Naturals line received Green Seal Certification. The products certified under the Green Seal Environmental Standard for General-Purpose, Bathroom, Glass, and Carpet Cleaners Used for Household Purposes (GS-8) are Multi-Surface Care, Glass & Surface Care, Bathroom Cleaner, Floor Care, and Dilutable Concentrated Cleaner. The Carpet Cleaner (spot/stain remover), Liquid Hand Soap and Dish Washing Liquid were not submitted, as the GS-8 standard does not apply to those products.
According to Ms. Chapin, part of the Green Seal scrutiny of a cleaning product, and one reason why Sunshine Makers selected Green Seal certification over other programs, is an assessment of efficacy.
|Seventh Generation’s new automatic dishwasher detergent pacs are concentrated and chlorine- and phosphate-free.
Similar standardized tests were performed on all Naturals products against both “green” and traditional products and, overall, Simple Green Naturals performed as well, if not better, within testing margins, than the competitor products, according to Ms. Chapin.
S.C. Johnson entered the fray in January, with the launch of Nature’s Source. Specifically, the line includes Nature’s Source Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner by Windex, Nature’s Source Natural All-Purpose Cleaner by Scrubbing Bubbles, Nature’s Source Natural Bathroom Cleaner by Scrubbing Bubbles and Nature’s Source Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner by Scrubbing Bubbles. All four products were recognized for safer chemistry by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) partnership program. Each uses plant-based, biodegradable cleaners and are sold in recyclable bottles that list all the ingredients on the label. Further, they do not contain ammonia, bleach or phosphorus, meet S.C. Johnson’s Greenlist criteria for sourcing ingredients and are partly produced by renewable energy from a local landfill.
Effective and Natural
“S.C. Johnson has a long-standing commitment to the environment and doing what's right for future generations—and an equally long legacy of meeting families’ evolving needs,” said Kelly Semrau, S.C. Johnson’s vice president of global public affairs and communication, in a statement. “Nature’s Source is our answer for those who want a natural choice in cleaners that is widely available, affordable and gets the job done right.”
Although the products are more than 99% natural, they’re also backed by the well-known Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles brand names. According to research conducted by Harris Interactive for SCJ, the majority of parents (62%) are interested in using natural cleaners to benefit their family’s health, but 44% don’t think that natural cleaners are as effective as traditional cleaners.
In launching the line, S.C. Johnson is hitting hard at moms’ green conscious. According to the Nature’s Source Natural Living Survey, only 44% of parents think their family is doing enough to live naturally. While they might like to “do more,” 63% believe it would be difficult. The top three obstacles are:
1. They think it is too expensive (54%);
2. They are suffering from eco-confusion, meaning they are confused as to what natural activities and products are effective (20%); and
3. They think it is inconvenient to purchase the appropriate products or tools needed (17%).
More from Seventh Generation
The influx of new players to the category is notable, but not terribly upsetting to companies such as Seventh Generation, said Reed Doyle, director of global strategic sourcing for the company.
“We welcome them to the category; we haven’t seen any cannibalization,” insisted Mr. Doyle. “They’ve helped grow the category as a whole and brought attention to green cleaners. And if S.C. Johnson and Clorox are spending millions of dollars on advertising, that grows the entire category and helps build consumer awareness.”
In fact, consumers are becoming so aware of Seventh Generation’s products that the company posted topline growth of 50%—making it the best year ever in its 21-year history.
Now, Seventh Generation wants more. This year, the company rolled out single-use autodish pacs constructed in biodegradable PVA, fabric softener sheets, a rinse aid and a 150oz. package of its 2X ultra liquid laundry detergent.
“Our autodish pac formula is chlorine- and phosphate-free and biodegradable,” explained Mr. Doyle. “Plus, the formula is polyacrylate-free and contains poly aspartic acid, a biodegradable chelant.”
Even with all this new chemistry, the formula cleans as well as leading brands such as Cascade, according to the Burlington, VT-based company.
Although Seventh Generation executives said the product launches were too new to gather meaningful sales data, Mr. Doyle proudly noted that Seventh Generation’s hand dishwashing liquid overtook Dawn dishwashing liquid to become the No. 1 brand in Target.
“We’re No. 1 because A, the formula is very efficacious and B, it’s priced competitively (with leading national brands).”
The Word from Washington
Regulations are an evergreen issue when it comes to household cleaning products. Chris Cathcart, president of the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA), expects regulatory activity to heat up in the next 12 months as important issues such as reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) move to center stage. But Mr. Cathcart is confident that a strong coalition of stakeholders will enable positive reforms to take place.
“CSPA has a reputation of bringing together allied industry groups and non-government organizations to the table to work things out,” he told Happi. “TSCA is a 33-year-old statute. We understand there needs to be reform and that TSCA can be improved.”
To get that reform moving in the right direction, in February CSPA teamed up with Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to request Congress to consider a stakeholder process to address TSCA reform.
