THE EARTHWISE JOURNEY

June 21, 2015

There’s a lot of history behind the Earthwise brand. Our environmentally-sensitive products were formulated way before ‘green’ became popular. We helped to turn sustainable cleaning and laundry products from expensive niche items to affordable choices for the family shopper. Our unlikely story starts in a Waikato shed… and our story was profiled recently in the Element Magazine.

In the 1960’s, from his orchard in the Waikato, Tom Robinson set up a fledgling business creating both natural and chemical-based fertilisers. By diversifying into farm and household cleaners, laundry, and personal care products, he soon built up enough custom to focus entirely on natural ingredients, offering an alternative to the mass-produced chemical products flooding the market.

With his two young sons alongside him after school and on weekends: Tom hand-blended orders for customers who either couldn’t or wouldn’t use petrochemical-based products on their skin and clothing.

“I remember staying up all night trying to make up one-off blends, thinking ‘Why are we doing this, I could be out fishing!’” laughed Jeremy Robinson, supervisor at the Earthwise factory in St Johns, Auckland. “Dad would just say, ‘It’s what we do’ and that would be that.” Tom’s philosophy was strongly-held: You don’t let your customers down.

From the very early days, the driving force behind the business was to provide natural environmentally-sensitive products to anyone who wanted them. And in order to do that, pricing had to be within reach of the average household shopper.

When Jamie Peters, ex-Nice and Natural marketing manager, bought into the business in 2010, he took a small range of Earthwise products dressed in a fresh ‘look and feel’ to the supermarkets.

Skip forwards to 2013 and Earthwise had become the first Kiwi manufacturing business to take out the top spot in the Deloitte’s Fast 50 – achieving more than 1000% growth over the previous three years. As a side-benefit, the brand’s success also helped to double supermarket sales of ‘green’ laundry products.

“We championed affordability for the family shopper at a time when environmentally-friendly products were almost universally seen as being expensive, niche products,” said Jamie Peters. “The Fast 50 award was confirmation that the principles of sustainability, affordability and quality that we were working so hard for, struck a chord with consumers.  It was a good moment.”

The majority of Earthwise laundry liquids and powders carry the Environmental Choice logo, showing the products have been independently tested and found to be ‘environmentally preferable’.  Earthwise also works very closely with the Asthma Foundation and you’ll find the Sensitive Choice blue butterfly logo on a wide range of their products.

The Earthwise team has now grown from the original three to thirty and they still hand-blend products – just on a slightly larger scale these days. With the business selling more of its range into Australian supermarkets and turning its focus onto the Asia Pacific region, you could say that Tom Robinson’s legacy is alive and strong. Jeremy puts it quite simply: “Dad would be very proud if he could see the business now.”

Read the full story on NZ Herald’s website here.

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