November 5, 2012 / 5:00 AM / 5 years ago

Walgreen adds 'green' line to private-label push

* Ology line of products hitting stores in November

* Walgreen’s own line starting with 24 products

* Retailer sees trend of mothers wanting safer goods

By Jessica Wohl

Nov 5 (Reuters) - Walgreen Co is bringing out its own line of household goods with no harmful chemicals, the latest step in its push to add more store brands and differentiate itself from competitors.

Walgreen’s first 24 baby and personal care products, cleaners, paper products and compact fluorescent light bulbs under the Ology name will hit its more than 7,900 drugstores this week.

The company is hoping to tap into a consumer trend toward products that are safe and free of harmful chemicals, Maurice Alkemade, Walgreen’s group vice president of retail brands and global sourcing, said in an interview.

National branded consumer products makers already sell some “green” items, such as Clorox Co’s Green Works cleaners and Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol Power & Free line of hydrogen peroxide-powered cleansers that debuted over the summer.

But national brands largely have had the same formulations for years and Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, is introducing its products before major manufacturers launch items with similar formulas.

“In this instance we’re leading,” said Alkemade. “We’re taking these chemicals out prior to national brands doing it.”

Ology products include baby lotion and body wash, liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, and shampoo and conditioner.

The cleansers exclude chemicals such as ammonia or chlorine bleach and are bottled in recyclable packaging. Ology toilet paper, tissues, paper towels and copy paper are 100 percent tree-free and are made with readily renewable resources. The tissues, for example, are made in China from sugar cane husk & bamboo and whitened with a non-chlorine-based bleach.

Walgreen and other chains like rival CVS have been adding to their lines of private label goods, which are typically more profitable than branded products, but also compete against the national brands that make up the bulk of their sales.

Walgreen declined to say which manufacturers are making its products. Another 24 products are due in the spring as Walgreen works on expanding the Ology line over the next couple of years. The prices of Ology products should be competitive to national brands, Alkemade said.

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