Earth Day update: “Green” product sales down sharply in wake of financial meltdown

Not too long ago, shelves at Target, Walmart and many other retail meccas were bowing under the weight of “green” products.

Organic, biodegradable and cruelty free products boomed as a business, with sales of Clorox’s “Green Works” line alone hitting over $100 million in 2008. The economy was already hitting the skids at that point though, and it was probably inevitable that green products, too, would take a pretty big hit as consumers cut their own personal budgets considerably.

Sales of “Green Works” have plummeted to $60 million, and analogous brands with competing products have seen similar drops in the “green” market. The New York Times spoke to analyst Stephen Powers, who said smaller, green-only brands fared a bit better in tough economic times than bigger household names with many offerings:

“You see disproportionately negative impact from products like Green Works, out of the big blue-chip companies that have tried to layer a green offering on top of their conventional offering, and a relatively better performance from the niche players who remain independent… In terms of the big players like Clorox, there’s no doubt that they’ve de-emphasized the brands relative to their early aspirations, and that’s reflective of what they are seeing from the consumer,” Mr. Powers said.

The Times also spoke with consumers at a supermarket about their likelihood of purchasing green cleaning products. One consumer, Sarah Pooler, told the paper:

“Bottom line, if it’s green and it’s a good deal, I’ll buy it,” said Ms. Pooler, outside a Jewel-Osco store.

Have you forayed into the practice of “going green” only to go back? Do you believe using “green” products is ultimately better for the environment?