Interview: Subscription Essentials Service On Enabling Consumers To Shop Their Values
Grove Collaborative CEO explains how he identified an unmet consumer need for an easy way to shop sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly products, and how the company is meeting it with a personalized, subscription-based service
Consumers are increasingly looking for natural or unbranded alternatives to the home and personal care products they have long found on the shelves at grocery and big box stores. There's been no shortage of new retailers that have arisen to meet this new demand, among them the new Grove Collaborative, a certified B Corp out to help consumers make the switch to more natural and sustainable home essentials.
PSFK spoke to Grove Collaborative co-founder and CEO, Stuart Landesberg, about how he aims to solve for modern consumer needs by combining the convenience of online shopping with the thoughtfulness and care of a personal shopper.
PSFK: What led you to start Grove Collaborative? What gaps were you seeing in the market?
Stuart Landesberg: In 2016, we launched Grove around the idea that if you could make it simple for people to shop their values, you could build a substantial business with a positive impact.
I’ve long been passionate about sustainability. It stems from childhood and environmentally-focused parents. I spent time as an investor at TPG Growth, where I was involved with dozens of consumer and technology companies, and saw first hand how the brick-and-mortar ecosystem does not serve consumers well. The products you see on shelves are often optimized for shelf space and profit, not consumer preference or health. Because the products are built for traditional retail, this huge category is only 4% penetrated through ecommerce.
What is exciting in the CPG industry, though, is that we can change not only how consumers buy products (online vs. offline), but also what they buy. We are helping families find affordable natural products, many of which are built specifically for a direct-to-consumer experience.
Can you explain the experience of using Grove Collaborative, from the customer's POV?
Grove Collaborative helps shoppers find the best healthy home and personal care products from a curated selection of Grove-made items and other exceptional natural brands. Every item Grove offers has been thoroughly vetted against strict standards for sustainability, efficacy and supply chain practices.
Every item is backed by our 100% happiness guarantee. We deliver directly to customers' doorswith a flexible recurring purchase model. Each customer gets access to our “Grove Guides”—personal shoppers available to address any/all questions consumers have about making the switch to a healthier, more sustainable routine.
What does your company add to the customer experience of shopping for personal care products? What problems does it solve for?
Over two thirds of consumers want to use natural products, but natural brands have less than 2% market share in many categories. Grove makes it simple and affordable to make the switch from the products your parents used to ones that are healthier for you and your family. Because we have this important consumer relationship, we introduce consumers to new product innovations like Grove’s super-concentrated laundry detergent with a refillable glass dispenser, or Seedling, tree-free paper products.
How do you envision the future of grocery/CPG shopping?
As consumers come online, they learn more about the products that they buy every day. They are getting smarter about the impact on their families’ health, on plastic-waste, on sustainability in general. That increased awareness is a ripe opportunity for innovation, for new business models that not only break the existing paradigm, but also serve a more thoughtful customer.
As that happens, there is opportunity for more progress in form factors created specifically for direct-to-consumer delivery, like concentrates and high-quality durable vessels with refills, that are great for the consumer and have a lighter environmental footprint.
Do you believe that as more grocery moves online, the category will divide into smaller, niche subscription brands like yours?
The online world makes it possible to have strong relationships with brands across categories. Successful business models will vary by category. Our recurring shipment model is flexible from on-demand (non-subscription) to scheduled monthly deliveries built for the way consumers use products in our category. One of the big advantages in being category-focused is the ability to define an awesome customer experience in a highly specific way.
And as this happens, consumers will be empowered to shop their values— especially with the big trends towards healthier products and a reduction in waste. If the big CPG incumbents across categories cannot address the demand of this more proactive consumer, small brands like Grove will continue to thrive.
What do the next five years hold for Grove Collaborative and its growth?
We’ve been lucky to have a good run, growing 10x over in the last two years, and we hope that will continue. We now have Grove facilities in six states and are continuing to bring in amazing people to help us continue to grow.
Grove plays in huge, multi-billion dollar categories that impact almost every household. We see our market as large enough to grow for many years, helping families continue to switch to healthier products.
As we do that, we will push the boundaries of innovation further in what we can bring to market through our community that is better for the consumer and better for the environment. We have over 100 Grove-made SKUs today, and that number will increase over time, as we double-down on driving big change in product forms that deliver efficacy with sustainable, plant-based ingredients.
We have great partnerships with leaders in our space like Seventh Generation, method, Mrs. Meyers and we will also continue to grow with like-minded brands to drive positive change in the category.