The household cleaning aisle is getting greener. Mintel U.S. predicted that by 2012, the market for environmentally friendly cleaning products will reach $623 million, and will command a 30% share of the market; in 2008, green cleaning products comprised only 3% of the market, according to Mintel.
Part of the two-fold increase in category sales can be traced to the entrance of cleaning supply giants Clorox, Church & Dwight and SC Johnson to the arena. When those companies brought their own green product lines to market in the past few years, the category really took off.
Consumer interest in the products also continues to fuel sales. “Consumers are driving sales,” said Larry Weiss, founder of CleanWell, a line of plant-based disinfecting products that recently teamed up with Seventh Generation on a new disinfecting spray and wipes that contain CleanWell’s patented thyme-based formulation.
Weiss said mothers with young children have been a big force in category sales. “They are reading labels and believe that how products affect your life should be part of every purchasing decision,” he said. Hispanic and Asian consumers, according to Mintel’s study, also are more likely to purchase environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Mintel’s report indicated that 40% of consumers said they were more concerned about the environment than they were a year ago, 7-in-10 said they worry about chemicals in household cleaners and 4-in-10 cited allergies as a reason for buying alternative products.
Given those statistics, it’s not a surprise that retailers are expanding their selections of environmentally friendly options. “More retailers and channels are shelving alternatives to chemical products,” said John Murphy, SVP sales at Seventh Generation. Where retailers are shelving those products in the store can have a big impact on sales. “Only 10% of consumers shop the natural-food section for cleaning products, so it’s not the best choice for merchandising the products. The consumer is not accustomed to buying salty snacks, organic cereals and household cleaners in the same aisle,” he said
Murphy cited Bartell Drugs as one chain doing a great job with the category. “Bartell has made a strong merchandising commitment to the category, and they stock a broad and deep selection of different brands so the consumer has a choice. The category doesn’t feel like an afterthought,” he said. “Our business alone is up 30% at the chain.”
Green cleaning products not only generate a better margin, Murphy said, “it’s [also] what the consumer wants.” Progressive retailers in the drug channel not only are merchandising green cleaning products alongside traditional household cleaning products, they also are calling the products out with on-shelf signage. “Consumers view drug stores as the health-and-wellness destination, and these retailers can play a critical role in educating the consumer,” Murphy said. “In Canadian drug chains Discount Drug Mart and London Drug, I’ve seen signage that suggests that if someone in your household has asthma, natural cleaning products might be a better product choice.”
Other general merchandise categories also are taking a greener stance in response to consumer preferences. Last summer, Energizer introduced its new and improved Energizer Rechargeable AA battery. As a result of advances in rechargeable technology, the new battery can be recharged up to 500 times—250 more charging cycles than the company’s previous rechargeable AA batteries. “Continuing our work in rechargeable battery technology, we’re giving consumers a better value for their money by increasing battery charge retention and the number of charge cycles without an increase in price,” said Jeff Ziminski, Energizer’s chief marketing officer.
“The new rechargeable AA battery provides an even better reusable battery solution, balancing higher charge cycles for frequent users and greater charge retention for infrequent users,” he said.