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Millennials Strike Again: Are Your Cleaners Out?

Millennials Leading The Charge

Ah, millennials. Much has been written and said of this generation born between 1980 and 1996. Their attitudes, habits, and values are under constant scrutiny. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that they are quickly becoming a generation that deserves all of the attention.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, this is the year millennials will surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation. It’s no wonder millennials account for an estimated $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending, a number that is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Nielsen reports millennials represent 26 percent of U.S. households and spend more per trip than any other generation. McKinsey found that 70 percent of millennials are expected to drive consumer growth for the next 20 years. Understandably, these statistics have gotten the attention of CPG companies.

Non-toxic Cleaners Raking Up Market Share

Millennial buying trends are driving the market. What are their concerns? While specifics depend on the product category, there is an overarching theme that Nielsen detailed in its article, Who’s Buying Clean Label Products?, saying, “Sales of conventional products are declining, while sales of products that tout being simple, ‘clean,’ sustainable and free from artificial ingredients are on the rise. Millennials are leading the way with respect to buying products they believe are better for them, their families and the planet. They care much more about transparency and clean label than older generations do, and their spending prowess is growing.”

Unlike their predecessors who cared more about potency and tradition than ingredients, millennials are concerned about the safety of ingredients in household cleaning products as much as efficacy. For them, they can have both. They aren’t sold on the notion that conventional cleaners perform better and are willing to spend more to ensure they aren’t exposing themselves, their families and their pets to potentially averse affects. That’s not all, Millennials often avoid contact with conventional cleaners and desire to keep them out of the environment as well. They actively seek out brands that are environmentally-driven.

Nielsen can back up these claims with actual sales data, finding Clean Label Product sales increased 4.3 percent in the past year. Among the most valued household care claims that consumers say matter most is “non-toxic”.’s What Do Millennial Moms Want? says millennial moms want to avoid potentially harmful chemicals first and foremost.

Transparency Is Key

As more information is available about the effects of harmful ingredients and how many of them have been found in conventional cleaning products, people are becoming more aware. Millennials care less about using the products their parents and grandparents may have used, recognizing that many of those products are toxic. Environmental Working Group (EWG) found some conventional cleaning products contain ingredients that have been banned in other countries and barred from products manufactured in California. Even worse, some of the most toxic chemicals detected in laboratories are not listed on labels.

Millennials, as a whole, are having none of it. They expect ingredient transparency and if they don’t find it from the brands they buy, they have plenty of resources to research it themselves. Note of warning to any company that believes hiding behind vague or partial ingredient labels is a good idea: it isn’t. Your future depends on it, at least according to most experts.

Forbes reported on a survey of more than 2,000 consumers that found a staggering 94 percent of respondents said they are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. They also said that when consumers switch to more transparent brands, 56 percent say they would stay loyal to that brand for life. Transparency was the number one factor for their loyalty, the survey found, with 78 percent of respondents saying they trust a brand more if it offers product transparency, even more so for millennial moms at 83 percent.

CPG companies must change how they develop products, and market and communicate with millennials. With approximately $600 billion of spending potential up for grabs, there’s a lot at stake. Companies can’t continue to operate under a veil of secrecy or assume consumers don’t know any better. Ingredients matter. Sustainability matters. Not at the sacrifice of efficacy or unreasonable prices, either. Millennials want it all: safety, sustainability, and efficacy at a price that is fair. They may be willing to pay more for better-for-you products, but there is a limit. With so many of these cleaner, non-toxic products on the market and in virtually every grocery and big box store, they now have options.

Citric Extracts Making The Grade

One of the most sought out ingredients in non-toxic cleaning products is citric extracts. Citric extracts come from plants and offer powerful cleaning without the toxicity found in conventional cleaning products. Citric acid actually makes soaps and detergents work better and more efficiently by conditioning the hard water. The additive also binds to grease and dirt ions, tearing them apart. It lowers water’s pH level and penetrates the cell walls of bacteria to kill germs.

Consumers who buy citric extract-based cleaning products can feel good about the efficacy, safety and in most cases, the price point these products offer. Even though citric acid may be a primary ingredient, however, millennials still want to see the other ingredients in their cleaning products. CPG companies may advertise using this plant-based ingredient, but it won’t resonate well with consumers if it’s combined with toxic ingredients, particularly toxic ingredients not disclosed on the label.

Empowering the Consumer

For consumers of all ages, the key is to find a brand that values transparency, safety, and efficacy as much as they do. Make no mistake, millennials will seek these brands out. To help consumers find these brands and their non-toxic products, the EPA set up a Safer Choice website and product labeling. The website allows consumers to browse all of the cleaning products that pass the EPAs strict guidelines for human and environmental safety, as well as performance and efficacy. All-purpose cleaners, dish soaps, laundry products, floor cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, and car care products are all represented and have been thoroughly evaluated by the EPA. The Safer Choice label is something consumers can look for on the packaging that verifies the product is Safer Choice-certified.

This label is unlike many other labels that just claim to be something they’re not. The Safer Choice label backs up their claims with science, something the Federal Trade Commission is now requiring with their Green Guides, the standards for truth in green advertising. According to the FTC, “The Guides’ message for businesses: you must have sound science to back up green claims you make for your products.”

With regards to non-toxic cleaning products, the FTC says marketers can only make those claims if they can prove the product is “safe for both humans and the environment” and if it’s safe for humans or the environment, the product should say which one the claim applies to. It’s a huge step towards more transparent labeling.

CPG companies are being held more accountable by both the FTC and millennials. We still have more that can be done, but for companies who wish to remain relevant to the largest spending generation, it’s worth the effort.

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