Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sales of ‘Green’ Household Products Fall as Consumers Cut Spending - NYTimes.com


When Clorox introduced Green Works, its environment-friendly cleaning line, in 2008, it secured an endorsement from the Sierra Club, a nationwide introduction at Wal-Mart, and it vowed that the products would “move natural cleaning into the mainstream.”

Sales that year topped $100 million, and several other major consumer products companies came out with their own “green” cleaning supplies.

But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products, from recycled toilet paper to organic foods to hybrid cars, faded like a bad infatuation. While farmers’ markets and Prius sales are humming along now, household product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again.

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.
For instance, a 32-oz bottle of Clorox Green Works All-Purpose cleaner is $3.29 at Stop & Shop. A 32-ounce bottle of Fantastik cleaner, by contrast, costs $2.89.
Sales in most consumer-products categories dropped off during the recession. But according to an analysis by Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, certain green products have fared worse.
Using data from the Nielsen company, Bernstein looked at sales for nearly 4,300 items in 22 categories, like cleaning spray, liquid soap, bathroom cleaners and detergents. It studied monthly sales from March 2006 to March 2011, the most recent data available.
Bernstein found that the market shares of green products generally were down from their peak — especially those offered by the big consumer-products companies. But 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.
Manufacturers like S.C. Johnson, Clorox and Church & Dwight introduced eco-friendly versions of their products around 2008.

But after an initial lift, sales largely dropped off, and the introduction of products slowed during the recession.

The number of household cleaners with green claims introduced in 2008 was 144, up from 29 in 2007. By 2009 that had dropped to 105, according to Mintel, a research firm. Green dishwashing liquid followed a similar pattern, with 14 introductions in 2007, 85 in 2008, then 58 in 2009.

Some of the manufacturers pulled back on advertising, too.

Clorox spent more than $25 million advertising Green Works in both 2008 and 2009, but just $1.4 million in 2010, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising spending.

Similarly, S.C. Johnson introduced Nature’s Source in 2009. That year, it spent $15.4 million advertising the products, more eco-friendly versions of its brands like Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles.

In 2010, spending to advertise the line fell to zero,....

Sales have gone south, too. In the 12 months through March, sales of Nature’s Source Scrubbing Bubbles all-purpose cleaner have dropped 71 percent, to $589,614, according to the SymphonyIRI Group, which tracks sales at mass-market United States stores, excluding Wal-Mart. Nature’s Source Windex dropped 35 percent, to $1.8 million. Nature’s Source Scrubbing Bubbles tub and tile cleaner dropped 61 percent, and Nature’s Source toilet bowl cleaner dropped 78 percent.
Sales held up at smaller, and more expensive, brands like Method and Seventh Generation, Mr. Powers suggested, because those customers tended to be more affluent and more wedded to environmental causes. Both companies say they had double-digit growth in 2010 after a flat year in 2009.
By Stephanie Clifford and Andrew Martin
The New York Times www.NYTimes.com
April 21, 2011

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