Is the US cleaning products aisle about to get smaller?

August 6, 2014
3 min read

Household cleaning brands positioned as eco-friendly make up only a small portion of the household surface cleaner market. Only five eco-friendly brands generated sales of $1 million or more in the category in the 52-weeks ending Sept. 8, 2013. Together these brands account for less than 2% of total category sales.

A little more than half of adults agree at least somewhat that the ingredients in many cleaning products are unhealthy. Some six in 10 agree at least somewhat that they are concerned that the chemicals in some cleaning products can affect the air quality in the home.

Resistance to concentrated cleaning products mixed with water is relatively low, as just one in five category shoppers agree that doing the mixing is too much effort. Still, the potential benefits of concentrates are not well established. Just three in 10 category shoppers agree that concentrated cleaners that are mixed with water are a good way to save money. Only one in five agree that concentrated products are more environmentally friendly.

While brands positioned as eco-friendly or all-natural have been available in mainstream retail channels for many years, they remain a small niche in the household cleaning products market. Concentrates that consumers mix with water in their own spray bottles have been a niche within that niche. A new launch from Seventh Generation, the first mixable concentrate from a leading eco-friendly brand, brings concentrates back to the retail shelf. Concentrated versions of Seventh Generation’s natural all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and tub and tile cleaner have appeared on the shelf, an exclusive at Target and part of that retailer’s “Made to Matter – Handpicked by Target” program. The program, which features products from 17 eco-friendly brands in household, personal care, food, and other categories, is an effort, according to the company, to make natural, organic, and sustainable brands more accessible both in-store and online. The program will also be a showcase for new products and exclusives from participating brands. For Seventh Generation’s new concentrates, on-shelf signage helps to explain the benefits of the concept.

The idea that less is more is appearing in other household categories as well, as laundry and dishwashing brands emphasize more concentrated formulations. With smaller bottles that take up less room on the shelf, manufacturers and retailers could devote more space to educating consumers on the advantages of getting small. It’s a lesson that eco-friendly brands are well-positioned to teach.

While small concentrate bottles, which weigh only a fraction of their conventional counterparts, lend themselves well to e-commerce, they could also help to reshape the cleaning products aisle in-store, making it smaller and easier to shop.

John Owen specializes in the household and home care market and has also provided in-depth analysis and insight across a broad range of related categories and topics, including health and wellness, food and beverages, consumer lifestyles and retail.

John Owen

John is the Associate Director of Food and Retail at Mintel, providing in-depth analysis and insight across food and retail reports in the US.

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