Cleaning aisles are being revitalized this year by the hot growth in orange products and by new "convenience cleaning" items.
A product craze that started as an informercial for one specific product -- Orange Glo, from Orange Glo International, Greenwood Village, Colo. -- has swept through supermarket cleaning aisles with refreshing results and a new group of products, sources told SN.
"Orange is an extremely hot ingredient. Orange oil in all products -- that's No. 1," said Mary McLaughlin, vice president of procurement and category management for Fresh Brands, Sheboygan, Wis.
"Definitely, Orange Glo was the driving force behind this trend. I think that's what caused the SC Johnsons and the Cloroxes of the world to start development on products that contain orange oil," McLaughlin added.
Consumers' choices for products with orange oil have expanded to include Pledge Furniture Polish with Orange Oil, Fantastik with Orange from SC Johnson and Clorox products with orange oil.
Brian Sansoni, vice president of communication and education at the Soap & Detergent Association, Washington, told SN the popularity of orange products "falls into a trend we've seen in the cleaning aisle over the last few years relative to scents and fragrances. If you walk down most cleaning product aisles in the supermarket, what you see is a rainbow. It's what I call a visual cornucopia of colorful packaging or product formulation that draws shoppers to take a closer look at the product," he said.
To go along with that, manufacturers have added a host of pleasant-smelling scents and fragrances that really appeal to consumers who like a good smell to accompany a good clean.
McLaughlin sees yet another force behind the popularity of orange products.
"Citrus is a very prevalent fragrance, and it's very well-received by the customer. I think that has something to do with it, but I think the consumer has been sold on the concept that orange oil is a degreaser, and it really enhances a cleaning product. I think that's more the driving force."
Regardless of the reason, orange products seem to have stimulated some renewed interest in the cleaning aisles.
"It seems as if there has been an increase in the category with the orange products that have come on the market," said Craig Hutton, store manager, Big E's Supermarkets, an IGA operator in Easthampton, Mass.
The environmentally friendly trend of the past, according to SN's sources, appears to have faded before it really flowered. Although some consumers expressed interest, the buzz far outweighed the purchasing decisions consumers made. "Truly environmentally friendly or safe products just do not carry enough of the strong cleaning ingredients to make them effective," McLaughlin concluded.
However, Hutton said his western Massachusetts store carries earth-friendly products to meet a need he sees in his market.
"We're in a area [that's sensitive] to environmental issues. You don't want a customer to go somewhere else to get those products."
Meanwhile, another set of products making a clean sweep in these aisles has been what many industry observers call "convenience cleaning" products. These products fit under a larger umbrella of convenience items that have become more popular in all categories in recent years.
"The large offerings of products over the last couple of years basically have the built-in elbow grease to make cleaning less of a hassle for people, more convenient," Sansoni said.
Included in this set of products are a host of new wipes, similar to baby wipes, that are premoistened with a variety of cleaning products from window cleaners and bleach to furniture polish.
Sales in the cloth-polishing/cleaning category increased 45.8% to $143.5 million for the year ended Jan. 26, up from from $98.4 million the previous year, according to data from ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill.
Some of the wipes coming out look to be potentially good performers, said Danny Wells, the soap, detergent and import buyer at Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, although many of them are so new that it's difficult to predict the longevity of the buzz surrounding them, he said.
The convenience craze is also extending itself into the mop category where the Swiffer and other electro-static mops made an impact in recent years. The new offerings are battery-operated, floor-cleaning appliances that combine the attributes and ease of the Swiffer with soap. In fact, sales of buckets were down 16.4% to $3.9 million for the year ended Jan. 26, from the prior year's $4.7 million.
"It's easy; even guys in college can use these," Sansoni joked.
Items that reduce the mess and increase the ease of cleaning still captivate consumers from all demographics. These products are heavily marketed by their manufacturers and appear to be performing well for retailers, even those products that launched less than two months ago, like the Clorox Ready Mop, which was first shipped in early January.
"These products really got out of the gate selling well," said a category manager from an East Coast retailer who wished to remain anonymous. Having observed the rapid success of the new all-in-one mops and wipes, she added, her company has started looking into finding a manufacturer to produce as many convenience cleaning items as it can, as quickly as it can.
Yet, cleaning products tend to be very trendy, said Fresh Brands' McLaughlin, and private-label manufacturers tend to come in on the tail end of trends because they can't move as quickly as the national brands.
But, she adds it's not an impossible situation. Tried and true private-label strategies of price-point reduction, which national brands can't always meet, can help private-label sales.
"If you get to a very aggressive price on a private label, the consumer will respond," she said.
Fresh Brands takes a solution-selling approach that benefits both its private-label cleaning supply sales and the aisle as a whole. Six months ago, the retailer started bundling cleaning products of all kinds, like furniture polish, window cleaner and all-purpose cleaner, for example, and offering them at one price point.
"We go out with more of a total cleaning concept to the consumer," McLaughlin explained. And, while she readily admits this approach takes a lot of time for category managers, it's been a very successful promotional strategy, made easier by manufacturer consolidation.
"You appeal to a far wider audience by bundling all the items together."
The bundled items are displayed and merchandised together and advertised as one price point in weekly advertising, roughly every other month. The brands and products included in the bundle vary from one promotional period to the next, and a bundle may include all private-label cleaning products, all national brands or a mix of the two.
Most Americans Spring-Clean: Study
"The 21st Century House Cleaning in America Study," conducted by International Communications Research, Media, Pa., for the Soap & Detergent Association, Washington, shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans engage in the ritual of spring-cleaning.
ICR questioned 1,000 American women and men regarding their house-cleaning habits. The living room and kitchen are a top priority, followed by the master bedroom and the bathroom. The basement ranked lowest on the list of cleaning priorities.
Women ages 35-54 and men ages 18-24 and 55-64 are most likely to spring-clean, with the kitchen and bathroom being the most rewarding for women to clean, while the bathroom is least rewarding to men.
The garage/basement ranks as the most rewarding for men to clean and the least rewarding for women, according to the survey respondents.