NEW YORK (AP) – One year after bleach maker Clorox started selling a line of natural cleaning products, it has reached the top of the market for eco-friendly cleaners.

The company plans to announce Monday that its Greenworks cleaners, made mostly with coconut oil, corn and lemon – and without bleach – have become the top-sellers among natural cleaners. Clorox now has 42 percent of the total market, estimated to generate more than $200 million in revenue per year.

“We’ve grown by more than 100 percent since we launched,” Clorox Chief Executive Don Knauss told The Associated Press. “Getting a national player in this space has really helped.”

Clorox Co., based in Oakland, Calif., launched the Greenworks line in December 2007. It has used its distribution network and lower prices to attract shoppers away from competitors such as Method and Seventh Generation.

“I think Greenworks has done a good job getting into the mass trade,” Jefferies & Co. analyst Douglas Lane said. “Before, you had to go to a specialty store. Now you can get it at Wal-Mart and Kroger’s – just about anywhere.

“That’s the beauty of Clorox, that they have the big footprint in the food, drug and mass channels,” Lane said.

Rivals also have started to introduce eco-friendly versions of familiar brands.

Racine, Wis.-based SC Johnson announced in December that it had patented a technology that makes its Windex, Pledge and Scrubbing Bubbles cleaners more environmentally friendly. The process uses better raw materials and safer detergents, the company said in a statement.

Clorox also sells Burt’s Bees, a line of natural personal care products, as well as a range of consumer products, including Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, Brita water filters and Fresh Step kitty litter.

Of the $12 billion spent each year in the U.S. on cleaning products, the natural category accounted for about 1 percent when Clorox entered the market, Knauss said. The growth rate of more than 20 percent was attractive, though, and since Clorox’s entrance, the market size has doubled.

One factor in growing Greenworks sales was lower prices. Other brands charge between 50 percent to 60 percent more than regular cleaners while Greenworks products cost 10 percent to 20 percent more.

The company is also launching cleaning wipes under the Greenworks brand this week. The cotton wipes decompose within five to seven days of being put in a compost pile, and Knauss said it was the first all-natural wipe on the market.

Consistent with the eco-friendly appeal of Greenworks, Clorox also announced it would make a $470,000 donation to the Sierra Club. And the company used its Greenworks line to start an initiative to disclose product ingredients. By the end of the year, Clorox expects to offer full disclosure of ingredients in all its household and industrial-cleaning and auto-care products sold in the U.S. and Canada.

Consumer products makers are often attractive to investors in a down market, since shoppers typically still need to buy staples such as toothpaste and dish soap even when they feel financially strapped.

Clorox shares fell roughly 12 percent between Jan. 2, 2008, and Jan. 2 this year, while the S&P 500 fell 35 percent.


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