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OPINION: The NPA Home Care Natural Standard

The NPA seal for home care products.


  • F-1


    Data on Home care products sales

By: Jack Corley, Trilogy Fragrances
Posted: February 11, 2010

In December 2008, I met Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA) at the association’s headquarters in Washington, DC, with a view to explore the practicality of developing a natural product standard for household cleaning products. The collaboration between the NPA and a team of experts in the personal care industry, and the subsequent introduction of the NPA Natural Personal Care standard (May 2008) was the hallmark of our discussion. Clearly, the question before us was, “Does the spillover effect of the natural, green sustainability movement that has so clearly impacted personal care extend to home care products—specifically, the household cleaning and laundry category?” And as research indicated, that opportunities were plenty.

Market Research Indicators

According to Chicago-based market research firm, Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), total home care products sales (see F-1) (including “green”) ending Nov. 1, 2009 were:

Meanwhile, according to a Progressive Grocer magazine article (April 2009), “Consumers seeking ways to ‘go green’ and protect the environment and their families by avoiding chemicals are grabbing natural all-purpose household cleaners off store shelves at a record pace.” Mintel, a market research company based in Chicago, has projected growth in the category to reach $623 million by 2013. Considering the category has already grown from $17.7 million in 2003 to a whopping $64.5 million in 2008, this increase seems attainable. Then again, a recent Associated Press report suggested that when Clorox entered the green market in December 2007, the natural category accounted for only about 1% of the $12 billion spent on cleaning products (including industrial) each year in the United States. Although only out for a little over a year, Clorox's Green Works is the market leader in natural household cleaners, with 45% of category sales, according to Mintel. Finally, a recent national survey* found that natural ingredients are important to consumers; 78% of those surveyed said there should be regulations/standards for natural home care products; 72% believed it’s important that ingredients in home care products are natural; and 73% said they are more likely to purchase a home care product if they know it is certified as natural.

The Outcome: NPA Seal for Home Care Products

In response to the above industry indications, the NPA has extended its seal and standard to include home care products such as household cleaners, laundry detergents and the other categories detailed earlier. This will help consumers discern which products are natural (according to NPA). Shoppers can expect the seal to begin appearing on certified home care products in the coming months. Of this,  Fabricant says, “This new standard for home care products is the next step in returning the integrity to the word natural. A number of products that mainly [use] synthetics are being positioned as natural. This leads to significant consumer confusion about the category and the products people are choosing.”

The NPA home care natural standard is science-based and, like the personal care natural standard before it, has been developed by a team of advisers from the NPA and home care manufacturers including Green Works, Seventh Generation, JR Watkins, Cognis, Trilogy Fragrances, Aubrey Organics, PCC Natural Markets, Green Mountain, EcoMe, and Sun & Earth. The advisory panel drew from a variety of sources, including relevant international standards, third-party organizations, existing research and years of experience in the field.

Certification Criteria

The following is the initial standard as of Feb. 11, 2010. The full set of criteria can be found on the NPA’s Web site. The standard requires natural ingredients to be made with the illustrative allowed processes listed in the sidebar.The new program requires products to follow strict guidelines set out by the NPA to merit the seal. The criteria include, but are not limited to, the following:

An allowed synthetic non-natural ingredient (see Appendix) can be used only when:

The standard further prohibits ingredients that:

The following is an illustrative list of classifications of ingredients that are prohibited includes:

For a longer list of prohibited ingredients, see sidebar.

The NPA Seal: Terms and Conditions

In 2010, consumers will begin to see the NPA seal (pictured) on home care products. NPA member and non-member suppliers whose products have been audited by an NPA standard and certification program for natural home care products auditor and found to be in compliance, shall have the right to utilize the program’s certification seal (Natural Standard Seal) for natural home care products that have been reviewed and certified “natural” under the following terms and conditions:


* Based on a national online survey of 1,002 consumers with partner Braun Research on Sept. 17, 2009, about natural home care products. The findings have a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

** (1)Carcinogens: IARC Group 1, 2A, 2B; REACH Carcinogens 1, 2; NTP – Known or Reasonably Anticipated Human Carcinogens; EPA IRIS; Prop 65 Carcinogen (relevant exposures for consumer product use or manufacturing); NIOSH Potential Carcinogen; EPA IRIS Carcinogen Assessment; (2) Mutagens: REACH Mutagen Category 2; (3) Reproductive and Developmental: Prop 65 Devel; Prop 65 Male, Female Repro; REACH Repro Tox 1, 2; (4) Endocrine Disruptors: EU Cat 1, 2 and with data quality category DQ1; (5) Hazardous Waste: RCRA lists U, P, D 6 CERCLA/SARA 313 PBT; EU POPs; RCRA Waste Minimization; EPA Priority; Interim Review for the Strategy for Cooperation and Networking Between EU Member States and EFSA PBT Assessment; EU vPvT; (6) http://portal.acs.org/portal/PublicWebSite/greenchemistry/about/principles/WPCP_007505


Allowed synthetic (AS) ingredients (those temporarily allowed in the initial phase of this standard):

  1. Non-paraben, non-formaldehyde-donating synthetic preservatives
    • Methylisothiazolinone
    • Phenoxyethanol
    • Dehydroacetic acid
  2. Non-phthalate, non-irritating synthetic fragrances
  3. Nontoxic synthetic colorants