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A Greener Clean

Green, or natural, cleaners have always sounded like a good idea, but in the past, American consumers were skeptical of product performance and daunted by high prices compared with traditional cleaners. Today, the playing field is growing greener with improved product performance, green options from traditional brands and lower prices that make going green when cleaning a more viable option.
“Consumer opinion regarding green, or natural, cleaners and detergents has changed over the last few years,” notes Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D. and VP, global governmental and scientific affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), based in Washington. “This change is due in part to new technology which produces green products that perform as well as, or better than, traditional products. In addition, price points are starting to converge. Previously, consumers had to pay a premium for natural products.”
Sales of green household and laundry cleaners totaled $557 million in 2009 and captured almost 3 percent of the total cleaner retail market, according to “Green Housing Cleaning Products in the U.S. — June 2010,” an updated report from New York-based Packaged Facts. Increased visibility, expanded distribution and retail channels by eco-specific green marketers, and the introduction of massmarketer brand extensions, marked category growth in 2009, the researcher reports.
Last year, Clorox Green Works took over the top spot in green cleaner dollar sales, with 24.1 percent, up from 18.4 percent in 2008, when the brand ranked third, according to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI. Seventh Generation dropped slightly, from 23.1 percent in 2008 to second place at 22.5 percent in 2009. 
How Green Are Your Shelves?
While big-box general merchandisers like Walmart and Target grabbed the green with 47 percent of sales from 2005 through 2009, supermarkets’ share of green cleaner sales dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent over the same period, according to Packaged Facts. “Sales of green cleaning items are at a slow growth stage in the past year,” says Kurt Schertle, SVP for Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets. “Many of the items tied to traditional brands are doing fine, but the green brands are growing from a small base as consumer acceptance moves forward.”
Schertle notes that his best sales numbers arecoming from massmarket brand extensions from companies like Arm & Hammer and Palmolive. “The greener lines, like Seventh Generation, Green Works and Method, all have moderate sales,” he says. Weis, which operates 160-plus supermarkets in five states, highlights green cleaners each April in conjunction with an Earth Day section in its Ads.
“We attempt to make our categories ‘one-stop shop’ and try to show our variety by integrating all products,” says Saj Khan, grocery operations director for Woodland, Calif.-headquartered Nugget Markets which operates nine locations in the greater Sacramento area. The upscale grocer integrates natural and green products next to conventional products in its stores. Earth Day promotions and product giveaways attract consumers to green products at Nugget, notes Khan. “Nugget recently did a promotion with Earth Friendly brand products,” he explains. “Consumers that purchased a 100-ounce or 210-ounce size of laundry detergent received a free bottle of Earth Friendly’s new product for automatic dishwashers.”
Marsh Supermarkets, with over 100 stores in Indiana and Ohio, has seen no change in sales of green cleaners over the past year, according to Randy Loud, grocery business manager for the Indianapolis-based chain. Loud believes regional differences may influence category sales. “Most of the sales growth is driven by the East and West coasts,” he says. “Product growth is linked to communities where recycling and resource management are a high priority. That community commitment is slower to develop here in the Midwest.”
Cleaning the Green Way
Green Works’ latest product is a naturally derived bathroom cleaner that became the first product certified as natural by the Natural Products Association (NPA) under its new home care standard. “We are excited because we believe this standard will add integrity and transparency to the natural marketplace and help shoppers and retailers alike gain confidence in what it means for a home care product to be called natural,” observes Kargas.
Seventh Generation has been helping consumers “protect planet home” for 20 years. “We introduced the first botanical-based disinfectant earlier this year,” notes John Murphy, SVP, sales for the Burlington, Vt.- based company. “This product is EPA-registered, with a 99.9 percent germ-killing effectiveness – the same as products containing ammonia.” The disinfectant is available in spray form and cleaning wipes. Seventh Generation will introduce a new plant-based hand soap in August, made with 100 percent renewable Resources.
Murphy suggests that retailers market green cleaners by using a clear merchandising strategy for the category. Including green cleaners in displays or ad space on a regular basis can boost sales, he notes. “The No. 1 reason customers say they don’t buy green products is that they can’t find them where they shop,” he says. Pricing must be right on green cleaners as well. “If retailers price higher than Target or Whole Foods for green cleaners – that is ‘insult’ pricing.”
