Down and Dirty
Consumers who are concerned about what's in their food are increasingly aware and questioning what's in their household cleaning items.
American consumers are increasingly seeking out healthier options for both their foods and their household products; however, they do not want to purchase "green cleaners on a regular basis if they are more expensive or if effectiveness comes into question," according to research from market research firm Packaged Facts, "Green Household Cleaning Products in the U.S.", Third Edition 2015.
However, buyers of green cleaning products are loyal to the category, the report states.
Michael Silverman, director of marketing Butler Home Products, agrees with the Packaged Facts' findings. "We don't see more consumers looking for natural cleaning products," he says. "What is growing is the channels of distribution where consumers can find these products at retail. More traditional retailers are expanding their offerings of natural cleaning products to attract this consumer."
Health food stores, especially those on the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada, are driving sales of natural cleaning products, says Felix Borges, president of Eco Max, a Canadian-based supplier of natural cleaning products. His company's sales have been growing by "double-digits," he says.
"These health food stores are keeping up with the chains and are doing the right things," he says. They are using a natural cleaning product as a loss-leader and promoting the specially priced item, such as an Eco Max laundry detergent, in their newsletters, flyers and social media — and in turn, that drives traffic to their stores. And this also helps to introduce new consumers to the natural cleaning category.
These days, retailer of all sizes stock a mix of natural cleaners alongside conventional items. Gourmet retailer Toque Blanche stocks kitchen cleaning items at its two stores in Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, Calif.
At the Santa Cruz location, cleaning products are "tucked into the back corner," says Sara Stollar, assistant manager. "People do come in looking for them."
Toque Blanche customers are seeking effective products and that includes kitchen cleaning items. "They want to make sure they're taking care of their investment," Stollar says.
One popular cookware cleaner, Bar Keeper's Friend, which is made with oxalic acid, is stocked alongside red wine stain removers — Wine Away and Siege's Red Wine Stain Remover. The section is rounded out with Casabella dishwashing gloves, soap dispensers, Oxo cleaning brushes and cleaning cloths from Now Designs and RSVP scrubbers.
The Santa Cruz store has a larger section of cleaning items vs. the Half Moon Bay store. At both locations e-cloth products "do very well," says Toque Blanche's owner Charles Nelson. These microfiber cleaning cloths are used with water for chemical-free cleaning.
At Zest!, a gourmet retailer in Lititz, Penn., e-cloth is the No. 1 seller. Owner Sharon Landis learned about the e-cloth at the Gourmet Catalog Vendor Showcase at the January 2016 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market. "I liked that it was chemical-free and still removed 99 percent of bacteria," says Landis, who personally tests every product before it makes it to the store's shelves. "All our employees use them and love them, too. It makes a difference when we can tell our customers that we use products at home and explain exactly how they work."
Online retailer Thrive Market is readying its launch of its own brand of household cleaning items that meet its strict product sourcing requirements. The online retailer ensures all products are non-GMO, organic, fair trade and sustainably sourced/packaged.
"Household cleaning," says Jeremiah McElwee, vp of merchandising for Thrive Market, "is the most challenging categories." At press time, Thrive Market was finalizing its household cleaning items.
"It has taken so much iteration and consumer paneling to get it right," he says, keeping tight-lipped about the items. The items are scheduled for a Q1 launch. "We are approaching the finish line."
The Natural Products Expos are stocked with a numerous natural and organic alternatives, including e-cloth and other vendors of natural cleaning products (as well as natural and organic health and beauty care).
Beware of Greenwashing
Recently the cleaning industry was abuzz about the possible sale of Honest Company to Proctor and Gamble. The company, founded by Jessica Alba, has been under fire for its "natural" product claims; a 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal revealed the products contain chemicals that contain the surfactant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) despite the products being labeled as sodium lauryl sulfate-free.
Todd Wichmann, CEO, president & founder HealthPro Brands Inc., makers of the Fit Organic Brand of household cleaners, wrote in a blog post that the natural cleaning industry is full of greenwashing. The term natural is a marketing term and unlike certified organic, it does not have a standard definition or a certification process. "The only real alternative for consumers seeking to rid their cleaning products of harsh chemicals is to buy certified organic cleaning products. "… It is simply illegal to sell a certified organic cleaning product that contains SLS in it," says Wichmann.
