Consumers, Manufacturers Seek a ‘Cleaner’ Clean
No matter how busy Americans get, most usually make time to tidy up. As Brian Sansoni, VP, communications and outreach and VP, membership at the Washington, D.C.-based American Cleaning Institute (ACI), puts it, “Cleaning is still fundamental to everyday life.”
What kind of cleaning products are today’s shoppers looking for, however?
“Consumers continue to seek out products that make [their] cleaning routines easier,” notes Sansoni. “They want their product to be safe when used as directed, and they need the products to be effective.”
Beyond those perennial desires, in keeping with a trend spanning all product categories, people want cleaner labels on their cleaners, and the makers of these products are paying attention.
“Manufacturers have certainly recognized an evolving consumer demand for products that have what one might call a ‘greener’ profile,” says Sansoni, adding that the somewhat subjective criteria in formulating such a product might be “are the ingredients plant-based and safe? What exactly are the ingredients in the product, and where can I find more information? Is the product packaging eco-friendly and easily recyclable? Does the brand or company operate sustainably?”
“Consumers are interested in cleaning up more than just their diet,” concurs Kimberly Kawa, retail reporting analyst at Chicago-based SPINS, a provider of retail consumer insights, analytics and consulting for the natural, organic and specialty products industry. “Lifestyle and environment are also in focus, and natural cleaning products are a way to avoid exposure to undesirable constituents.”
Kawa goes on to note that sales of natural-positioned brands – a SPINS proprietary measure – have experienced a double-digit growth rate, while conventional products have seen only marginal growth.
What’s more, she adds: “Organic certification is gaining traction in household cleaners. … Merchandising those at eye level or on an end cap, with additional products in the natural-positioned set, is one way to highlight innovative brands.”
Sansoni is quick to point out, though, that “it’s not just ‘natural’ or ‘green’ companies offering products in this space. Traditional cleaning product manufacturers are also giving consumers a greater array of … products with attributes that a segment of consumers are looking for, and companies are communicating more about all of this.”
In fact, according to Sansoni: “Product transparency is the new normal. Retailers are demanding more information about what’s in the products that they sell on their shelves or online, and CPG companies have responded.”
One way that manufacturers have gotten the word out is by taking part in a voluntary ingredient communication initiative begun in 2010 by ACI and other industry groups. This effort, he observes, “helped set the path for the explosion of information available for consumers today.”
Sustainability and Functionality
One mainstream brand that has embraced the “cleaner cleaner” trend is Purell, manufactured by Akron, Ohio-based Gojo Industries.
“At Gojo, we know that consumers today are looking for disinfecting and cleaning products that not only kill germs, but also have a strong sustainability profile,” affirms Geoff Belz, Purell brand business sales VP. “Purell Multi-Surface Disinfectant delivers on both – killing 99.9 percent of germs in 30 seconds, with no harsh chemicals, and holding the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) certification.”
In merchandising the product, Belz says, “We have found that off-shelf displays are effective, especially during back-to-school and cough/cold season.”
What it all comes down to, he notes, is that “consumers are looking for sustainable alternatives without sacrificing core functional needs and performance from products.”
Among alternative brands, Austin, Texas-based Lemi Shine is a particular standout. CEO Curtis Eggemeyer explains how the product line created its own unique niche in the category.
“Several natural/green cleaning brands have been around for years,” says Eggemeyer. “While over half of consumers say they prefer an alternative to the traditional cleaning product brands, those alternative brands have remained just 3 percent to 5 percent of category sales. The problem with these natural brands is that [they] do not work as well as the conventional brands, requiring consumers to sacrifice efficacy in order to obtain safety. This has led to the latent demand for products that are powerful, safe and affordable. Lemi Shine is carving out a new space in household cleaning that is driving growth. Our powerful, safe and affordable brand promise fills the unmet need for better-for-you household cleaners.” (For more of Eggemeyer's category insights, see the text box below.)
How does the brand accomplish that? “All Lemi Shine products are third-party tested to ensure they perform as well as, or better than, the leading national cleaners,” notes Eggemeyer. “Performance is a must, and each of our products is powered by safe and powerful citric extracts. We also do extensive consumer testing to ensure our products meet the high standards our consumers have come to expect. We take pride in Lemi Shine’s consumer-generated ratings and reviews, and continuously monitor their feedback to improve our products and formulas.”
As a result of these actions, “Lemi Shine has grown 25 percent over the past year as we steadily increase distribution and grow awareness,” he asserts. “The more people learn about and try Lemi Shine, the more they love it. Lemi Shine is winning over consumers who had always wanted a safer solution, yet were having to compromise to get the effectiveness they require."
