The Replenish Bottle and CleanPath Soaps & Household Cleaners (In collaboration with Walmart)
Innovation is often the juncture of future vision and past values. Such may be said of the Replenish bottle, the brain child of Jason Foster. Foster embarked on a mission to disrupt industries in a positive way wherever products can be delivered in concentrated form. His revolutionary bottle design reduces waste and emphasizes reusable packaging – an oxymoron in today’s throw-away society.
We recently covered his Replenish bottle. Foster’s idea marries a refill pod to a reusable bottle that has a built in measuring cup to make mixing concentrates easy. Both elements are plastic, but the re-usable portion is made of a durable, glass-like plastic that is intended to be used for years.
The Replenish bottle saves space on shelf, in the home and in the land-fill. It also saves untold shipping costs on tonnage by not shipping water. This potentially allows companies to invest in reusable packaging while also lowering the cost to deliver the product.
From inspiration to implementation took Jason Foster almost eight years. We caught up with him recently for an interview to see what he’s up to now and to ask him about the future of concentrates and packaging in general.
Q: Jason, are you alone in your quest to concentrate products – or are you getting some company?
A. First, let me say that I’m not first in the movement toward products where the consumer adds water. There was Crystal Light (Ed Note: Launched by Kraft Foods in 1982.) Today there are many new entries in the beverage category. MiO (Ed Note: Concentrated liquid flavor enhancer for water launched by Kraft Foods in 2011) is currently transforming the water category. SodaStream is also a rapidly growing player in this movement that lets the consumer make it the way they want it. It’s a new level of consumer control. Add just as much as you like of the flavors you like best, or mix your own combinations. I think we’re almost at a tipping point. There will be big changes in the next three to five years.
Q. Why do you believe that the move to concentrates will catch on in other categories?
A. It’ll catch on because of what I call the Quadruple Bottom Line:
• More revenue at shelf
• Reduced costs across the supply chain
• Sustainability benefits
• Lower cost to consumer
This is a powerful cocktail. The old guard will have trouble competing against that trend.
Q. Who will drive the move to concentrates?
A. It will be smaller, braver brands. It will be larger brands like Unilever where the CEO has given his people permission to be disruptive. It will be huge global brands like Walmart who understand the ROI of re-usable, sustainable packaging. It will be consumers. A three-ounce CleanPath refill can make 30 to 48 ounces of product. Consumers really care about doing away with waste and they’re happy about getting a better price. They also like that the refills take up so little space. The traditional refills on the market today are still all water, so you’re just pouring product from a large container into a smaller one. And all that the brands save are the cost of some lids or sprayers.
Q. What will impede adoption?
A. Not surprisingly, the status quo. The modus operandi for brands has always been to make packaging look as good as possible, as cheaply as possible. They’ll be happy that they’re only spending 10 cents on packaging and then they’ll spend $5 or $10 per customer on marketing. The true cost of cheap packaging is hidden. If they invested a small portion of that in higher quality, re-usable packaging, the follow-on sale is built in and the incremental ROI is astounding.
Q. What is the future of plastic?
A. Plastic is a great material but we have to be smarter about how we use it. You can only light-weight a bottle so much and we’ve come to the end of that road. Re-usable packaging is the way to use the right application in a far more sustainable way. Consumers think so, too. Brands communicate a mission, build trust, create differentiation, and then send all that work to the trash. Reuse is a better way.
Q. Please tell us more about your collaboration with Walmart.
A. Walmart immediately understood the implication of not having to ship all that water around the globe. The CleanPath brand of soaps and household cleaning products was a chance for Walmart to get the ball rolling and start learning.
Q. If partnering and collaboration is critical, what advice can you give to other companies about picking the right partner?
A. (Jason chuckles a bit) First they have to have the leadership and the wherewithal. That’s what we experienced with Walmart , Vi-Jon and Berry Plastics Corp, our development partners with CleanPath. Innovation is never a straight line and everyone needs to be on board with the art of successive refinement.
Q. So what does the future hold for Replenish?
A. Several brands in the food and beverage, household, beauty and personal sectors are evaluating the technology, which is exciting. We also want to continue to bring a sense of quality and durability back into how we design products that help move us away from being a throw-away society. Anyone who is inspired by that mission is someone we want to work with.
About Jason Foster:
It was over an ironing board when Jason, the Founder and Chief Reuser of Replenish, realized most of the household products we buy are 90% water. This meant our money was being wasted on water and plastic.
Today, Jason is on a mission to turn that old disposable model upside down with the Replenish Refill System, a reusable platform that saves money, time and eliminates waste by making it easy to add water at home to the products we love. By empowering consumers, Replenish wants to break the endless cycle of waste and usher in a new era of smarter, sustainable designed household products.
Prior to founding Replenish in 2009, Jason worked in equity research with Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and Morgan Stanley. Jason earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University in finance and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.