The company's odor-removing Laundry Enhancer shows how it is aligning the customer with operations.
A powerful technology can have many applications.
That’s true of the innovation at the heart of EnviroKlenz. In the late 1990s, the company’s team began developing a process that employed high surface area Earth minerals to break down toxic chemicals that might be encountered by a warfighter or first responder.
As they proved the technology’s effectiveness, leaders found that there was potential to bring this technology home, as well.
“If you’re able to attack and break down some of the most dangerous and deadly things that first responders or military folks might encounter, you can bring that to the consumer market in different applications, as well,” Kyle Knappenberger, director of application support and quality assurance at EnviroKlenz, told The Current in a recent interview.
Now, EnviroKlenz is helping to extend the life of clothing. The company recently launched a new Laundry Enhancer that is designed to eliminate odors created by mildew, pets, smoke and more. The fragrance-free, hypoallergenic liquid can be used alongside laundry detergent, providing a boost that is designed to break down the odors at the chemical level. Available through Amazon and direct channels, the product offers a snapshot of how EnviroKlenz is factoring where commerce is heading into its own processes.
As leaders listened to consumers, EnviroKlenz had long identified laundry as an area where its technology could enter the mix. For the company, addressing odors on clothing brought its product into every day use. It could also be incorporated into household chores. As it turned out, the washer proved to be an effective venue for the technology to do its work.
“The best way to attack odors and chemicals on clothing was to do it in the wash,” Knappenberger said. “You have a mechanism of dispersal – being the water – you have the agitation and you have the ability to put the two into contact with each other.”
While the product could help to treat odors on clothes that are particularly tough to get out, the market went beyond the weekly load of laundry.
Getting odors out can also have a role in the growing resale market, as online platforms like thredUP and Poshmark gain more attention. The clothes that are sold through these channels are often heavily washed or fragranced. By removing odors, it can help to restore the item to a like-new state. In turn, this also extends the life of the garment for its new owner.
The secondhand market is likely to be in need of new solutions as it scales. After growth with the uptick of ecommerce adoption in the pandemic, it is projected to double by 2026, reaching $82 billion, according to a report from thredUP and retail analytics firm GlobalData. Within this segment, the secondhand apparel market is expected to grow three times as fast. This accounts not only for consumer preferences that tend toward seeking deals and reawakening the styles of generations past, but also the environmental imperative that many see to build sustainability into the systems at the heart of everyday life.
EnviroKlenz goes to the wash. (Image via EnviroKlenz)
The consumer’s eco-minded orientation fits with the approach of EnviroKlenz, which is working to reduce waste through its goods on multiple levels. On the product level, extending the life of the garment itself can help to keep clothing from heading to a landfill, and reduce the demand for new products that in turn takes carbon-causing emissions to create.
It’s not just about how the product is used by customers. The company also considered sustainability in its own operations. The Laundry Enhancer comes in a bag and-box package. The box is made with corrugated cardboard, which is biodegradable, while the bag can be easily removed. It’s all designed to promote recycling.
For EnviroKlenz, putting all of this together required a change. For other laundry products, it previously used plastic bottles. The bag and box uses 70% less plastic on a load-for-load basis. The packaging also brings efficiency in the supply chain. Shipping 4,000 units previously required 20 pallets. Now, it only requires two pallets to ship both the bags and boxes.
The company set out to center sustainability in its product and operations. The result is packaging that EnviroKlenz said produces 86% less plastic waste than the typical laundry bottle.
“As a manufacturer of this product, we thought, how can we help? Let’s use packaging that uses a lot less plastic, and packaging that is going to be much more compact and easily shippable,” Knappenberger said. “Those are things that are being driven by customers, and trying to do the right thing for the environment.”
At a time when many of a consumer goods company’s processes can be outsourced, the sustainability-minded packaging shows a more direct approach. It is one of a number of ways that EnviroKlenz has control over its own operations at all levels. The company does its own R&D. It makes the key ingredients in its facilities, underscoring the fact that they are made in the USA. It does the testing and evaluation of its products, including sending them to industry leaders and influencers to ensure quality.
“Planning and making sure you talk to the right people in the right industries is important,” Knappenberger said.
Then, it packages the products, and gets them out to the right channels. Through facilities such as the production and fulfillment center where Knappenberger spoke to us from in Topeka, Kansas, it also has a sizable measure of control over the processes that move the products to customers. While it does work with some outside vendors, the overall goal is to be close to the processes, which helps the company move faster.
A shift in mindset before the pandemic’s supply chain chaos brought this about. Now it is being put into practice.
“We wanted to control as much of the process as we could so that we could deliver our products and grow the business the way that we wanted to,” Knappenberger said.
With the launch of the new Laundry Enhancer, there are opportunities for the product to go viral, and the peak holiday shopping season could bring additional interest. These all require a supply chain that is ready to respond quickly. With a focus on listening to customers and many capabilities to respond to them in-house, EnviroKlenz is ready.