WOOD DALE, Ill. -- Earth Friendly Products here learned an invaluable packaging lesson following the introduction of its all-natural, environmentally safe laundry detergent.
"We knew we would be going against the big guys so we went with a low-cost alternative packaging," said John Vlahakis, president.
"We did not think it out too carefully. We were not investing the money we should have into that specific item," he said in a recent interview with Brand Marketing.
The original container looked like a bleach bottle with a standard cap. The label carried a "fairly generic" name, Ultra Liquid laundry detergent, with the Earth Friendly logo. Because of its shape and size, retailers were often displaying the item in the bleach section, he said.
"We were getting good reviews on the product, but one of our leading accounts, Jewel Food Stores, came to us and said if we changed the package they knew they could sell more," Vlahakis said.
The new package, introduced in April, closely resembles other laundry detergents in shape and size and even has a dispenser cap. The product also was given a new name, ECOS.
"ECO is the beginning of the Greek word for ecology, which ties in with our Earth Friendly label. ECOS sounds sexier," he said.
The one-two punch of the new container and new name resulted in a movement increase of nearly 50%, he said.
The improved packaging has led some retailers to expand their Earth Friendly product assortments. The current best-selling items are ECOS, Orange Plus (an all-purpose cleaner comparable to Mr. Clean, Fantastic or 409) and Dishmate (a concentrated dishwashing liquid), he said.
Orange Plus is available as a ready-to-use spray or in 20-ounce concentrated form. Other Earth Friendly products include Cream Cleanser (comparable to Soft Scrub), Toilet Bowl Cleaner (comparable to Vanish or SnoBowl) and Earth Enzymes (comparable to Enforcer, Liquid Drano).
All are biodegradable, all-natural products, non-toxic, phosphate-free and perfume-free. No animal testing or animal ingredients are used. They are competitively priced against major brands.
Earth Friendly products are manufactured and distributed by Venus Laboratories here, an integrated manufacturer and distributor of chemical specialty products.
The company's marketing strategy is to achieve distribution of the Earth Friendly product line in at least one chain in each market, Vlahakis said.
"We immediately support the introduction with a free-standing insert scheduled to be dropped within 30 days of the line's entry into the market," he said. "We also do in-store demos in which we distribute a 50-cents-off in-store coupon redeemable for any item in the line. In every market we enter, the chain takes at least three of our seven items."
"Our first focus has been on the grocery channel. Now we are looking at other formats. We intend to be a national brand. We had a booth at the Food Marketing Institute convention and had tremendous inquiries from international sources. We are not shy about that opportunity, but right now we are putting all our efforts into being in every single market in the U.S.," he said.
Currently, Earth Friendly products are carried by retailers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, Alabama, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, California and Massachusetts, including Jewel Food Stores, Dominick's Finer Foods, Treasure Island Foods, Eagle Food Centers, Certified Grocers Midwest, Winn-Dixie, Grand Union, Tops Markets, DeMoulas Supermarkets, Whole Foods, Ralph's Finer Foods, West Point Market, Hughes Markets, Smith's, Delchamps, Furr's and Fresh Fields. Further expansion is expected.
By the end of July, an automatic dishwashing gel will be introduced under the Earth Friendly label, Vlahakis said.
Also within that time frame, 30-second television spots have been scheduled to air in Chicago, Louisville and Atlanta, he said. Within 60 days, the TV ad campaign is expected to air in the Baltimore-Washington market. The spots will feature the whole line and stress that these items are natural, clean, alternative household cleaning products.
Free-standing inserts have been published in Atlanta and Southern California. More are expected to be dropped in Albuquerque, N.M.; Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; Buffalo, N.Y.; and the Quad Cities, he said.
A national print ad campaign also is underway in Vegetarian Times and Mother Jones magazines, targeting the three best-selling products individually: ECOS, Orange Plus and Dishmate, he said.