Staying Clean and Going Green
Once a niche category, green cleaning products are taking over retail shelf space as shoppers increasingly look for safe, effective, natural solutions to pet-related messes.
Cleaning-supply manufacturers recognize the importance of remaining true to the claims made by “green” product terms, such as eco-friendly, natural, biobased, Green Seal and EcoLogo, which afford peace of mind to environmentally conscientious pet parents. While green cleaning products once occupied a small market segment and were viewed as inferior to their traditional counterparts, demand is shifting in favor of more natural options. However, as interest in these products grows, consumers of all backgrounds are beginning to take great care when making purchasing decisions for products that are marketed as being “safe” and “green” by doing research and dedicating time to read ingredient labels.
“I think today’s consumer is demanding more from the things they purchase,” says Julie Holmes, vice president of operations and finance at Unique Natural Products. “They want to know the products work, but also have good value. Consumers want to know how the products work and what’s in them. Pet parents are very educated on the food they feed their pets, and I think that has carried over to everything that affects their pets and families.”
Retailers can expect this trend to continue growing as Millennial consumers shape the market. These shoppers often remain loyal to manufacturers that are transparent and represent the best interests of consumers, says Ted Morgan, director of marketing for Biokleen.
“We see Millennial pet parents influencing more and more purchase decisions,” he says. “They want cleaning products that work and don’t harm the environment. Moreover, they want to form relationships with the products that align with their values…on a daily basis we hear stories from pet parents of how thankful they are for our Biokleen Bac-Out and our other cleaning products for removing stains without introducing unnecessary toxins into their homes.”
If a business engages in practices that consumers view as unethical or utilizes harmful production processes and ingredients, pet parents who favor eco-friendly cleaning products will choose a different manufacturer that more closely represents their ecological interests. These consumers are also more likely to offer greater support to eco-friendly businesses that perform good works, in addition to fulfilling their ethical, green commitments. Using their spending power as leverage, consumers can now demand products that not only support the position of pets as family members and maintain the safety of all inhabitants of their homes, but also promote the greater good for animals in need.
“We believe that empowering our customers to give back through the opportunity to create a personal, meaningful experience of helping an individual animal, will help make the world a better place,” says Pete Stirling, vice president of customer development for Skout’s Honor. “And so, we created the Skout’s Paw Pledge; together with our customers, we will feed a shelter animal in need for one day with every Skout’s Honor product sold.”
As pet parents increasingly conduct business with manufacturers that support their principles, consumers will also choose informed retailers over those that are ignorant of the key issues surrounding the eco-friendly cleaning product segment. In addition to remaining educated regarding the who’s who in green cleaning product manufacturing, retailers must know how each company’s goods will solve the specific problems faced by customers.
Remaining familiar with the science behind the cleaning issues faced by his clients is a priority for Bio-Pro Research CEO Bill Hadley, whose company manufactures Urine Off, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product that utilizes microbes to completely ingest and destroy the elements that comprise urine.
“Many hardwood floors have been ruined by urine that leaves a dark stain in the wood if it has penetrated the finish,” says Hadley. “The uric acid can be so bad that it can actually burn the lignin in the wood. If the urine in subfloors under carpet is not completely remediated, installing new carpet will not control the existing smells, and animals will still be attracted. In ceramic tile grout, porous stone and concrete, urine deposits will build up, creating stains as well as odor issues.”
When helping consumers choose the most effective products for their green pet cleanup issues, retailers must also identify the manufacturers that bring unique offerings to the market. Whether they have developed an innovative eco-friendly cleaning ingredient or have gained difficult-to-obtain green product certification, manufacturers are carving out their own place in this segment.
“The California Green Chemistry (CGC) initiative played a key role in the development of our BioKore green technology, which is proprietary and exclusive to Skout’s Honor,” reveals Stirling. “The CGC initiative mandated that manufacturers produce safer, more environmentally-responsible products and less waste and effectively forced the best minds in the business to go back to the drawing board and reinvent a better (and safer) way for how we handle stain and odor removal.”
Consumers will continue researching deeply into the origins of green cleaning products and the practices of manufacturers. If retailers are unable to at least engage—if not further educate—knowledgeable consumers during a discussion regarding eco-friendly cleaning products, they might lose a sale and potentially a lifelong customer.
Once a pet urinates inside the home, this begins a trend that they will continue to follow—not because the animal is misbehaving, but due to its natural attraction to the same area. In the past, natural solutions to pet marking were faced with the stigma of being ineffective, yet today’s manufacturers have discovered the secrets to successfully treating soiled areas while remaining green.
“The basic biological formula is common to both cat and dog urine remediation,” says Hadley. “The difference is that we formulate Cat Urine Off with a pheromone blocker that tends to keep cats from an existing deposit that was not remediated completely due to it either being an old repeatedly deposited accumulation...or a fresh deposit that was not fully treated. Dog Urine Off is formulated with a deterrent that will tend to keep dogs off of treated deposits for like reasons.”
Though pets might repeatedly make the mistake of leaving excrement around the home, they can be trained to go outside. Some animals just require more guidance than others. According to James Brandly, marketing coordinator at TropiClean, by destroying each stain and underlying layers, pet parents are able to remove the embedded odor that leads animals to have accidents in the same area.
“Animals are creatures of habit,” says Brandly. “Your pets will use the bathroom in the same spot each time, if not corrected. So, even if you have hardwood floors or tile, each potty mistake—without the proper cleanup products—could, in fact, damage your floors more. Our products target the odor, break the habit and dry quickly. Fresh Breeze is nature’s stain and odor remover.”
While safety and sustainability remain a concern for environmentally conscientious pet parents, cost can be a consideration. Consumers are willing to spend more money on premium green products, but pet parents will compare pricing between multiple eco-friendly items that seem to boast similar ingredients, safety and efficacy, ultimately choosing the most cost-effective option—a trend that Holmes has recognized.
“We introduced some new SKUs in our Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator line: A 16-oz. concentrate that makes a gallon of finished product and a four-oz. refill that is an easy and inexpensive way to refill our 24-oz, Ready To Use [product] for customers who are consistent users and are looking for affordability,” she says.
As a new generation of pet parents enjoys increased spending power, the green cleaning products segment will continue to gain greater efficacy. Once consumers have identified natural products that are safe, eco-friendly and effective, they will also examine the practices by which manufacturers conduct business. While the green cleaning segment expands, pet parents will remain loyal to retailers who are knowledgeable regarding the methods used by manufacturers for ingredient sourcing, philanthropic endeavors and sustainability efforts.