Late last year, Clorox announced it would publish its list of ingredients on the labels of all 350 of its household registered disinfecting products sold through U.S. retail channels in addition to the 300 nonregistered household and professional products covered under California’s Cleaning Product Right to Know law, which will take effect in 2020. This effort will occur over time as updated labels are submitted for their required review and approval by regulatory authorities, according to Clorox.
“Clorox’s decision to go above and beyond the requirements of the law is consistent with our pioneering approach to ingredient transparency within our industry,” says Clorox chairman and CEO Benno Dorer. “We’re proud to continue building on these efforts as part of our overall commitment to good growth—growth that’s profitable, sustainable and responsible.”
In addition to going “above and beyond legal requirements by adding ingredients to the labels of its household registered disinfecting products,” Clorox is choosing “the most comprehensive of the labeling options within the California law, disclosure of all its intentionally added ingredients on the labels of relevant products,” he adds.
Likewise, in March, SC Johnson announced it would expand its ingredient transparency program, first begun in 2009, to Latin America where until recently it had only disclosed product-specific fragrance ingredients.
“Ten years ago, SC Johnson made a commitment to global ingredient transparency. By expanding our program to Latin America, we have fulfilled that commitment,” says Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “By keeping our promise, we have brought ingredient transparency around the world and in the process, we have helped motivate the industry toward greater transparency.”
Clorox and SC Johnson are among the scores of companies partnering with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry stakeholders on the development and implementation of SmartLabel, an online portal that can provide details about a wide range of consumer products with the use of a smartphone. According to GMA, seven out of 10 consumers are interested in finding more about a product they are buying than just the ingredients listed on the label, while eight out of 10 are likely to buy a product if they could easily understand the ingredients list.
Last fall, Seventh Generation’s Martin Wolf told attendees at the Cleaning Products USA’s conference that it is hard to have a relationship (with customers) if you don’t have trust. “We (the cleaning industry) is the second least-trusted industry after financial services,” he says. “But you can build trust through transparency.”
Wolf’s comments are in line with consumer preferences, according to recent data from Mintel analyst Jamie Rosenberg who said that across Europe 71-82% of surface cleaner users think brands should make it clearer how safe their ingredients are while in the U.S., 70% of shoppers use their phones and apps to scrutinize product ingredients at the point of purchase.
“The market is constantly evolving,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president, communications, outreach & membership at The American Cleaning Institute (ACI). “We are working for a federal solution to ingredient transparency to ensure a stable and predictable marketplace, rather than having states setting different policies and procedures, which would only cause chaos and confusion.”
On the regulations front, currently, at least eight states are pursuing transparency and labeling legislation. For example, New Yorks’ Household Products Information Disclosure Program was enacted in June 2018 requiring the disclosure of cleaning products by way of website or product label and requires manufacturers to identify any ingredient that appears on authoritative lists of chemicals of concern on their websites.
ACI and 26 member companies are taking part in a multi-year program to provide safety and efficacy data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on these actives. ACI maintains that these actives have very favorable benefit/risk ratios that have been demonstrated over many years of extensive use. ACI and its member companies will be investing millions of dollars on antiseptic policy during in the coming decade.
“Manufacturers are providing more information than ever before and are working to comply with the forthcoming mandates from the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act and the New York ingredient disclosure regulation, the latter of which is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by ACI and HCPA,” Sansoni adds. “Companies are always thinking about their formulations to ensure that the product works safely and effectively while paying attention to any shifts in customer demands that could affect the marketplace in some way.”
As companies disclose their ingredients, it’s no surprise that the incorporation of new raw material choices has emerged in several new product formats. At Target, its latest household cleaning brand Everspring, a 70 SKU brand, incorporates bio-based and recycled materials as well as natural fibers, offering consumers products that are transparent, effective and include sustainable elements, at a price point that averages 20% below comparable products, making it an affordable option for those interested in using products that are made with bio-based or recycled materials or natural fibers within their home.
Developed by Target’s internal design team, Everspring products are made from plants and other renewable materials, as well as post-consumer recycled paper. The products in the assortment have been certified by the USDA bio-based program.
According to executives, the naturals/sustainable product category at Target has seen significant double-digit growth year-over-year since 2016 and the category is a major area of interest for shoppers. The launch of Everspring follows the introduction of the Target Clean rollout in stores and online. All products in the Everspring assortment will be compliant with Target Clean, the retailers unique definition for products that are formulated without chemicals that guests may not want (e.g. phthalates, propyl-paraben and butyl-paraben and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
According to Sansoni, recent surveys conducted by ACI confirm that a growing sector of consumers are looking for cleaning products with ‘sustainability’ attributes in their ingredients, the packaging, the sourcing, etc., exists. “Wipes are clearly still very popular,” he says. “The sustainability of the products is something that manufacturers are paying attention to. The next generation of sustainable wipe products will come from thoughtful innovation, which is the lifeblood of our supply chain.”
