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Recession means green cleaners losing steam


With the U.S. recession, consumers stopped buying green cleaning products.

In 2008, when Clorox launched Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, its sales reached a high of $100 million, causing other consumer product goods (CPG) companies to follow suit with their own green lines.

Fast-forward to today, and Green Works’ sales are now down to $60 million with their competitors’ sales just as soft. It turns out consumers will go green only if the price is right, now. They’re not willing to pay a few cents more during a downturn. In fact, according to Nielsen company data from March 2006–March 2011, sales of green products offered by the big CPG companies fared worse than those of the independent brands, such as Method and Seventh Generation. This is because Method and Seventh Generation consumers tend to be more affluent, and committed to green causes.

Green products cost more than the regular cleaning lines because of the expensive ingredients and transportation costs compared to conventional brands.

Green household cleaners gained popularity in the 1990s as mainstream manufacturers such as S.C. Johnson, Clorox and Church & Dwight launched eco-friendly products to what was once a niche market. But since 2008, cleaners with green claims have dropped to 105, from 144, according to research firm Mintel.

Along with claims, sales have decreased; S.C. Johnson’s Nature’s Source Scrubbing Bubbles all-purpose cleaner  has seen sales plummet 71 per cent to $589,614 in the 12 months through March; Nature’s Source Windex fell 35 percent to $1.8 million; Nature’s Source Scrubbing Bubbles tub and tile cleaner dropped 61 per cent. And meanwhile at Church & Dwight, less than three years after they were introduced, its Arm & Hammer Essentials multisurface cleaner, glass cleaner and laundry detergent are no longer being produced for the U.S. market.

Manufacturers have followed up the drop in sales by cutting back on advertising. In 2008 and 2009, for instance, Clorox spent more than $25 million on Green Works advertising; in 2010 it was $1.4 million.

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