SC Johnson Dips Into Tough Concentrates Market With Windex Pouches

SC Johnson Dips Into Tough Concentrates Market With Windex Pouches

S.C. Johnson started testing the waters for concentrated refills today with the launch of Windex Mini, concentrated pouches of its Windex window-cleaning solution.

The concentrated Windex formulation, which will at first only be sold online, marks a tentative step into an arena where other companies have floundered.

Concentrated cleaners offer huge promise in reduction cost and environmental impacts of the products: Because they're mostly water, selling products that consumers can mix at home can make for big reductions in packaging needs, transportation emissions, shelf space at stores and more.

But other companies that have tried to get consumer buy-in with concentrates have struggled to gain traction. Arm & Hammer ended up pulling its concentrated products from the market, while other products, like Ecodiscoveries have been confined to natural, specialty and smaller grocery stores. In between is Replenish, whose cleaner that consists of a bottle and an attached pod with four bottles' worth of concentrate in it is sold only at some Whole Foods Market stores.

S.C. Johnson's tactic with its Windex Mini concentrates is to sell the pouches online, get consumer feedback, and make tweaks as necessary to build a customer base and show retailers it would be worth it to stock the pouches.

"We're going to learn our way in. This is about progress, not perfection," said Jam Stewart, an S.C. Johnson spokesperson. "It was important to get this out there and get this in the hands of consumers."

At the same site where the pouches are being sold, S.C. Johnson is taking comments from its customers. "We want to hear what people have to say. We want to hear how people are using it," Stewart said.

Even with all of the benefits posed by selling cleaners as concentrate, S.C. Johnson and other companies involved in the space have to face a consumer culture in the U.S. that puts price above all other considerations. Companies that want to create a strong market for concentrated cleaners will need to overcome two obstacles: The habit of buying a new bottle every time, and getting used to the idea that less is more.

Putting an empty bottle on the shelf, or putting a $7.50 price tag on a pack of three small pouches (the cost of the Windex refills) can be a tough sell. But WindexMini will cost less than the traditional product: Each pouch refills a 26-ounce bottles, working out to a cost of $2.50 per bottle and a little under 10 cents an ounce. Windex in a bottle retails for $2.90-$3.50, making the refills the cheaper option.

SC Johnson and others trying to get concentrates in the hands of consumers would also do well to link concentrated cleaner refills to the popularity of powdered sports drink, flavored water, lemonade and other beverage mixes. Both involve the same actions: Take a small package (whether its a small bottle or pouch), put it in a bottle and add water.

"This is about more than getting onto store shelves," Stewart said. "We've got to change consumer behavior. We've got to educate people and get them excited."