Target execs agree saying the retailer has heard from customers that they are looking for household products that work well, are designed well, are transparent in their ingredients and are affordable. Everspring gives customers access to products that marry great design, efficacy and affordability but are also considerate of the environment.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble’s new Home Made Simple line is a line of plant-based products. To present this line, P&G also tapped into the appeal of the Home Made Simple lifestyle brand, which was created 15 years ago with a newsletter and has evolved into a television show, on the OWN network, hosted by Lela Ali.
“We tapped into the viewership and the newsletter audience to tap into what consumers want in a simplified home product and the result is plant-based ingredients across a number of products including a dishwashing soap, a hand soap, a fabric softener that are all U.S. certified biobased,” says Morgan Brashear, scientific communications, Procter & Gamble.
While the line does not include wipes, for now, Brashear says that wipes and floor cleaning cloths continue to be an important part of the company’s cleaning products lineup and these product formats will be considered as the brand expands.
“We don’t have dedicated visions yet for exactly what products will be launching but we would love for this to be just the beginning,” she adds.
On the hard surface front, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser has been well known for tackling impossible marks and stains for nearly a decade but recently the brand has created a similar product that is designed for single use and more flexible than the eraser—Magic Eraser sheets.
“One of the things we noticed with Magic Eraser was that consumers did not know what to do with the product after they have used it one time,” Brashear says. “Throwing it away before it was fully used was considered wasteful so they tended to save them for bigger jobs.”
Like the original Magic Eraser product, the sheets use melamine technology where a polymer is blown into a foam to create isotropic air bubbles. When activated in water, these air pockets become as hard as glass but the individual spaces around them allow them to be flexible and soft to the touch. This allows Magic Eraser to mechanically clean without the use of added chemicals.
The sheets, which are available in packs of eight and 16, are more ergonomic, fitting right into consumers’ hands and can be used in tight areas like around the knobs of the stove tops or in tight corners. “They really mold to the job. This product has the cleaning power of a magic eraser but with the flexibility of single uses from a wipe,”Brashear explains.
Clorox Continues to Lead
According to Information Resources Inc., despite years of growth and proliferation, the household all-purpose cleaning wipes category continues to grow, increasing 7.8% during the year ended March 24, 2019, reaching $797.3 million in the U.S. This category continues to be led by Clorox, who held a near 50% marketshare during the period. According to Clorox executives, the business has enjoyed growth rates in the high single digits to double digits in the past 10 years with markeshares over 50% for multiple years.
Despite this dominance, Clorox reported weaker sales of its wipes products during the second quarter of fiscal 2019 due largely to milder cold and flu season. “For perspective, wipes category volume declined mid-single digits during the peak cold and flu months this year, when it grew strong double digits during the same period last year, a period classified by the CDC as high severity across all age groups,” Dorer says.
Wipes sales were also negatively impacted by heightened promotional spending by competitors.
“The bottom line is that we believe in the superior value proposition of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and our strong innovation platform, and we’re confident that we have the right plans to both address short-term competitive headwinds and drive profitable growth for our brand and the category in the long run,” Borer says.
Earlier this year, Clorox introduced an upgraded disinfectant wipes product—Ultra Clean Disinfectant wipes which can kill 99.99% of germs including the viruses that cause colds and flu. They also offer an upgrade to their substrate technology; they are 30% thicker and are capable of lifting 40% more dirt.
The Ultra Clean wipes are an example of a string of innovations Clorox has made to the disinfectant wipes market, a category it has led for over a decade. “In the past 10 years, our share has been as high as the mid-50s and has gone down as low as 47 but has went back up,” says Borer.”The past quarter has been very consistent with what we have seen in the past several years. We are talking about a highly competitive market where we are the innovation leader and we are considered the best value proposition.”
In other wipes areas, Clorox has entered the floor cleaning cloth product through its new Scentiva disinfecting wet mopping cloths which collects dirt and dust while killing germs. The cloths are ultra-textured floor cleansing cloths that trap four times more particles, dirt and hair while disinfecting and killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. The Scentiva brand also includes disinfecting wipes and a multisurface cleaner.
According to Borer, the beauty of the Scentiva brand, which is Clorox’s first entry into the floor-specific cleaning category, and also includes a multi-purpose spray and a disinfectant wipe, is it has attracted new customers to the company. He estimates that about 70% of Scentiva purchases are made by new consumers. “That tells you that we are continuing to feel good about the ability to attract new users with innovations,” he says.