According to Grove Collaborative, the EPA Safer Choice certification strengthens its status as a leading national retailer and innovator in the natural consumer products industry. In 2019, Grove Collaborative became an EPA partner and certified all of its Core Gel Hand Soaps and Foaming Hand Soaps according to EPA Safer Choice standards. As part of this effort, Grove Collaborative created a full-time consumer scientist role to oversee the Safer Choice certification process. Since becoming a partner in 2019, Grove has expanded its EPA Safer Choice Certified product offerings, which currently include:
• Gel Hand Soap (Free & Clear; Lavender & Thyme; Lemon Eucalyptus & Mint),
• Foaming Hand Soap Concentrate (Free & Clear; Lavender & Thyme; Lemon Eucalyptus & Mint),
• Kids Foaming Hand Soap Concentrate (Pineapple),
• Ultra-Concentrated Liquid Laundry (Free & Clear; Lavender & Rosemary; Citrus & Woods),
• Care & Renew Liquid Laundry (Lavender & Rosemary),
• Pure Power Liquid Laundry (Lavender & Rosemary),
• Cold Wash Liquid Laundry (Lavender & Rosemary) and
• Dishwasher Detergent Packs (Free & Clear; Lemon Eucalyptus & Mint).
All of the EPA Safer Choice certified products are available for purchase here.
Company Co-Founder and CEO Stuart Landesberg details the company's start, how business is going and where his company is headed.
How did you get started?
Landesberg: I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and began building the company that became Grove in 2012 (first under the ePantry name), when I saw how far too few families really had access to healthy, sustainable home products through traditional retail channels. Grove was established in 2016 and is a certified B Corp that now serves hundreds of thousands of households in the U.S. every month. Before Grove, I worked at TPG Growth and was involved in more than $400 million in consumer and technology investments. I currently live in San Francisco with my wife and our two children and dog, and spend as much time outside as possible!
From early on, I wanted to start a business that would change the world. In 2012, when the idea for Grove was beginning to percolate in my head, in some categories, natural products had just reached price and performance parity with conventional brands. This had not been the case prior and ultimately led consumers to stray from natural products in favor of major brand names that were more effective, but potentially harmful to people and the environment. I realized that these conventional brands had become complacent when it came to product development and their business models because natural products had not previously been up to par in terms of efficacy, and I saw an opportunity to capitalize on the now-even playing field to create a business that would change the world. Along with my co-founders, we decided to found Grove using a direct-to-consumer model that focused on education and connections with customers to enlighten them to the fact that natural products were now up to par with conventional brands and make it easy to purchase these products.
What were the first products you developed and why?
Landesberg: We launched our first formulated product in 2015, hand sanitizer. At the time, we were a very small team and early product development stemmed from gaps we identified in the natural products space. We thought about our community and in particular, the moms who wanted to keep their hands and their kids’ hands clean whether at home or on-the-go. We realized that most hand sanitizers on the market were harsh, contained harmful chemicals and had a strong alcohol smell. We sought to make a formula with cleaner ingredients, a lovely natural scent and the added bonus of hydration from coconut oil. It’s been a top seller since launch but particularly with covid-19, our community loves our hand sanitizer now more than ever.
Another notable formulated product launch was in 2017 when we introduced cleaning concentrates. From the start, we knew that we wanted to develop more sustainable solutions for our customers without compromising efficacy. When we began to consider surface cleaning, we all balked at the fact that so many cleaners on the market contained 90%+ water. We decided to eliminate excess water and plastic packaging in favor of a sustainable, high-performing and elegant solution. We developed 1oz Multi-Purpose, Glass, Tub & Tile — and eventually Floor and Daily Shower — Cleaning Concentrates to pair with 16oz, reusable glass bottles. You simply dispense the concentrate into the bottle, add water, replace the nozzle, shake and then use. This cleaning system has been hugely impactful in reducing plastic waste and we’re proud to be launching a new iteration using 1oz glass bottles as part of our Beyond Plastic initiative.
