Cleaning Up

C&I Issue 2, 2017

Sales of liquid tablet detergents, or liquitabs, grew by 23% in 2015, according to market analyst Euromonitor. While the debate over the safety of liquitabs in households with small children has continued to attract increasing media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic, their convenience has continued to outweigh any safety concerns.

In the US, laundry care sales remained flat in 2015; however, the continuing growth of other laundry boosters helped to drive up sales, although this was offset by the value decline of laundry detergents. Spot and stain removers posted a marginal decline in sales, while colour safe laundry bleach suffered a fall of 6% as many new laundry products feature various components such as bleach in their formulas. These products limit the appeal of standalone boosters and colour safe laundry bleach for many consumers who seek a simplified laundry process.

Liquid and powder detergents have continued to struggle. In 2015, they posted value declines of 2% and 10%, respectively, as popular concentrated formulae have reduced the number of available products. Very few US consumers wash clothing by hand. In 2015, bar detergents used to make homemade automatic detergents, or occasionally for outdoor cleaning, accounted for less than a 1% share of overall laundry detergent value sales.

Growth in individual product categories depends on demographics. As Jamie Rosenberg, global household and personal care analyst at Mintel, pointed out: ‘seniors want independence’, particularly in the developed markets of the US and UK, where just 3% of those over 60 want to live with their children, compared with 32% in India. In addition, more seniors are working, and therefore have less time for cleaning, and there is also a growing ‘grey divorce rate,’ creating more elderly one-person households, he added. Coupled with household tasks becoming harder with age, there is ‘an urgency to deliver ease of use’.

Generally, Rosenberg said, older consumers clean the most frequently and the most thoroughly of any demographic group, but despite the growth in the market, older consumers are less inclined to use wipes, for example. There is, however, a major opportunity for the developing smart appliance sector, particularly as regards ‘smart ordering’ of products as they run low.

Rosenberg also noted that self-cleaning surfaces are also a popular goal for this consumer segment, with a number of recently introduced products claiming to be both water and dirt repellent. Older European consumers want protective coatings the most, ‘but are reluctant to pay more’, he added.
Brands have a major opportunity to fill the needs of the elderly consumers, who represent 21% of the global population, he concluded.

Biological solutions
Quoting singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, Kristofer Friis Gleburg, Novozymes senior marketing director, household care, noted: ‘The times they are a-changing, and biological solutions are part of that change.’  He identified a new consumer group – the seekers – that represents what he described as ‘the conscious consumer’. This group is part of a general trend across generations and consumer segments globally, and their focus is on ‘thinking green’, and a new approach to consumer engagement is needed.

Consumers demand real-time information, and sustainability offered by biological solutions drives consumer engagement. Sustainability is good for business, Gleburg emphasised. Products with sustainable claims on their packaging see a 2% average sales increase, while 5% increases have been recorded for products marketed as sustainable.

The biological solutions Gleburg described are based on enzymes, which can reduce energy consumption, facilitating low-temperature washing; assist in reducing washing cycle times; and lower dosages for increased performance.

Other biological solutions include surfactants based on algal oil, a natural resources that doesn’t compete for food use, according to George Smith, a research fellow with Huntsman. Work at Huntsman has focused on the optimisation of the growth conditions for freshwater algae in laboratory photobioreactors (PBRs) at the company’s Houston facility. The algae selected included Scenedesumus, one of the most common freshwater species; Chlorella vulgaris; Nannochloropsis, which can grow in fresh and brackish water; and Texas Cut and Shoot, an algal species collected from a pond in Smith’s backyard!
This work involved varying the light frequencies and fertiliser concentrations to achieve optimum growth. In order to maximise yields of the required triglycerides, the algae were stressed and the oil extracted using hexane. The oil was used to produce surfactants using low temperature transesterification, a fast process that produced only trace amounts of dioxane and residual ethylene oxide.

Smith said the resulting products were light-coloured, low viscosity liquids with no gel phase on dilution in water. Their surface properties and detergency appear similar to conventional natural alcohol ethoxylates. Further work is aimed at optimising the molecular structures of the surfactants for different applications, including detergency, rheology and foam control.

Antimicrobial handwashes
No event concerning cleaning products would be complete without a look at antibacterial hand washes, which have been the subject of much controversy, especially in the US where the debate over the use of Triclosan has kept industry, NGOs and regulators occupied for a number of years.

