Agreen ‘Method’ to the madness of laundry detergents

SAN FRANCISCO —Detergents are increasingly going green. More liquid dish and laundry detergents are making their way to the market as consumers opt for environmentally friendly home care products in these categories.

With the elimination of phosphates in detergents becoming an important legal issue in most states, retailers are responding by offering consumers phosphate-free products. “Most green brands already comply and offer efficacious products without phosphates,” said George Shumny, VP sales for Method, which makes green cleaning products including dish soap, hand soap and a recently launched laundry detergent. Method’s sales reached $100 million in 2009.

Shumny called the detergent, launched in early 2010, “the most innovative product launch in the company’s history. Method laundry detergent in 25- and 50-load sizes is incredibly concentrated, highly efficacious, 95% plant-based and very convenient, with a one-handed dispensing pump,” he said. “It’s an efficient and convenient product that allows people to free themselves of the messy, heavy plastic jugs that are terrible for the environment.”

Last year, Clorox Green Works moved into the laundry detergent category with Green Works Natural laundry detergent and Natural laundry stain remover. The detergent is available in three scents and carries the Sierra Club logo on packaging.

Market research firm Mintel credited Clorox Green Works with bringing green products into mainstream conventional supermarkets and drug stores nationwide. According to Mintel, supermarkets saw a huge spike in sales of green cleaning products and increased their market share of the category 16 percentage points from 2007 to 2008 after the brand was introduced. Method’s Shumny said green cleaning products overall are growing more than 200% versus a year ago.

Procter & Gamble recently expanded its Future Friendly environmental responsibility and educational platform, which includes the Gain, Downy and Tide brands. Future Friendly is designed to help educate consumers on how to use P&G products to achieve savings in water, waste and energy. For example, nearly 80% of the energy used in the typical load of laundry is in heating water at the consumer’s home. By washing in cold water with a detergent formula for that application, such as Tide Coldwater, consumers can conserve energy and help reduce their utility bills. So now Tide Coldwater will carry a Future Friendly seal to indicate its energy-saving capabilities.

Mintel found that while drug stores remain a small retail channel for green and natural cleaning products, they have been one of the fastest growing. “The drug channel is seeing tremendous growth in green cleaning,” Shumny said. “Not only are they stocking more green brands, but green store brands have also been introduced and are now on the shelves of chains like CVS and Duane Reade.”

Offering consumers a choice in the detergent category is increasingly important. A recent survey conducted by Braun Research found that 72% of people now say that it is important to them that ingredients in home care products are natural.

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