What formulas have been most difficult to create?
Landesberg: We have extraordinarily high standards in terms of natural ingredients and efficacy. What we’ve found is that when you’re trying to achieve a product that performs on par with leading conventional brands and exceeds natural counterparts, while working with high bio-based formulas and natural fragrance, so many challenges can arise. We’re always up to meet them but it’s tough to single out one in particular given the complexity of natural product development. Our Ultra-Concentrated Laundry, however, stands out. We worked diligently for months trying to figure out how to achieve exceptional performance in such a small dose without compromising our ingredient standards. The team tested endless formula variations and when we finally did get to a good spot and sent our formula to a third party lab for performance testing, we were blown away. The struggle (and many, many wash cycles) was worth it!
Are any ingredients unacceptable to you?
Landesberg: Yes, we have an anti-ingredient list, which is publicly disclosed within our ingredient standards on our website. The list was created based on the chemical class or functional groups we do not allow in our formulations due to evidence-based research on their toxicity to either humans or the environment. We also follow the ingredient restrictions laid out by EPA Safer Choice Criteria.
What type of ingredients do you prefer to work with?
Landesberg: When formulating products, we use high bio-based plant-derived ingredients whenever possible. We only use natural fragrances, which include essential oils and other plant-derived ingredients. Through the USDA BioPreferred program, we have our Grove cleaning products tested via an independent lab to verify biobased content. Logos on packaging help to educate and celebrate this with our Grove community.
What categories will Grove enter next?
Landesberg: Grove has several product and brand launches slated for 2020 and early 2021, including expanding its personal care and beauty offerings as well as a number of high profile partnerships.
What does the EPA Safer Choice Award mean to you and your company?
Landesberg: Grove Collaborative was founded with the intent to provide safe, efficacious and fully transparent products directly to households. From ingredients to supply chain to packaging, we put the health of families and the planet first. Ingredient transparency is a guiding standard, which is why when we craft home essential products, we lead with organic and plant-derived ingredients whenever available, and avoid synthetic fragrances and harmful ingredients. Having the Safer Choice label on our Gel Hand and Foaming Hand soap packaging has reassured Grove customers that they can trust and love the products we create, especially knowing the products are safe for their homes, families and the environment.
Where are Grove Collaborative products available?
Landesberg: Grove Collaborative products are available exclusively at www.grove.co. Grove has always been a digitally-native, direct to consumer retailer, which allows us to develop products with the customer top of mind, not the retail shelf. No plans as of now, but that’s not to say it’s out of the question in the future.
Do you make your own products?
Landesberg: We do not manufacture our own products and carefully choose partners that deliver the highest standard for both ingredients and packaging.
How has the company grown since its founding?
Landesberg: Grove has consistently grown over the past three years, largely due to the support of a large and engaged user community. From May 2017 to May 2019, Grove Collaborative grew more than 8X.
In 2020, Grove’s growth is being amplified by sitting on the forefront of two trends, which include consumers shifting towards natural products, and retail sales moving online from offline. eCommerce penetration has grown from 16% of retail spending in the US in 1Q19 to over 40% in May driven by year over year growth of nearly 70% according to some reports (Source: Goldman Sachs: Global Internet eCommerce’s steepening curve: Raising global forecasts & identifying new winners). Also, based on IRI data from April 2020, compared to the same period last year, the general market for cleaning products has grown 57 percent. We’re seeing 50% of Grove customers trying natural products in our categories for the first time and also an increase in the # of SKUs customers are buying (25% more than prior).
Landesberg: The long-term trends in the consumer products industry are clear, and manifest destiny is that plant based natural formulations and low (or zero) waste business models are where the industry is going. Right now, we’re 100% plastic neutral, and by 2025, we will be 100% plastic-free. We plan to evolve the products we have to where all our business models are like our Seedling tree-free paper line that not only creates less waste, but also rebuilds ecosystems traditionally impacted by this category.