Retail

How DTC Brands Go Green With Cleaning Refills

How DTC Brands Aim For Green Cleaning

To provide an affordable, eco-friendly alternative to household cleaners in new plastic bottles, direct-to-consumer (DTC) innovators such as Blueland are offering consumers tablet-based products through the refill business model. As the company’s Co-founder and CEO Sarah Paiji Yoo told PYMNTS in an interview, “we’re really trying to reimagine everyday products.”

Yoo pointed out that the business model makes sense in a world driven by eCommerce. A typical cleaning spray might cost $6 to mail across the country, while it could take only 20 or 25 cents to send a cleaning tablet equivalent to a full bottle of cleaning solution. The DTC company could then pass along those savings to their customers.

Blueland sells products as a reusable, refillable system. Consumers purchase one or a set of containers, which Yoo described as “shatter-proof cleaning bottles that have been designed to last,” and can be used over and over again without breaking down. Yoo added that the cleaning bottle is the first to be certified platinum by Cradle to Cradle, a comprehensive eco-certification program.

The Business Model

The bottle comes with one cleaning tablet to start; consumers fill up the bottle with warm water before dropping in the tablet. The tablet then begins to effervesce, much like an Alka-Seltzer, before the solution is ready. “There’s no stirring or shaking required,” Yoo said. The tablets are priced at $2 each, which she claims is a lower price than a new, full bottle of solution. Blueland accepts credit cards, PayPal, Google Checkout and Apple Pay.

The company found that effectiveness is the most important factor for consumers when it comes to cleaning products. In order to drive true mass adoption, Yoo said, they would have to offer cleaning products that work well. Blueland tried hundreds of formulas and tested them with third-party labs, finding that their products were more effective than leading comparable brands. 

The Market

Blueland views eco-conscious consumers as its core target market, but Yoo noted that the company is looking to cater to a broad base. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for consumers to be environmentally responsible,” she said. On the work front, the company seeks to simplify the user experience. (Consumers drop in the tablet and they’re ready to go, with no shaking, stirring or worrying about transferring a liquid from a large bottle to a small one.) Moreover, Yoo added the tablets are cost-effective.

The company’s efforts come amid legislative (and corporate) momentum around the use of plastics. New York, for instance, is banning single-use plastic bags, and the European Union is also tackling single-use plastics with legislation. Companies are also making significant strides, with Starbucks planning to eliminate plastic straws, IKEA moving toward zero waste and Unilever doubling down on its recycled plastics strategy.

On the packaging front, Yoo noted the tablet wrappers are paper-based, recyclable and compostable, a process that took the company well over a year to get right. Blueland couldn’t find anything like it in the United States, so it had to work with European suppliers to make that type of packaging possible.

Other players in the space, such as cleancult, are also looking to help consumers go green with the help of environmentally-friendly packaging. Like Blueland, cleancult Co-Founder Ryan Lupberger said his core target market starts with consumers who are concerned with the environment and broadens from there.

By catering to both eco-conscious consumers and the broader market, green innovators such as cleancult and Blueland are seeking to change the way shoppers buy cleaning products in the age of eCommerce.

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