In an era of “fake news” it’s no wonder that consumers have lost faith in promises made by fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. They’ve become especially leery about what’s in those detergents, hard surface cleaners and disinfectants.
“We (the cleaning industry) are the second least-trusted industry after financial services,” Seventh Generation’s Martin Wolff told attendees at the recent Cleaning Products USA Conference. “It is hard to have a relationship if you don’t have trust. But you can build trust through transparency.”
And while Americans may not know an amide from an amine, they still demand the right to read about these ingredients on product labels and websites.
Through a variety of initiatives, including ingredient transparency, household cleaning product companies such as Seventh Generation, Clorox and Procter & Gamble are determined to win shoppers over again. At the same time, American Cleaning Institute president and CEO Melissa Hockstad admitted that at a time when Americans can choose from a variety of news sources, the cleaning industry hasn’t done a great job of telling its story.
To get the word out, just last month ACI released an economic analysis of the US cleaning products industry. The direct impact totaled $59.1 billion in output and 64,800 jobs, with total impact of $192 billion in output and 756,400 jobs, according to the Center for Manufacturing Research in partnership with Inforum.
“These are the numbers that we need to talk about,” said Hockstad, adding that the study underscored consumer demand for convenience and more product data. “Convenience is king. Users want fast, easy to use products that effective and cost-effective.”
At the same time, sustainability has become a “must have” in today’s eco-friendly environment—which dovetails with ACI’s core pillars of chemical management, outreach and sustainability.
Ingredient transparency and labeling legislation is growing throughout the US. According to ACI, eight states (Alaska, California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington) are actively pursuing ingredient and label regulations. For example, California issued its Right to Know Act a year ago and New York launched its Household Product Information Disclosure program soon after. Meanwhile, several other states (Connecticut, Illinois, Maine Massachusetts and Vermont) are considering ingredient and label regulations of their own.
Consumer wariness about what’s in their cleaning formulas comes at a time when mass market household cleaning product sales are flat. According to Information Resources, Inc., total US multi-outlet sales for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9, rose 1.27% to just over $3.4 billion (see chart, p. 68). During that time frame, unit sales were flat. The biggest gain came from the smallest category, chimney soot removers. Meanwhile, sales of all purpose cleaners and disinfectants rose 2.35% to $1.2 billion.
Topical antiseptics are another target of regulators who are demanding more data on five active ingredients—alcohol, benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, chloroxylenol and povidone-iodine. ACI and 26 member companies are taking part in a multi-year program to provide safety and efficacy data to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on these actives. For its part, FDA has deferred from rulemaking on all actives until March 20, 2019. ACI maintains that these actives have very favorable benefit/risk ratios that have been demonstrated over many years of extensive use. ACI has invested $30 million on antiseptic policy during the past decade.
“We want to make sure that consumers have access to these products,” said Hockstad.
ACI has also taken the lead on liquid laundry packet safety. An ASTM standard was issued in 2015 and ASTM is assessing the standard’s impact on accidents. For its part, ACI has launched PacketsUp (www.packetsups.com), a program designed to keep laundry packets away from children. Education and outreach will continue to be a focus of ACI going forward. As these and other issues remain active, Hockstad urged attendees to “be engaged, be open to change and work together to maximize industry impact.”
But before engaging with regulators and other stakeholders, marketers must remember there is a human side to cleaning, too.
“Cleaning is only the beginning; what comes next is everything,” Nancy Falk of Clorox told the audience. “Cleaning brings people together and helps them live up to their fullest potential.”
She pointed out that people sleep better on clean sheets, cleaning mitigates health issues, a clean house reduces stress; and children who grow up in a clean house do better in school.
Less Is More?
All are great reasons to keep on cleaning, but there’s no doubt that consumers will keep on reading those cleaning labels, too. According to Mintel Analyst Jamie Rosenberg, “transparent is the new green,” when it comes to household product trends. He said that across Europe, 71-82% of surface cleaner users think brands should make it clearer how safe their ingredients are; while in China, 65% of dish detergent buyers say its worth paying more for natural products. In the US, consumers are scrutinizing labels more than ever—70% of shoppers use their phones and apps like Healthy Living and Open Label and 80% of them want mobile-optimized product information while shopping.
“Brands need to stay ahead of legislation with voluntary transparency programs,” said Rosenberg.
