Brands and retailers may be muting their green message in favour of a product functionality one, but there’s one eco-innovation they are continuing to push: refillables.

Method launched the market’s first detergent refill at the end of 2011 and the eco-friendly brand is now gearing up for the launch of a range of refillable hand washes in the summer (see above).

“This will give us a powerful new eco-offering for the category,” says Tim Smith, Method’s UK general manager. “Refills are more prevalent in places like France and we have been trialling them successfully over there for quite some time.”

They are also gaining ground over here in the UK - and not just for Method. Last summer, Tesco unveiled its Replenish range of refillable multi-surface cleaning products. They’ve gone down well, claims Tesco.

“Refillable units have proved particularly popular - they provide customers with a great value product that is also environmentally friendly,” says a spokesman.

As well as undercutting many of the brands on price, the Tesco range, which features a pod attached to the bottom of each spray bottle, also comes with a claim from Tesco that it could save 80,000 kg of carbon in its first year alone, helping to boost the retailer’s environmental credentials.

The success of Replenish also illustrates a wider trend in the household category, according to Smith. “If you look at own-label products, the retailers have realised that the way forward is more advanced technology and more premium packaging,” he says. “Yes, own label is increasingly popular. But it’s not because customers are accepting just any budget products they can find. It’s because retailers have been premiumising their own label products.”

This is likely to inspire a fresh round of innovation from the brands, believes Clare Allman, marketing manager at another refill pioneer, Ecover. “We will see new tranches of new products from the brands in the months to come,” she predicts.

Ecover - which acquired Method last September to create the world’s biggest manufacturer of environmental household products with a combined annual turnover of $20m - has pledged to be at the forefront of this next round of innovation.