In 2016, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was trying to finalise controls for topical antiseptic drug products, noted Francis Kruszewski, from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI). A so-called ‘tentative final monograph’ (TFM) for consumer wash products was published in December 2013, and a final rule was published in September 2016, effective from September 2017. It lists 22 active ingredients that are permissible for hand and body washes used in homes, retail food outlets and non-healthcare institutions.

Further TFMs cover healthcare antiseptic hand wash and rub products, listing 28 permissible ingredients for healthcare applications like surgical hand scrubs and washes, published in April 2015, effective from January  2019; and consumer antiseptic rubs, listing just three ingredients for use in hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes, published in June 2016, effective April 2020. Kruszewski also highlighted that a fourth TFM covering food handler antiseptic products is on the way. The ACI is working with stakeholders to engage with the FDA, he added, as well as pooling available information to fill data gaps covering safety and efficacy.

Kruszewski warned delegates in Washington that the result of these TFMs becoming effective could mean some antibacterial products would no longer be available to consumers over the counter.

Cleaning for men

Gender specific products are not new, noted Mike Eaton, CEO and founder of Hero Clean. As he pointed out, 47% of US adult men are single, up 20% over the last decade, which amounts to 70 to 100m men in the country buying groceries. Eaton’s new company is a US producer of cleaning products aimed specifically at men, using black packaging, like some car care products, and the same fragrance in every product type, together with special malodour technology to combat male sweat. ‘The range has the smallest number of product types to clean a home,’ he added, although he is now looking at other products including detergent pods, dryer sheets etc, to overcome problems with retailers that don’t know where to position the products in their stores. One US retailer, Target, was used in the first round of product testing, and saw a lot of repeat customers as well as new customers being drawn into the stores. ‘We were a little shocked, and so was Target,’ he said. Sales of Febreze, for example, were being overtaken by Hero products, but female targeted products still outsell male products, he added. As Eaton described it: ‘we are still in diapers’, but looking for other producers to join the trend.

Washing appliances

With the virtual demise of handwashing, automatic washing and dishwashing machines are the order of the day. According to Euromonitor, the capacity of automatic washing machines in the US has grown in recent years as consumers move towards bigger machines – 64% of all automatic washing machines sold in 2015, for example, had a capacity of more than 0.11m3. These machines are becoming more intelligent, and the potential is ‘almost limitless’, said Charlotte Skidmore, senior director of environmental and sustainable policy at the US Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

‘The Connected Home brings together many industrial sectors,’ said Skidmore,’ and smart appliances are part of the connected kitchen. By 2020, the McKinsey Institute expects that nearly every home will have smart appliances - with the total number of such appliances reaching 26bn. Connected appliances will offer an enhanced lifestyle, according to Skidmore, with repairs being carried out remotely; offering ‘peace of mind’, particularly for an ageing population; and energy efficiency through the integration of renewable energy utilising the so-called Smart Grid to match demand with supply. These appliances are not without issues, however, including privacy and security, and the protection of consumer information, plus serious concerns about the consumer having final control of any connected device. ‘There is a substantial opportunity for reducing environmental impact,’ she noted.

Controlled dosing of detergents and other products is an important capability, and Skidmore said that product manufacturers have been part of the development of these appliances. Later in 2017, US appliance manufacturer Whirlpool is reported to be launching a washer/dryer with a so-called Load and Go system that stores sufficient detergent for up to 14 loads of laundry and, through online retailer Amazon’s Dash, orders new supplies of detergent automatically, together with a mobile application, or app, that remotely controls the appliance.

In the UK, Xeros has produced commercial washing machines that reduce the amount of water required for each wash cycle by using recyclable polymer beads, developed together with BASF, with detergents. US federal data estimates that around 15% of annual water consumption is used by laundries in hotels and other parts of the hospitality industry. Xeros machines and beads are being distributed as a full service offering rather than machines and beads individually.

Cleaning up after pets

Enjoying pets inevitably means having to clean up after them. pet owners area growing consumer group, said Anna Howe, applied technology manager at Evonik Industries; with 62% of US pet owners regarding their pets as family members.

The global pet care market reached up to $94bn in 2016, while the US market in 2013 stood at $12.3bn. The market is split into: food, medicines, veterinarian care, live animal purchases and pet services including grooming and boarding. With growth of around 5% in 2016 in both grooming and supplies, Howe said there is a focus on products designed to provide pets, from cats to horses, with elegant coats and heathy skin, free from odours.

Speciality ingredients in the animal grooming market were worth $468m in 2015, expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.6% to 2020. Although human products are selling into this market, Howe said product development considers differences in animal physiology, compared with humans.

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