Less is more has gained traction in home care, too. Mintel found that limited ingredients appeal to young consumers. In a survey, 54% of respondents of all ages believe that fewer ingredients in household products are safer. Agreement is highest among younger millennials (61%) and lowest among baby boomers (39%). That’s because limited ingredients mean there’s less to hide, according to Rosenberg. As examples, he pointed to the German-relaunch of Sagrotan Power & Pur, which contains fewer chemicals and Reckitt Benckiser’s French launch of Finish Powerball Power & Pure All in 1 Max dish detergent which is billed as having fewer chemicals and allergens.
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Clorox tracks trends too, and Falk told Cleaning Product Conference attendees that 68% of US households have pets, 41% have children under 18 and 60% of home-eaten dinners are still cooked at home. As a result, there is a need for cleaners that are safe around pets, children and food prep areas—and Clorox has answers for all of these needs.
New Clorox Anywhere hard surface daily sanitizing cleaner is billed as “gentle and powerful.” It kills 99.9% of germs on hard, nonporous surfaces; is gentle enough to use around kids, pets and food; and doesn’t leave behind harmful residues or fumes. Pet lovers turn to new Clorox Pet Solutions Cleaning Wipes which are formulated with a “plant-based” cleaning agent (APGs) and without dyes or fragrances, which makes them safe to use around pets, kids and food, according to Clorox. Finally, Clorox Free & Clear hard surface daily wipes are bleach-, dye- and fragrance-free, which makes them a great choice to clean surfaces that surround baby, according to Clorox.
Falk said Clorox has even moved beyond its iconic jug with the rollout of Clorox bleach pens and bleach crystals to eliminate spills. But perhaps the biggest innovation from the bleach-maker is Clorox Bleach with Cloromax Technology featuring polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs). In hard surface cleaners, PECs stick to tiles and sinks, creating an invisible protective layer so that grease and other dirt can’t stick to surfaces as well.
Rise of the Machines
Sustainability is the No. 1 trend shaping the home care market, according to a study by Euromonitor International. But the market research group also predicts that the future for home care will be linked between appliances and online retailers such as Amazon and JD.com. Appliances that sense they’re running low on detergentdovetails with the global online shopping trend. Two other trends that go hand-in-hand are hygiene and scent. Euromonitor notes that consumers across the income spectrum are trying to maintain a safe, malodor-free home environment. At the same time, consumers around the world are demanding fragrance experiences. Even Japanese consumers who have traditionally spurned highly scented cleaners are demanding stronger, longer-lasting scents across all home care categories.
As one might suspect, Betsy McGinn of McGinn eComm is certainly a believer in the power of e-commerce. She predicts that e-commerce sales will nearly double from $390 billion in 2016 to $750 billion by 2022; by then, 70% of US shoppers will purchase groceries online.
“You still need the right product at the right price to be viable,” cautioned McGinn. “Product size can’t be too big, nor too small. You must plan for weight, leakage and breakage, and build your package to resilient three-drop standard.”
The optimal online price point is $15-40 with the idea of creating a subscription service, she added.
The importance of shipping the right product in the right package was echoed by Fuseneo’s Brent Lindberg, who noted that every product which may leak or break gets repackaged by Amazon and the vendor gets charged for these services.
Amazon even has a name for it: CRAP, an acronym for Can’t Realize Any Profit. Once Amazon decides a product is CRAP, vendors lose out on valuable marketing services, must pay additional fees and risk de-listing by Amazon. Lindberg explained that most cleaning product packages are distorted to create a larger shelf presence—an argument that makes no sense in the online world.
“The least sustainable thing we can do is have damaged products arrive on doorsteps,” he said. “Damaged products get trashed, replaced and lead to triple shipping.”
Considering packaging at the beginning of product development is an idea that would appeal to TerraCycle. Unfortunately, explained TerraCycle’s Anthony Rossi, during the past 70 years, producers reduced the weight of the package, and in the process recycling rates have crashed.
“We shouldn’t ask, ‘Can we recycle it,’ we should ask, ‘Would you want to recycle it?’” explained Rossi.
For the past decade, TerraCycle has worked with brands such as Garnier (L’Oréal) and Old Navy (The Gap) to find new uses for material that was destined for the landfill. As a company’s recycling program grows, TerraCycle will work with top collecting locations and convert them to public dropoff points.
“These programs engage consumers by allowing them to recycle what couldn’t be recycled before and earning a donation to benefit their community,” explained Rossi. “All while driving sales, visibility and foot traffic at key retailers.”
Rossi explained that TerraCycle’s first goal is to recycle products and packaging that do not currently have a solution to give materials a second life. The second goal is to redesign products for reuse, which will completely eliminate the idea of waste. For example, next year, the company will unveil a process that turns used toothbrushes back into new toothbrushes, according to Rossi.
And that is the very definition of sustainability.