“There are certain factors like ingredient disclosure that may get some attention from very vocal individuals or groups, but, in general, it is down on the list of most important factors for most consumers,” he told Happi. “Considerations like prices and cleaning power tend to be more for important practical reasons.”
But that’s not slowing down lawmakers or the biggest players in the category—SC Johnson, RB and P&G among them—from providing consumers greater access to what ingredients are used to formulate their leading cleaning products.
As this issue of Happi went to press, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 258, the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, requiring that cleaning products sold in the state of California list ingredients on labels and provide additional ingredient information on product websites. Additionally, through this legislation, for the first time in the US, manufacturers will disclose the presence of potential fragrance allergens within their products. Product labels will need to be updated by Jan. 1, 2021 and manufacturer websites by Jan. 1, 2020, according to the legislation.
The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) lauded this “landmark bill” because it successfully balanced consumer and worker demands for more ingredient information with complex implementation issues, such as the need to protect certain proprietary and confidential business information.
“This bill brought everyone to the table,” Steve Caldeira, president and CEO of CSPA said in a statement that was released on Oct. 16, 2017, just hours after the legislation moved across the Governor’s desk. “CSPA prides itself on working with legislators in a bipartisan manner, not-for-profit NGO’s, and regulatory agencies at all levels of government to provide the right information to consumers and workers that will better inform their product decisions. CSPA thanks Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Governor Jerry Brown for their leadership on this issue.”
According to CSPA, the carefully crafted compromise was developed through intense NGO-industry stakeholder negotiations and has generated an unprecedented coalition of support made up of more than 100 organizations and corporations ranging from breast cancer prevention and clean water advocates to janitors and domestic workers to some of the world’s largest multinational cleaning product companies.
“It was a true collaboration,” said Hal Ambuter, a member of the regulatory affairs team at Reckitt Benckiser (RB), recalling face-to-face meetings in Sacramento, many emails and numerous phone calls. “It was a perfect storm of cross stakeholders saying ‘let’s get together and solve this. We have 10 years of saying of what we don’t like. Let’s focus on what we do like’... We hope it is the start of many things to come—where NGOs and industry can come together.”
According to RB, its disclosure model will include both an on-label and an on-line component as required with full ingredient disclosure on all of its US cleaning products, which include its disinfectant labels. The ingredient statements on these products will look like what is commonly found on cosmetic products, according to RB, which will provide consumers the same level of ingredient information on the label across all RB product lines in the US, helping consumers to make informed choices and be confident about the products they trust to clean and protect their home. RB will also include an on-label fragrance allergen statement for relevant products (noting that it is of increasing importance to consumers with allergies and sensitivities to fragrances). At www.rbnainfo.com, RB will provide disclosure of 99.99% of the fragrance ingredients, with even further disclosure of select ingredients, and additional ingredient and technical information on the products as well as RB’s corporate sustainability efforts.
According to Caldeira of CSPA, the California model—a proposal backed by both environmental advocates and name-brand consumer product companies—could potentially serve as a national model for other states and major retailers.
But New York doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction so far. There, so-called “politically motivated and unfeasible regulations” could stand in the way, according to CSPA, pointing to recently released draft ingredient disclosure guidance that Caldeira called “unworkable, costly and unscientific.”
On Their Own
Ahead of the legislation efforts, major players in the household cleaner category have been taking steps to provide information to consumers who do want to know more.
Continuing what it calls its “leadership in ingredient transparency,” SC Johnson announced in May that it will disclose the presence of 368 potential skin allergens that may occur in its products. The company has already added the list of fragrance and non-fragrance skin allergens to its ingredient website, WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com, and by 2018, the website will also list skin allergens when contained in a product. This new transparency initiative goes beyond regulations in the European Union and also in the US where there are no rules requiring allergen transparency, noted the company.
“For us, transparency is a matter of principle. We’re interested in helping people make the best choices for their families,” Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson said in a statement. “Just like when we started listing preservatives, dyes and fragrances, we didn’t stop with the industry standard. We want to tell the whole story. This is just the next step we are taking in our journey to be more and more transparent.” Other companies use similar ingredients. SC Johnson considers it important to disclose these ingredients particularly for people with a pre-existing skin allergy.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lauded SC Johnson’s “groundbreaking” disclosure.
“By taking these steps, SC Johnson will help millions of consumers be smarter about chemicals in cleaning products that have the potential to cause allergic skin responses. And SC Johnson is once again raising the bar for other companies. This level of transparency is sweeping across other industries and is rapidly becoming the new normal for companies, like SC Johnson, who place a premium on giving consumers more, rather than less, ingredient information,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of EWG.