What are the main trends influencing household cleaners? As Curtis Eggemeyer, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Lemi Shine, sees it, such products are subject to the same drivers as all other consumer goods.
“There are two disruptive but complementary forces impacting CPG right now: the Millennial generation and the better-for-you trend,” explains Eggemeyer. “Lemi Shine’s powerful/safe/affordable brand promise is built specifically to take advantage of this disruption and the consumer at the center of it.”
He continues: “Currently, consumers are all about the better-for-you movement and are on the hunt for better options that provide improved benefits without sacrificing key deliverables like safety and efficacy. Better-for-you products have taken off in food and beverage, and in HBA, where they are delivering two to three times the growth of traditional brands, and household cleaning is poised to follow.
The reason for this, he believes, is the emergence of a demographic with its own distinct relationship to products. “Millennials think, behave and shop differently,” observes Eggemeyer. “They demand transparency and distrust large corporations. This generation of consumers does not want to buy the same brands their parents did. They are looking for better alternatives that offer improved benefits without requiring them to make sacrifices.”
Earlier this year the brand introduced 18 new SKUs exclusively in Texas, among them the company’s first-ever nontoxic Disinfecting Wipes, Multi-Surface Antibacterial Cleaner and Bathroom Antibacterial Cleaner, “all formulated with safe, germ-killing citric acid that eliminates 99.9 percent of household bacteria,” adds Eggemeyer. “The wipes, available in 30- or 70-count packages, are EPA-certified as a DfE product.”
Other recent products from Lemi Shine include Mold & Mildew Cleaner, a bleach alternative that kills mold and mildew without harsh chemicals, and a Toilet Bowl Cleaner that removes stains caused by germs, lime, rust and hard water, and features FunkGuard, which eliminates odors and leaves a fresh lemon scent behind.
As evidence of Lemi Shine’s commitment to developing better-for-you cleaners, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved 11 of the company’s products as Safer Choice-certified, including its Everyday Cleaner, Glass & Surface Cleaner, Shower & Tile Cleaner, and Pro Lime, Calcium, & Rust Remover Spray.
Still, despite all of these gains, the brand is hardly a household word – at least not yet – so it has to work to get itself noticed at retail. “With low awareness levels and limited shelf presence, Lemi Shine relies on aisle disruption to draw attention and communicate our unique positioning,” notes Eggemeyer. “Examples we executed this year include blade signs and floor graphics at leading national retailers. Early results have been promising, with increases in velocity above stretch expectations. We know when shoppers find and try Lemi Shine, they repeat at high levels.”
Keeping it Clean
74% of Americans will typically “light-clean” – a general surface-level cleaning of the household.
In comparison, 26% say they “deep-clean” more often, which entails a more thorough cleaning of the house.
Which rooms are “deep-cleaned” the most often? The survey shows that 46% of consumers say that the bathroom is No. 1, followed by the kitchen, at 36%.
Which areas are cleaned the most? Toilets, at 88%, followed by floors (80%), appliances (75%), faucets (70%) and carpets (62%).
Getting the Job Done
As cleaner-label cleaning products become ever more common on supermarket shelves, what developments can be expected in the category?
Certainly, as ACI’s Sansoni notes, measures in at least two states will require makers of such products to meet certain standards. “Manufacturers will be complying during the next couple of years with California’s new Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, mandating information that will need to be present online and on-pack,” he says. “Separately, New York state recently published guidance for how cleaning product manufacturers should list cleaning product ingredients online by July 2019 to comply with a decades-old, previously unenforced regulation. Manufacturers are studying how to comply with this guidance, as many of the proposed disclosure mandates are viewed by manufacturers as unworkable.”
On the consumer end, meanwhile, SPINS’ Kawa predicts, “I’d expect to see more awareness around packaging, waste reduction and biodegradable components,” adding, “The beneficial-bacteria angle, definitely starting to make more sense with consumers, will likely continue to bring about innovation in the cleaning product category.” As described on the Eco Mastery Project website, these kinds of products “use non-pathogenic ‘good’ bacteria to digest wastes, soils, stains and malodors. The bacteria do this by producing enzymes specifically designed to break down certain molecules (wastes/soils) into smaller pieces.”
“For an overwhelming majority of consumers, though, what they are looking for are products that get the cleaning job done,” cautions Sansoni. “No matter how ‘green’ a product may profess to be, if it’s not effective, consumers are very unlikely to buy it again.”
In his own company’s success, Lemi Shine's Eggemeyer sees “an opportunity for challengers to gain share in a category that has generally been dominated by a few large brands. The next major shift we will see in cleaning products is an increase in brands that deliver on the safety Millennials desire, with the cleaning power they require.”