Green Household Cleaners

By Grace Bell

According to an article in The New York Times on April 21, the allure of green has faded for today’s money-drained consumers. According to the article, when Clorox launched Green Works in 2008, it went bigtime, with the support of the Sierra Club and a national launch in Wal-Marts.

The result? Sales of over $100 million in that first year and the introduction of green products by a number of other companies. According to The Times, however, “America’s eco-consciousness is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products faded like a bad infatuation, and product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again.”


The problem? Price consciousness. The article continues, “Sales of Green Works have fallen to about $60 million a year, and those of other similar products from major brands like Arm & Hammer, Windex, Palmolive, Hefty, and Scrubbing Bubbles are sputtering.”

According to David Donnan, a partner at the consulting firm A. T. Kearney,
“Every consumer says, ‘I want to help the environment, I’m looking for eco-friendly products.’ But if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it. There is a discrepancy between what people say and what they do.”


An analysis by Sanford C. Bernstein & Company determined that the sale of consumer-directed green products fell further than many other consumer product categories. “You see disproportionately negative impact from products like Green Works, out of the big blue-chip companies that have tried to layer a green offering on top of their conventional offering, and a relatively better performance from the niche players who remain independent,” reported Bernstein analyst Stephen Powers. The study analyzed the sale from March 2006 to March 2011 of more than 4,000 consumer-directed cleaning items in 22 categories, such as bathroom cleaners, cleaning spray, etc.


According to the article, the Bernstein analysis also found that “the market share of the independent brands, like Method and Seventh Generation, is starting to increase relative to the shares of traditional brands’ green products in categories where they compete.”

The article reports that brands like Seventh Generation and Simple Green have maintained loyal followers, despite the fact that the number of household cleaners introduced that make green claims have dropped from 144 launched in 2008 down to 105 in 2009, according to research firm Mintel. Despite those numbers, the article reports that both Method and Seventh Generation experienced double-digit growth last year, after a year of flat sales in 2009.

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