If the founders of Method have their way, every house in the nation will be cleaned using green, eco-friendly products. Right now, the San Francisco company is happy to have its products on the shelves of prominent retailers such as Target, Whole Foods and Lowe’s.
“We [built this business] because we’re human beings who care about this planet,” says cofounder Eric Ryan. Method pulled in revenues of $100 million last year, selling bathroom cleaner, dish soap, hand soap and the like made from non-toxic, plant-based ingredients. In January it launched an eco-friendly laundry detergent. Method puts its products in sleek, often clear plastic bottles that give it a fresh look–notably different from traditional packaging.
It’s up against some stiff competition. Clorox ( CLX – news – people ) launched an eco-friendly cleaning line called Green Works in January 2008. A big marketing campaign, not to mention Clorox’s existing relationships with retailers, has helped it grow. Clorox claims on its website that Green Works is the “#1 brand in natural cleaning.” Procter & Gamble ( PG – news – people ) has an element of green in its cleaning products for professionals such as janitorial and housekeeping services. Smaller competitors to Method include Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, which says it sells “aromatherapeutic” household cleaners.
For all their apparent popularity, “green” household cleaning products still make up just a tiny sliver of the overall market for home cleaning goods. In 2008 environmentally friendly cleaning products accounted for just 3% of the market, according to research firm Mintel International. It’s a fast-growing sector, though. Mintel predicts that green products will grab 30% of the market by 2013.
Andrea Kerr Redniss, an analyst at marketing communications firm Optimedia, gives Method considerable credit for spurring the conversation about green cleaning products. “They definitely brought along the concept that you’re cleaning with poison in your house and really pushed it before it was the trend,” she says.
Method has used marketing smarts (its tagline is the unifying slogan “people against dirty”) to get itself into 160 retailers across the U.S. Its products are also available in Canada, England, Australia, France and Japan, on Amazon.com ( AMZN – news – people ) and on its own Web site. Four pillars define the product experience, according to cofounder Adam Lowry: high performance, a healthy profile, product design and fragrance.
To get its goods into Target ( TGT – news – people ), Method promised Target executives that its product line would continue to expand–Method wasn’t planning on being a one-shot wonder. Not long afterward, some of its products started to leak on Target’s shelves. Method quickly figured out the packaging problem, fixed it and kept selling at Target.
The company got its start in 2000, when high school buddies and former roommates Lowry and Ryan crossed paths in San Francisco. The pair had complementary skills: Lowry studied chemical engineering and environmental science at Stanford University and Ryan–who serves as chief brand architect–had worked in advertising and brand positioning for The Gap ( GPS – news – people ), Old Navy and Saturn. They started in a 200-square-foot room, pooling $90,000 of their own money. The duo borrowed $200,000 from friends and family members. In 2002 Method raised some venture capital funding, which enabled the company to go after the national market.
Method outsources production but has in-house scientists (known as “green chefs”) work only with materials that meet strict environmental and health standards. The focus on a simple, clean aesthetic is always front and center. Boasts Lowry: “Nobody does the combination of style and substance in the way that we do.”