In August, Procter & Gamble Company announced that it will share online all fragrance ingredients down to 0.01% for its entire product portfolio in the US and Canada by the end of 2019, which includes more than 2000 fragranced products. It is first focusing this effort on its fabric and home products, as well beauty care products where there is the greatest consumer interest and will expand across additional product categories and geographies over time, said P&G.
“Our goal is to give people information that is clear, reliable and accessible. This is another step in our sustainability journey toward enabling consumers to make informed choices,” said Kathy Fish, chief technology officer at Procter & Gamble. “We want people to feel great about putting our products in their shopping baskets. We’re providing more information about fragrance ingredients because we believe this will build even greater trust in the quality and safety of all of our products.”
As expected, EWG’s Cook praised P&G, too. “The policy announced today not only demonstrates P&G’s deep commitment to providing consumers everywhere with the information they increasingly demand, it also marks a turning point for the entire consumer product industry,” he said in a statement.
Other major players in have household care have been taking steps in the same direction.
“Clorox has had a longtime commitment to ingredient transparency,” Chris Hyder, vice president of marketing and general manager for The Clorox Company, told Happi.
“Starting in 2009, we were the first major consumer packaged goods company to voluntarily provide an online list of ingredients used in our cleaning, disinfecting and laundry products in the US and Canada. Since then, we’ve continually evolved our programs, disclosing preservatives, dyes, our fragrance palette and certain fragrance components identified as allergens that are used in our products. The information is accessible to consumers both on our website and on any device, wherever they may be.”
In addition, Clorox provided guidance in the development of “SmartLabel, an industry-wide initiative launched in 2016 involving more than 30 leading US companies, and we will be including detailed information about our products in that platform as well,” Hyder said.
The larger brands owned by major players in the category hold sway with consumers.
“Brand recognition is important in most categories, and helps brands like Lysol, Clorox, Windex and Pledge. Consumers want brands they know and can trust—whether that be for their cleaning power or that they use healthier ingredients,” said Koenigseker.
According to Koenigseker, the green sector remains a niche market, but it is a growing one.
“On one hand, many consumers have tight budgets and cleaning products are seen as commodities. They want the most bang for their buck. On the other hand, a growing number of consumers, especially younger consumers, want products that are better for themselves and the environment. Climate change is a topic that is more regularly discussed in the media, and buying these products provide clean consciences for many consumers.”
Demand for products in this sector is evident, he said, based on recent high profile acquisitions, like SC Johnson’s deal for Method and Ecover, which was announced in mid-September.
“Method and Ecover have a strong tradition of innovation and delivering on consumers’ needs. They are a great complement to SC Johnson’s trusted lineup of iconic brands,” said SCJ’s CEO.
The Method/Ecover and SC Johnson deal followed another major acquisition in late 2016 when Unilever picked up Seventh Generation, the Burlington, VT company that had built its own strong following through a focused sustainability profile and commitment to formulating effective products that range from diapers to household care.
Just recently, Seventh Generation launched a new disinfectant spray that kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses using CleanWell technology, a disinfectant formula based on thyme oil. The spray is appropriate for use in homes and is effective at killing viruses, specifically Rhinovirus type 37 (the common cold virus) and Influenza A viruses, including H1N1 as well as bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli, according to the company. The disinfectant does not need to be rinsed after use, even on food contact surfaces, which Seventh Generation contends is a unique attribute in the category. In addition, the spray is also non-flammable and powered by compressed air, utilizing continuous 360° spray technology that won’t lose pressure. There are three SKUs available—Lavender Vanilla & Thyme Scent, Fresh Citrus & Thyme Scent, and Eucalyptus, Spearmint & Thyme Scent.
“Seventh Generation has always believed that every element of our products should keep the wellbeing of our customers in mind,” Joey Bergstein, COO of Seventh Generation, said in a statement. “Our new disinfectant sprays are no different; we went through extensive work to ensure we were putting together a botanically-based spray we can feel good about people using in their homes.”
Consumers seeking safer household cleaning products have a new option in Breathe, which its maker, Starco Brands, is proud to call the first aerosol cleaning line certified by the EPA’s Safer Choice program. The line is powered by air with eco-friendly, proprietary BreatheSafe technology and does not produce harmful fumes, according to Starco, which migrated the technology from I&I down to the consumer market.
