When Tom Robinson was inspired to create a range of natural plant-based products back in the 1960s, hippies might have been the best he could have hoped for by way of customers. His inventive spark began in 1964 when he created an organic fertiliser. His creations quickly expanded to include a range of plant and mineral based home products, therapeutics, garden care and pet care, all born under the name Earthwise Group.
But while Earthwise Group was born in 1960s New Zealand, its plant-based, environmentally-friendly Earthwise Home range—spanning laundry, kitchen, bathroom and living products—was previously only sold through mailorder, health and organic specialty stores, and word of mouth. Now, thanks to a recent boost in investment, coupled with some brand makeover magic courtesy of Auckland-based brand strategy company BRR, the range has recently embarked on making itself firmly at home on supermarket shelves.
BRR director Julian Smith says the history and local origins of Earthwise made for a good strategic fit with BRR, which prides itself on brand story telling.
“The story of Tom Robinson was really something we wanted to bring into the forefront.”
Robinson, now 78, is still involved in the business, along with his two sons Jeremy and Kayol.
The addition of Earthwise into an eco category, already strongly represented by the likes of ecostore and Greenworks, required BRR to approach the brand from a different angle—an angle that would make for mass-market appeal.
“We said why don’t we do it differently? Why don’t we position the brand as eco for the masses and really connect with the everyday consumer?”
He describes some of the existing brands in the eco category as coming across as “a little bit too esoteric with their ‘all natural’ or 'plant-based' formulas”.
BRR aims to make the Earthwise Home range design accessible, not “too scientific and too clever”.
“What we’ve arrived at is very differentiated in terms of its look and feel," he says. “We hope it really conveys that idea of authenticity.”
But as well as appealing to the eyes, Smith says appealing to the pocket is also critical when seeking mass-market adoption.
He says BRR carried out research and found two major stumbling blocks when it comes to consumer perceptions of the environment category. First, people think they’re going to compromise on quality and secondly, they think eco products are overpriced for what they’re getting.
“So we targeted those two head-on”.
Having now reached supermarkets, Earthwise is aiming to make effective, eco options more accessible to everyday New Zealanders.
Below are some old versus new Earthwise Home Range products (new on right)