Sustainable Laundry Solutions: Insights, Challenges and Opportunities

Research continually suggests that consumers are increasingly aligning their purchasing power with their personal values. Environmental concern is one of the key factors driving consumer behavior, with 67% identifying themselves as being environmentally aware, according to the 2021 Global Buying Green Report from Trivium Packaging. This should represent a huge opportunity for North American brands to provide eco-friendly and sustainable laundry products. However, retail data reveal that they are often only able to command mid-single digits in market share. So, where is the gap? Why are North American ‘green’ laundry brands unable to capture the environmental consciousness of consumers through their products?

Green laundry brands have a perception challenge

Many green brands were introduced with a purpose-driven mission of removing chemicals such as synthetic dyes, parabens, and optical brighteners from cleaning products to avoid unnecessary exposure to chemicals. However, this focus on eco-friendliness has created a perception in the U.S. market that greener laundry brands do not clean as effectively. Recent research from a study cited in the Journal of Advertising tested this hypothesis, with surveys collected from 253 U.S. consumers who assessed two ads for a laundry detergent concept. Both ads communicated that the products were “made using ingredients to ensure a great cleaning experience.” One of these cleaners was 100% eco-friendly. Results showed that more consumers saw the eco-friendly variant as less effective than the traditional counterpart.

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Understanding the behavior of U.S. laundry consumers

Novozymes conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. laundry decision makers to understand why their purchase behavior was not aligned with their eco-consciousness and evaluate opportunities for sustainable laundry brands to help break into the mainstream. The survey confirmed that there are largely three types of laundry consumers in the U.S.: Eco actives, current buyers of eco-friendly, greener laundry brands; Eco contemplators, those who buy organic foods and green personal care products but have not shifted their dollars to cleaning products; and Eco dismissers, those who may buy some organic food but making eco-conscious purchasing decisions is not a priority.

Novozymes found that within the representative data set 6% of respondents were Eco actives, 50% were Eco contemplators and the remaining 44% were Eco dismissers. These findings largely align with the market share that greener laundry brands have in the U.S. market. But what do these segments care about when making purchasing decisions in laundry?

Which of the following statements applies best to your purchasing behavior for laundry detergent? N = 1000

Eco contemplators showed a high degree of eco-consciousness (18%) as compared to Eco dismissers (5%) when making purchasing decisions. However, they also showed a priority for a well-rounded laundry detergent experience as compared to Eco actives, who showed a clear preference for environmental factors, and the price-driven Eco dismissers, representing the largest market opportunity for green laundry brands in U.S.

Offer a solution that combines powerful, sustainable wash performance

I Would Buy a Green Detergent If It… N= 1000

By combining the data and creating a product that fits the needs of multiple consumer types, the green laundry market will have more reach. Addressing the perception that eco-friendly ingredients are high-performing cleaners offering long-lasting cleaning benefits also will help dispel myths about their effectiveness as more consumers seek out these sustainable products. Though the numbers vary across the consumer types, there are still three priorities most important to today’s consumers: family health, environmental impact, and performance. Novozymes' enzymatic solutions for homecare and industrial cleaning are simple yet powerful laundry aids that can help formulators address a variety of these challenges for consumers, delivering powerful wash performance in an eco-friendly format while also helping reduce detergent formulation costs.