“The line took almost three years to develop, and was created to solve potential safety concerns in our janitorial and institutional business. For those in the janitorial sector that are cleaning for six hours a day, it became a goal to ensure we could supply products that reach a level of safety that had not been achieved in the industry before without sacrificing any performance attributes. After this successful commercialization, we then had a desire to offer this technology to the consumer marketplace,” Ross Sklar, CEO of Starco Brands, told Happi.
Sklar contends the Breathe line represents a huge leap forward in the aerosol and cleaning industries.
“We call products within our company that have the ability to disrupt behavior as ‘Smart Cuts.’ They’re not shortcuts. A ‘smart cut’ allows one to perform a routine and daily task in a far more efficient and safe manner,” he said.
Breathe’s aerosol spray traditionally provides a user with much higher coverage rates than other types of spray or squeeze products, and like a mini pressure washer, it also deposits the cleaning material to the substrate with force that allows for further depth of penetration into the substrate, making cleaning easier and more efficacious, according to the company, which is based in Los Angeles. The line can be found on Amazon and Jet and at Wegmans.
“We can’t speak highly enough about Wegmans. They are a tremendous cutting-edge retailer and it was very strategic to kick off our launch and distribution with them. We can’t thank them enough for their culture and support,” said Sklar, who noted that Breathe will continue to see distribution expansion over the course of 2018 and 2019.
And be on the lookout for Starco’s technology elsewhere.
“What’s really exciting are incredible products that will be launched extending the Breathe line. We plan a whole new sector in aerosol coming in 2018 and 2019 household, air care, disinfectants, automotive and personal care too,” Sklar said.
Innovation in the household cleaning category isn’t relegated to the green/eco corner of the marketplace; companies continue to enhance both the performance and scent experience of their brands that are formulated with more traditional chemistries.
In September, Clorox rolled out Clorox Regular Bleach with Cloromax Technology, which packs the same whitening, dirt-fighting and disinfecting power people “love and trust, plus it protects surfaces and keeps clothes whiter longer,” according to the company. The patented technology is said to invisibly adhere to hard surfaces, forming a protective shield that repels stains to make cleaning quicker and easier when used as directed. The new formula will replace Clorox Regular Bleach, while the Cloromax Technology will also be found in Clorox Performance Bleach, Clorox Scented Bleach, and Clorox Germicidal Bleach in the next few months, according to the company.
Clorox has also added new Pacific Breeze & Coconut scent to its Clorox Scentiva line, including Clorox Scentiva Multi Surface Cleaner and Clorox Scentiva Disinfecting Wipes.
Scent is also on the mind at value brand Pinalen, which is owned by AlEn USA. The Houston-based household cleaning and laundry products company has launched an enhanced line of multipurpose cleaners that have long-lasting aromas. Housed in packaging with colorful labels featuring photographic images of the long-lasting fragrances offered—lavender, floral, fruit blossom, ocean breeze, pine and new lemon—the Pinalen Max Aromas feature “Scent Boost” technology that extends the fragrance in most usage occasions for more than 30 hours, according to the company.
Despite recent these advances, Euromonitor’s Koenigseker contends within the household cleaning sector, “Nobody really has a game changer at the moment.”
For now, he noted a few major trends in the category, including investment of major retailers in private label brands; cross promotion of company brands (think P&G’s use of Febreze); and consumer demand for environmentally friendly products; and acquisitions.
“Additionally, there is a strong push by companies to increase their social media presence and online sales, which is already showing signs of paying dividends,” Koenigseker told Happi.
Clorox is one company looking to shift the conversation away from the negatives of cleaning to the positive benefits it provides. The firm has rolled out “Clean Matters,” a new brand film that debuted during the fall premiere of NBC’s The Voice and is being expanded to cinema, TV, digital and owned channels.
The film “highlights the inherent change that comes from cleaning. It’s not just about clean surfaces, but about setting the stage for new possibilities, and the intentional shift from what was to what can be,” noted Hyder.
“We know that most consumers see Clorox and cleaning in a functional way—getting the place from dirty to clean in the most efficient and effective way. They see it simply as a mundane task. Yet there are proven emotional, psychological and societal benefits of clean that are often underappreciated,” Hyder continued. “We want to shift the perception of cleaning from getting rid of dirt and mess to the start of everything. By showing the emotional, psychological and societal benefits, we will prove that a Clorox clean has the power to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Cleaning companies know that their products are essential to health, but don’t usually generate excitement among consumers either. It remains to be seen if new efforts focused on increased ingredient disclosure and new campaigns can make a difference and move the needle for the entire category.