Environmental concerns are driving customers back to natural cleaning products

The current trend for customers to take into consideration the environmental impact of the food they buy looks to have had a similar effect on the household cleaning sector, with consumers demanding more ecological products and a return to natural cleaning agents.
Last year saw very little movement in a very mature market, valued by TMS at £640m. Volume sales declined across the board despite a growth in own-label offerings, a strengthening discount sector and an unprecedented number of promotions. Toilet cleaning products in particular lost out, with consumers showing a preference for bleach which saw sales of Domestos, the category leader, grow by 6.4%.
Carpet cleaning products also bucked the trend, with 12% growth over the year.
According to Claire Berry of Acdoco, which has launched the Squeeki Clean range of products with the endorsement of How Clean is Your House presenters Kim and Aggie, this overall decline means the market is now entering a period of change, with overcrowded shelves becoming rationalised.
Channel 4's Queens of Clean are renowned for their no-nonsense approach to household cleanliness and the success of their show, which returns in the spring, has encouraged a back-to-basics approach that manufacturers have been quick to respond to.
Which? magazine has stirred the pot a little with its report that suggests traditional methods of cleaning are not only cheaper, but also perform as well if not better than purpose-designed products.
Manufacturers such as Dri-Pak are responding with Soda Crystals and Soap Flakes and traditional cleaners white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, borax and laundry starch.
Others are opting for alternatives to chlorine, phosphates and ammonia. Ozkleen's Kitchen Power and Bath Power both use a natural plant acid in place of harsher chemicals.
Acdoco's Berry suggests that the current desire for simplification will also boost multi-purpose cleaners. "The major factor in consumer choice is the cleaning experience, and if one bottle works all over the house and even on upholstery, the experience suddenly becomes easier and quicker," she says.
"We expect to see multipurpose products taking over from separate, specific cleaners such as the kitchen sprays and bathroom sprays."

The newest recruits

Oxiclean's Miracle Foam is a multipurpose cleaner that is dispersed as a thick foam to ensure it stays where it is sprayed.
The manufacturer says that unlike liquid sprays, which run off the cleaning area, the foam 'cleans as it clings' and is suited to vertical surfaces like tiles and splash backs, as well as horizontal surfaces.

Long-term favourite Flash has had a makeover for 2007 with a formula upgrade, new logo and label revamp, accompanied by a £4.7m marketing campaign from this month.
In addition to their cleaning abilities, Flash sprays and wipes now prevent dirt building up with the addition of Flashguard, a hydrophilic additive.
Flash boasts a £56m share of the £240m hard surface cleaner market (AC Nielsen) and Procter & Gamble expects Flashguard to drive an incremental turnover of £6.3m nationally.

New for the spring cleaning season is Cif Stainless Steel, launched in a new hand spray format which requires less rinsing so is easier to use on vertical surfaces. Its non-abrasive formulation is intended to tackle grease, limescale, fingerprints and watermarks on polished surfaces without scratching.
A new Cif Wood Floor Cleaner targets the growing trend for varnished and laminate flooring in UK homes.
Both are available now and will benefit from a substantial media spend in 2007.

Unilever UK is offering the first ever gift with purchase promotion on Domestos 750ml Thick Bleach packs and 500ml Bleach Cleaning Spray packs.
Consumers who purchase three promoted products will be invited to collect special codes on packs to receive a free limited-edition apron.
The eight-week promotion begins this week and will be supported with a £1m marketing spend.