Why is Orange Glo So Appealing?

November 11, 2005

The privately-held company develops effective, yet mild cleaning products that are fun to use.

All in the Family
With incredible growth and a strong pipeline of new products, the Appel family is juggling a lot of projects these days. From left to right: Joel Appel, president and CEO; Elaine Appel, founder; Max Appel, founder; Linda Appel, president, Orange Glo Europe Ltd. and David Appel, chairman.

Don't try to find any similarities between Orange Glo International and Procter & Gamble or, for that matter, any of the other big household cleaning product companies. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. And that's exactly how the Orange Glo team wants it. The Denver-based, family-owned company relishes the Herculean task of competing against multinational companies many times its size. Thus far, the company has won more than its share of battles. The secret to Orange Glo's success, said family members, is a commitment to developing great smelling products that work well and are fun to use.

"Forty percent of the reason why people buy our products is because of the scent and the fact that they are fun to use," insisted Max Appel who, along with his wife Elaine, founded the company in 1992 with the introduction of Orange Glo wood cleaner and polish. Since then, the company has grown to include a wide range of household cleaning products, such as:

. OxiClean multipurpose stain remover;
. Orange Clean multipurpose cleaner and
. Kaboom all-purpose stain remover.

Orange Glo International also markets several smaller brands including air fresheners and personal care products.

Orange Glo's orange scent is a key selling point, but the wood cleaner and polish also promises to remove grease, grime and waxy buildup. It also shields wood surfaces from fingerprints and water damage and returns wood to its natural luster.

Orange Clean is said to dissolve everything from grease to thick soap scum. It is available in a variety of product forms, including concentrate, paste, foam and cream cleanser.

The success of OxiClean has created a host of copycats.

OxyClean multipurpose stain remover promises to clean a wide variety of surfaces including carpets, clothes, toilets and other household surfaces and fabrics. The oxygen-based product is an alternative to chlorine-based cleaners and is one of the more widely copied products in the Orange Glo lineup.

"Chlorine bleach is fine, but it can ruin clothes and damage fibers," noted Max Appel, who told Happi that S.C. Johnson, Clorox, Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser have all introduced similar products based on the original OxyClean concept.

The newest brand in the Orange Glo product line, Kaboom porcelain, tile & grout remover, is also touted for its chlorine-free cleaning power. The product is recommended for tile, grout, bathtubs, shower stalls, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and a variety of other hard surfaces. Unlike other hard surface cleaners, however, Kaboom is user-friendly, according to David Appel, the company's chairman.

"We noticed most products on the market made you run for cover or open a window when you used them," recalled David. "We created a mild, powerful product that works on limescale, rust and tarnish, yet you can touch it and breathe easily while you clean."

The mild, organic product is the fastest-growing brand in the Orange Glo line, according to company executives.

In the Beginning
The diverse lineup of products is a far cry from the company's humble beginnings less than 20 years ago. Still, creating fun products that work is at the core of the Orange Glo success story. Back in 1986, Max Appel was a consultant to environmental and medical organizations, but he was always attracted to "things that smell good," he told Happi. At the time, most furniture polishes were toluene-based and smelled awful he recalled. "I started playing with formulas and came up with a better furniture polish. After we had many reorders at home shows, we decided to go into business full-time."

That original product, Orange Glo Wood Cleaner & Polish, is still made with 100% cold-pressed Valencia orange oil-the key ingredient in the formula. "There's just something about Valencia oranges. They're the Tiffany of oranges," said David Appel. He agreed that other companies are trying to capture market share by introducing orange-smelling products, but he insisted that they use d-limonene-not the real thing.

According to David, Orange Glo consumers care about what's around their families. "They know what's in our products and they won't purchase products from the competition."

Kaboom is the newest innovation in cleaning from Orange Glo International.
Heavy Competition
Maybe so, but that hasn't kept companies such as S.C. Johnson and Clorox from trying to muscle their way into the orange-based cleaner market. Earlier this year, S.C. Johnson launched Pledge with Orange Oil, a product aimed at consumers who want to purchase environmentally-friendly cleaners. At the same time, Clorox has introduced Pine-Sol Orange Energy cleaner to the market.

But these entries aren't the only copycat moves being made by other household product companies. Similarly, the company's OxiClean multi-purpose stain remover has been copied by as many as 15 companies, according to Max Appel. "That's OK," he maintained. "Every time another company copies our products, it helps boost sales tremendously."

The Orange Glo team is ready and willing to take on all newcomers to the categories it created. Maybe that's because it's been a family affair from the inception. Max Appel's wife Elaine still plays a key role at Orange Glo. The couple has been joined by their children: David Appel, who is chairman; Joel Appel, president and chief executive officer; Linda Appel, president of Orange Glo Europe and Amy Appel, who oversees operations in the Southeastern U.S.

Despite these family ties, the company has come a long way from being a simple mom-and-pop operation. Today, Orange Glo International boasts 115 employees, up from 20 just five years ago. At the same time, the company's products are available in eight countries outside the UK, Germany, France, Japan and, most recently, China. International operations currently account for 15% of sales, but ultimately could represent 25-33% of revenue, according to David Appel.

Back in the U.S., Orange Glo recently formed a professional products division to satisfy growing demand from I&I customers. The Appels insist that many institutional cleaners were already purchasing Orange Glo products at retail and now they want to purchase the Orange Glo brands in institutional sizes. "We needed a better way of serving these customers," said Max Appel. "It's a big launch and big news for us."

Sales Continue to Surge
Another bit of big news is the way the company has managed to thrive in the face of tough competition. In fact, the Appels expect Orange Glo International's sales to reach $385 million this year, that's up from $247 million in 2001. Next year, company executives expect sales to hit $500 million. Such phenomenal growth is in sharp contrast to the sales results for most household cleaning product categories these days (see chart). Stagnation in the household cleaning market is due to big companies refusal to listen to the consumer's needs, according to the Orange Glo executives.

Orange Glo's relatively small size keeps the company focused. "We don't have a 6000 person marketing department that wants to rollout a Spring scent that nobody cares about," insisted David Appel. "We have to be more selective and listen to the consumer."

Neither Max nor David Appel were willing to disclose new product plans. However, the company recently formed a new product development department and expects to introduce several new products during the next few months.

"We've only just begun," assured David. "We have about a dozen new products in various stages of readiness. Some of them will knock your socks off."

But no matter what the company develops in the future, Orange Glo executives insist that the team will remain true to its core concept-developing powerful cleaners that are safe and fun to use.

"Fun hasn't been in the cleaning business for 15 years," said David Appel. We've brought back the fun and innovation to categories that were dead."