Specifically, CSPA and its partners asked TSCA Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Ranking Member George Radanovich (R-CA) to consider five key points regarding TSCA reform, including:
• Priority Setting. Identify priority chemicals that may pose risk to sensitive populations, and consider using industry studies that meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for protocols to support government efforts.
• Exposure and Use Information. Work with the consumer products industry to ensure EPA has adequate and timely information on chemical use and exposure.
• Deadlines. Establish clear and achievable deadlines for the review of priority chemicals and ensure EPA has the resources to meet those deadlines.
• Risk Management. Clarify EPA and other federal agency authority to manage the use of chemicals that present risks to public health and the environment, and ensure that the regulatory system assess the costs and benefits of new restrictions.
• Innovation. Ensure that improvements to TSCA promote innovation and new product development.
But at the same time, Mr. Cathcart noted that the federal government must do a better job of pulling together the “patchwork” of regulations that confronts CSPA member companies.
“It is difficult for any company to weave its way through the morass of regulations to get a product to market,” observed Mr. Cathcart. “(The process) must be clear, and that will help us more efficiently reach the marketplace.”
At the state level, Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions are in the news again in California, while legislation to add bittering agents to anti-freeze is gathering steam in several states.
Also in California, ingredient communication has become a hot topic. But CSPA has been proactive in this area to ensure that its message is heard loud and clear by consumers. The Association worked with the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association and SDA to create a robust voluntary chemical communication program that will take affect on Jan. 1, 2010.
“Consumers win when they have better information in hand to make informed choices,” explained Mr. Cathcart.
The program encompasses four product categories: air care, automotive care (antifreeze), cleaning products (dish care, laundry detergents, household cleaning) and polishes and floor maintenance products. Under the program, all ingredients in these categories will be listed, except incidental ingredients that have no technical or functional effect in the product. Dyes, fragrances and preservatives can be identified by class/function descriptors. Ingredients present at concentrations greater than 1% will be listed in descending order by predominance. Ingredients present at concentrations of less than 1% will be listed without regard to the order of predominance.
Ingredients will be listed by either the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) name, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name, Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) name or by the common chemical name. Finally, ingredients will be listed either on the product label, through the manufacturers’, distributors’ or importers’ website, through a toll-free telephone number, or through some other non-electronic means.
Mr. Cathcart noted that CSPA is always willing to work with environmental groups that are serious about exploring ways to work with the industry to get information to the consumer without sensationalizing the message. For example, in the past, the Association worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council to pass the Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act (PRIA II)
“There are good groups out there,” he insisted. “Part of what we’re doing is working with environmental groups that are serious and willing to through an exploration process with industry to get information to consumers and regulate our products without sensationalizing them.”
Outside the U.S., CSPA is working with other organizations on issues such as Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and other chemical management programs.
“It’s too early to tell the impact of REACH, but we are studying it closely with our counterparts in Europe to learn its strengths and weaknesses,” said Mr. Cathcart. “But we must leverage the work done on chemical management by other countries. Canada, for example, has an excellent program.”
To make its message clear to consumers, regulators and the media, CSPA is expanding its communications efforts to include a stronger emphasis on social media and social networks by identifying target markets such as policy makers and consumers, finding out how these groups conduct their research and then targeting them with positive messages about the industry.
“We will increase our presence through popular bloggers,” explained Gretchen Schaefer, vice president, communications, CSPA. “We’ll also develop new areas on the CSPA website that will attract a new audience.”
As the Association prepares for its mid-year meeting in Chicago, May 5-8 (see box below), Mr. Cathcart explained that CSPA is positioned to meet myriad challenges ahead.
“We’ve established ourselves as the go-to group for companies that need help on issues such as advocacy and regulatory compliance,” he said. “At the same time, we have created a positive environment for business networking opportunities.”
A Green Future
While associations such as CSPA fight for the industry in Washington, D.C. and around the globe, marketers are ramping up their collections of green cleaners.
“Our future is pretty green in terms of dollars and growth,” laughed Mr. Doyle. “The fact is, consumers are becoming more aware of well-being and the environment around them. Green is no longer a fad. It’s an integral part of people’s lives and is becoming more relevant as people become more educated about the impact of their consumption.”
CSPA Mid-Year Meeting Set for May 5-8 in Chicago
The Consumer Specialty Products Association will hold its Mid-Year Meeting and Innovention Program May 5-8 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown in Chicago. Sir Ken Robinson, innovator and author, will keynote the CSPA general session on May 6.Named “business speaker of the year” by 200 European companies, Sir Ken makes an irresistible case for creativity and innovation and reveals how to increase them in any organization. In keeping with the meeting’s theme “Will to Succeed,” he will discuss how people—and corporations—can apply their natural talents to achieve at their highest levels. His presentation will be tailored to the consumer products industry.