Health Should Rise on the Agenda for Home Furnishings and Home Improvement Players

After several years of success in a number of other industries, “all-natural” and “chemical-free” labels are finally making an appearance on home improvement and home furnishings shelves. Although spending on such products may remain low for the moment, focusing on health and safety is a smart move for home and garden players looking for longer-term growth strategies.

All-natural, all-the-rage

The rise in per household spending over the past five years on food and beverage products claiming all-natural, organic, and additive-free contents has spread to a number of non-food industries in developed countries. In the US, home care has seen a number of all-natural and non-toxic-focused brands, such as Seventh Generation and Clorox-owned Green Works, gain significant share ahead of many well-established competitors.

The beauty and personal care industry has seen similar trends, with a proliferation of brands and companies specialising in all-natural, chemical-free, and organic products across nearly every category. In Western Europe, demand for such products has proven so strong that brands such as L’Occitane, Body Shop, and Lush have built a substantial retail presence on an all-natural positioning.

Home and garden follows suit

While the preponderance of all-natural and organic products is far weaker in the home and garden market, a number of new products introduced by major manufacturers point to a growing recognition among companies that health and wellness may be an interesting avenue of opportunity. Here are a few examples of new product launches in 2011:

  • Valspar Corp’s Valspar Plus line of allergy-friendly home paints is the first to receive certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The paint is odourless, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and antimicrobial, resisting allergy-inducing substances like mildew and mould.
  • Akzo Nobel NV’s Dulux line of Forest Breath paints claims to purify household air and provide anti-microbial properties.
  • US-based mattress manufacturer Sealy Corp’s “smart fibres” include Purotex, a pro-biotic material that reduces allergens and repels dust mites.

Prospects for growth

In the short-term (over the next five years), these new hypoallergenic and antibacterial product lines are unlikely to bring huge boosts to company sales or market share. Premium properties often command more premium prices. Although this may mean a difference of less than US$2.00 for categories like laundry detergents or colour cosmetics, the differences tend to be much greater in areas like indoor furniture and home paint. With consumers in most developed markets displaying increased price consciousness since 2009, paying US$100 more for a hypoallergenic window covering may have currently limited appeal.

However, the clear interest in moving towards healthier, all-natural products in the home demonstrated by health and wellness trends in home care and personal care suggest demand will grow for such home and garden products in the longer term (5-to-10 years). As such, industry players would be wise to begin incorporating more health and wellness interests alongside the more widely developed pursuit of green and eco-friendly accolades.