Consumers are seeking out eco-friendly non-toxic cleaners and are reading the labels, says Rachael Gleason, public relations & social media manager for OMI Industries, the Barrington, Ill.-based company that makes the Fresh Wave line of natural deodorizers. "Consumers are very aware of how phthalates and other harsh chemicals, found in most air fresheners, can be harmful to their families and their environment. Non-GMO, non-toxic and phthalate-free are very important to consumers when shopping for cleaning products," she says.
When it comes to reading labels and deciphering ingredients, "People are vastly more aware and asking more sophisticated questions," says Mareya Ibrahim, founder and CEO, Grow Green Industries Inc., the makers of Eat Cleaner Produce Wash and Wipes, which are patented and made in the USA with food-grade ingredients.
Does it Work?
Consumers may be looking for greener cleaners that are organic or eco-friendly, but they're not giving up on efficacy. These products must work as well as — or better — than conventional alternatives.
Seeing is believing: A video demonstrating Eat Cleaner Produce Wash has gone viral on YouTube and Facebook. "When I do demos, I spray it in my mouth," Ibrahim says about Eat Cleaner. "I want you to see if it is clean enough to put on produce, you better believe it is safe to eat." The product, which is available in retail and institutional sizes, removes wax and pesticide residue and extends the life of produce.
3% The market for green cleaners is about 3 percent of the $600 million household cleaning market.
Source: Packaged Facts
Fresh Wave's Gleason says their consumers are looking for effective and natural products. "... We receive glowing reviews from consumers not only about how effective Fresh Wave products work but also how important it is to them that they use natural products in their home," she says. Ted Morgan, spokesperson for Bio Kleen, says that plant-based cleaners' biggest challenge is the perception that they don't work or don't work as well as conventional items. "Ever since our founder Jim Rimer made his first product in 1989, we use three uncompromising criteria to develop each product: They need to work, they need to be plant- and mineral-based, and they need to be safe for families, pets and the environment."
The Vancouver, Wash.–based company sees more consumers gravitating towards green cleaners. "Consumers are taking a closer look at the products that are under their sinks or in their laundry rooms, and are connecting their family's, community's and planet's health to the products they purchase," says Morgan. "Oftentimes, there's an aha moment like the birth of a child, a new pet or an unfortunate health circumstance that drives them to make a cleaner choice."
"They realize what they put
on their bodies, in their food
and clean their counters with
makes a big difference."
— Mareya Ibrahim, Grow Green Industries
Eat Cleaner's Ibrahim, who describes herself as the "pied piper of being more food savvy," agrees. "People are scared. They're educating themselves dramatically more. They realize what they put on their bodies, in their food and clean their counters with make a big difference.
"What you don't know can hurt you," she says.
Fresh Wave products are developed from the same formula that has been removing odors from waste water treatment plants and mills for more than 25 years. Products meet EPA and OSHA standards as safe for the environment and people. SRP: $14.99 each.
Sink Sider Duo
Stay Clean Scrubber
The newest colors are Purple and Black, tying in with sophisticated kitchen décor trends. The Stay Clean Scrubber is available in bright shades of Red, Green, Blue and Orange, plus Clear. This is a cleaner alternative to a conventional sponge, because the non-porous, food-safe silicone dries faster and won't harbor bacteria. The Stay Clean Scrubber also lasts longer than your typical sponge. When dry, this practical multipurpose scrubber can also be used to remove lint and hair.
BPA-free, the Stay Clean Scrubber is safe to use on nonstick cookware and all other kitchen surfaces. Silicone, a popular alternative to oil-based plastics, is derived from natural silicon. Heat-resistant up to 445 degrees. Dishwasher safe. SRP: $8.
Eco-Bottle Citrus Essence Laundry Liquid
Also new for 2016 is Biokleen Sport Laundry Liquid, available in 64-ounce bottles. This plant- and mineral-based laundry liquid is specially formulated to clean and remove odors from the synthetic fabrics used for workout clothes. This means stinky jogging shorts, yoga apparel and spin class clothes are a thing of the past. And, like all of Biokleen's laundry products, it is three times concentrated to provide consumers the lowest cost per load and help the environment. SRP: $13.49.
Fit Organic products are certified organic and contain no synthetic detergents and no artificial surfactants. Available in a 12-ounce spray bottle. SRP: $5.99. The line includes Fit Organic dish+hand soap, dishwasher gel, cleaner & degreaser, and Lime, Calcium Rust Remover.
Clorox Kitchen Stone Cleaning Block
Spin 'n Dry Mop
Also new for 2016 are Green WaterBlock Gloves, sold in a set of two. SRP: $13.99.
All Natural Fruit + Vegetable Wash