Ecover is launching into the personal care market in a move to fuel growth as the sector's giants ramp up environmentally driven innovation.

In a two-pronged strategy it will introduce a four-strong range of shampoos, soaps and shower gels under the Ecover brand and its Wellments-branded range of natural cosmetics and toiletries, which is already available in Continental Europe.

In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, MD Mick Bremans said there had been much debate about whether a cleaning brand could translate into personal care, but he believed Ecover now had sufficient consumer trust to expand into new sectors.

Ecover bought Austrian business Wellments in 2005, but this is its first venture into UK. Although the range does not carry Ecover branding it is produced to the same ecological standards as the core brand, containing no phosphates to limit its environmental impact.

Wellments Natural Collection will be trialled in health stores in the UK with a view to wider distribution and possibly an online presence. It will have a similar launch pattern to Ecover, which first entered the UK in the 1980s in health stores, before entering supermarkets in 1987. The range includes body lotion, deodorant, shower gel, leg gel and body scrub, with prices ranging from 89p for a 30g body scrub sachet up to £14.99 for the 400g tub. The shower gel has an rsp of £7.79, positioning it at the premium end of the market.

The Ecover-branded range, which also includes baby shampoo, will initially launch into France before Christmas, ahead of wider roll out, including the UK, next year. It will first be offered through health stores before going for wider distribution.