San Franciscobased Method is in the midst of its largest and most important product launch in the company’s history, according to George Shumny, VP, product sales. Method Laundry Detergent, in 25-load and 50-load sizes, is now available in supermarkets. The detergent’s 95 percent plantbased super-concentrated formula and one-handed dispensing pump in a recyclable package make the product “on trend for consumer desires, as well as space and warehouse efficient for retailers,” he notes. 
Debuting in August are several new products, including plant-based antibacterial spray cleaners and wipes, new dish soap in a one-handed dispenser pump, hand sanitisers in an “on-trend-designed bottle,” kitchen hand soaps in culinary- inspired fragrances with odor-neutralising properties, and a concentrated-formula fabric softener in a one-handed dispenser pump. These product launches come on the heels of Method’s drop to fourth place in dollar sales for green cleaners in 2009, according to Packaged Facts.
Arm & Hammer Essentials from Church &Dwight may have lost a little market share last year, but the green detergent moved up to third place in sales, Packaged Facts’ report noted. The Princeton, N.J.-based company says Essentials was “the first mainstream green laundry detergent.” New to the green cleaner market is Essentials Power Gel Laundry Detergent containing biodegradable plantbased soaps, and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.
Simple Green stresses that natural cleaning products don’t have to be expensive, on its Web site. “Clean your whole house for $9.99” introduces consumers to products and touts its most popular grocery items: Original Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner and Lemon Scent Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner.
Consumers are becoming well informed about green issues and claims, explains Denise Dochnahl, marketing specialist for Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Sunshine Makers, Inc., manufacturers of Simple Green. This change in consumer knowledge is due in part to the establishment of certification agencies like Design for the Environment (DfE), a partner program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Green Seal, an independent nonprofit organization, she notes.
Not all traditional brand manufactur – ers think green cleaner options are the way to go, however. Procter & Gamble has opted to introduce “Future Friendly” instead. The P&G program shows consumers how to use the company’s products “in the most sustainable way,” according to Glenn Williams, external relations manager, U.S. operations and N.A. marketing at the Cincinnati-based Company.
New Green on the Market
A big name and some innovative ideas have produced several new green cleaning product lines. Martha Stewart has joined with the Hain-Celestial Group to create “Martha Stewart Clean,” a line of products that are “99-plus percent plant and mineral based without synthetic or artificial colors, fragrances or preservatives.” The line has received the EPA’s DfE designation and the “Leaping Bunny” symbol, indicating that the products have never been tested on animals.
“This is the first time consumers are able to purchase a Martha Stewart product in the grocery channel. By grouping the products together, retailers can take advantage of the power and loyalty of the Martha Stewart brand,” says Stuart Jankoff, brand manager at Boulder, Colo.-based Hain-Celestial. To help retailers market the products, a special small-foot – print display rack is being provided to let consumers see the complete line “as it is intended to be shown.”
Combating the perception of some consumers that green cleaning products have to cost more than conventional items is the goal of Eco Cool, a new detergent making its way into supermarket chains across the country. “Our product costs 30 percent to 40 percent less than anything out there,” says Alex Zalmanovich, VP, national chains for Old Tappan, N.J.-based Next Detergents, the manufacturer of Eco Cool. The company wants to make green products mainstream by offering “value” pricing, he explains. Eco Cool is available in 1-gallon 120-ounce bottles for 85 high-efficiency loads, as well as 50-, 100- and 200-ounce sizes. 
And for consumers who want green tools to use with natural cleaners, Full Circle offers a line of items with features including handles made of renewable bamboo, plant-fiber brush heads, and recycled plastic and plant-based 100 percent biodegradable cellulose sponges. “All our products are designed to look great, provide tough cleaning power and last long, without leaving a lasting impact on the earth,” says Heather Tomasetti, co-founder and marketing director for the Port Chester, N.Y.-based company. 
The future of green cleaners received a boost when consumer attitudes began changing. Packaged Facts projects the green cleaner market will triple its dollar sales to over $1.6 billion by 2014. What’s more, green cleaners will more than double their share of the household and laundry cleaner market to 7 percent, according to the research firm.