By Michael Rudnick
Consumer concern over indoor air quality and allergy prevention is making an impact on the vacuum industry as manufacturers incorporate technologies to trap harmful particles and filter the air while vacuuming.
"There is a trend toward emphasizing healthy living in floor care from a focus on indoor air quality to eco-friendly cleaning products," said Chris Gurreri, president of TTI Floor Care North America, the owner of the Dirt Devil and Hoover brands. "In our portfolio of products, we have a line of Green Seal-approved carpet and hardwood cleaning formulas called Second Nature by Hoover that are biodegradable, non-toxic and provide superior cleaning performance." Dirt Devil's Reaction line of upright vacuums includes HEPA filters, which trap allergens and dust that may be dispersed into the air while vacuuming. The Dirt Devil Reaction Fresh takes this one step further with scented or unscented filters that are designed to eliminate odors while cleaning.
Because indoor air quality is top of mind with consumers, vacuum makers have been able to command higher price points for models that have air-cleaning features.
"More and more product innovation in the category is driving dollar volume increases and we continue to expect growth in price points," said Rob Newcombe, vice president of marketing with Electrolux Home Care Products North America, adding that vacuum companies' move to address "healthier lifestyle needs" is helping to spur this price-point growth.
German vacuum manufacturer Robert Thomas LP is relying in part on a healthy home focus to command premium price points for its new Rotho Twin tt vacuums. The vacuum has a water filtration system that traps dust and eliminates it from re-entering the air. The water filtration system also functions as a humidifier during cleaning, further improving the indoor air, said Thomas Slusarek, product marketing manager at Robert Thomas LP.
"We are targeting those who are thinking green," Slusarek said. "This segment will help drive the market in the face of the overall housing-affected sales." This niche initiates purchases independent of prevailing economic conditions, he added.
Another high-end vacuum manufacturer, Miele, is also placing air quality at the top of its priority list. The company's new S5 canister line features an electrostatic dust/filter bag, which uses the same technology as ionic air purifiers, and three filter cartridges that include a HEPA filter and a charcoal insert to control odors.
Jim Krzeminski, executive vice president of sales, marketing and product development at Bissell Homecare, agreed that healthy home and wellness is currently a hot button in the vacuum arena. Bissell is attempting to push that button with its new Healthy Home Vacuum. The upright model features a HEPA filtration system that traps and seals in pollen, mold spores, ragweed, dust mites and pet dander to prevent the spread of these allergens while vacuuming. The unit is also treated with Microban anti-microbial protection, which prevents the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew within the vacuum. The vacuum is packaged with a sample of Acarosan dust mite control spray to kill dust mites that were potentially missed in vacuuming.
Halo Co. has shed light on ultraviolet technology as a means to kill allergens while vacuuming. The start-up vacuum manufacturer has set its vacuums apart by installing an ultraviolet light on the bottom of its new Halo UV-ST Ultraviolet Vacuum, which kills dust mites, mold, flea eggs, bacteria and other allergens found in carpets. Jeffery Collins, vice president of sales and marketing at Halo Co., said that the use of ultraviolet light to kill germs and allergens is an alternative to harmful carpet-cleaning chemicals that can further compromise indoor air quality.
As air cleaning gains importance in the vacuum category, some retailers are highlighting it in their floor care displays. In a recent visit to a New Jersey Target location, a display in the vacuum section explained how HEPA filters work and how they help to eliminate allergens.