Any product that charges a premium has had to fight to defend its position over the past year. Green cleaners are no exception and some have not fared as well as others.

Sales of leading green brand Ecover's laundry products slumped 8% to £12.8m last year, while sales of its washing-up liquid and multi-purpose cleaners fell 7% to £6.5m and £2.1m, respectively [Nielsen 52w/e 9 January].

Some consumers traded down to cheaper alternatives, admits Clare Allman, marketing manager of Ecover UK. "The recession created tough trading conditions for all brands and Ecover faced fierce competition from value lines," she says. "But we're confident that as the market recovers we will see a rise in sales as consumers question the ecological credentials of cheaper offerings."

Over the past year or so, cheaper products have undoubtedly had the upper hand. Easy-Do, which makes recycled products such as food bags and cloths under the EcoForce brand, says sales grew 47% last year and expects a 60% uplift this year, because of its keen price points.

"The consumer will buy eco cleaning products if they're priced at parity with other cleaning products," says MD Daniel Neumann.

The more successful brands have also been boosted by heavy promotional activity, which helps drive trial, says Laurence Smith, commercial director of EnviroProducts.

"When our No More Chemicals range was on half-price deal in Morrisons, sales were 10 times the weekly average."

Not all premium brands have struggled, however. Method sales are up almost 20%, while sales of its multi-purpose spray grew 44%to £2.1m [Nielsen 52w/e 9 January]. It credits its performance to its looks as much as its eco credentials.

Consumers are prepared to pay more for products that look good enough to display, says international marketing director Louise Roper. "Method is more than just green," she says. "Fragrance, design and a great experience are equally important aspects of each Method product."

Focus On Household