September 15, 2015 - Issue: Vol. 161, No. 132 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 1st Session
RECOGNIZING VERMONT'S SEVENTH GENERATION; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 132
(Senate - September 15, 2015)
Text available as:
Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.
[Pages S6644-S6646] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] RECOGNIZING VERMONT'S SEVENTH GENERATION Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to call the Senate's attention today to yet another outstanding Vermont business: Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation unveiled its line of environmentally friendly consumer household products more than 25 years ago. Today it has expanded to become one of the dominant businesses in this continuously emerging market. I have visited Seventh Generation many times, and I am consistently impressed with how the company continues to find new ways of expanding its business and offering Americans affordable and more sustainable alternatives to standard household products. [[Page S6645]] Since 2011, Seventh Generation has seen its business grow year after year and has unveiled some 100 new products in the last 4 years alone. President and CEO John Replogle has reinvigorated the company, further defining its purpose and leadership in the competitive marketplace. Seventh Generation has long been a company that fosters the business principles and ideals that so many Vermonters value: to make products locally, to keep it sustainable, to leave no footprint, and make products accessible. From its Burlington offices that overlook the shores of Lake Champlain to the shelves of the retail giants now promoting its products, Seventh Generation is yet another Vermont company leading the way in corporate responsibility. I ask unanimous consent that the August 27, 2015, article from the Burlington Free Press entitled ``Seventh Generation: `Bursting at the seams' '' be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: [From the Burlington Free Press, Aug. 27, 2015] Seventh Generation: `Bursting at the Seams' (By Dan D'Ambrosio) Seventh Generation in Burlington has been on a tear since John Replogle took over as president and CEO in 2011. Sales are up more than 60 percent, from about $150 million when Replogle arrived to about $250 million projected for this year. Annual growth is in the ``low double digits,'' says Replogle. That's a lot of toilet tissue made from recycled paper and natural, cold-water laundry detergent, not to mention the dozens of other products in Seventh Generation's expanded line of ``green'' disinfectants, dishwashing and hand soaps, surface cleaners, diapers and baby wipes and feminine hygiene products. Seventh Generation has added about 100 new products under Replogle. The company today dominates the market for natural cleaning products, according to Replogle, who says the other leaders in the industry are Method and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day. ``Adding our sales together we have a half-billion dollar business,'' said Replogle. ``I would love to see the three brands grow to a billion dollars over the next few years.'' In typical Reploglian fashion, Replogle declines to criticize his two closest competitors in any way, going so far as to refer to them as ``frenemies.'' And he points out that the three brands together have less than a 5 percent share in any category they sell in, leaving a long way to go before they begin to threaten the Procter & Gambles of the world. ``What they're trying to do is very much in the spirit of what we're trying to do,'' Replogle said. ``Use fewer ingredients, be less toxic, be more sustainable in manufacturing and packaging. So there's a lot of commonality among our brands.'' `A really smart dude' Replogle, 49, is the former president of Guinness in the United States and United Kingdom. From there he went to Unilever, where he ran the North American skin care business, with brands including Dove, Ponds, Caress and Lever 2000. Next, in 2006, Replogle took the helm at Burt's Bees, bringing the quirky natural skin care company to the masses. ``We launched at Target, CVS and Walgreen's,'' Replogle said. ``We built a national brand. I put great people on the team, and gave them a lot of freedom. We set up core values and principles to run the company and we invested behind it, and it took off.'' Which is a pretty good description of what Replogle has done at Seventh Generation. Alan Newman, founder of Magic Hat Brewing Co., launched the original Seventh Generation catalog business more than 25 years ago. Newman has been watching Replogle from his latest perch in the Maltex Building on Pine Street, where Newman is running a new craft beer company for The Boston Beer Co., a.k.a. Samuel Adams. Newman likes what he sees on the waterfront, where Seventh Generation is headquartered at Main Street Landing. ``John's a really smart dude who knows how to bring focus to an organization, who knows how to re-enthuse the mission,'' Newman said. ``From what I can tell from the outside, he's a really good delegator and manager.'' In Newman's estimation, Seventh Generation had largely lost sight of its mission four years ago when Replogle took over. ``I did not pay a lot of attention to Seventh Generation, but whenever I did they were scattered all over the place,'' Newman said. ``They didn't seem to have any mission left.'' Sales were also flat, Replogle said. ``I just knew this company stood for something greater and that it needed leadership,'' Replogle said. ``The company was at a crossroads. We were very nearly at the end of our rope frankly.'' Replogle began drawing that rope in by putting a laser focus on what Seventh Generation stands for--natural, sustainable, environmentally sensitive cleaning products, the only segment of the retail category showing significant growth. ``We're really in tune with the consumer today,'' Replogle said. ``The millennial consumer in particular, people trying to avoid chemicals, who are more conscious about not only what's in their product but also the practices of the company itself. More and more young consumers are understanding the company behind their product matters. We're winning with those consumers.'' A pioneer brand As an example of a best manufacturing practice at Seventh Generation, Replogle points to the fact that the company contracts all of its manufacturing to about 22 factories across the nation. ``You will always have the most sustainable footprint on a dispersed model,'' Replogle said. ``If we can manufacture closer to the market, we'll do a lot better. A lot of companies have one large-scale manufacturing site. Then you have to ship everything in and ship the products out.'' Second, Replogle said, Seventh Generation continues to innovate. ``We've upgraded every product in our portfolio in the last four years,'' he said. ``Every product has been improved in some material way. We never stop and we're innovating into new spaces. Plus, we've taken our brand from a few categories into several categories. We're not only in dish soap and laundry detergent, we're in hand wash, diapers and wipes and feminine care. We've gone across all the categories.'' Target has taken notice. Spokeswoman Erica Julkowski said Seventh Generation is one of a ``handful of vendors'' the giant retailer works with closely to ``ideate and develop products.'' ``Seventh Generation is a pioneer brand in natural cleaning and has been a valued partner to Target by providing ongoing innovation and thought leadership,'' Julkowski said in an email. ``Through Seventh Generation's deep understanding of the naturals cleaning industry, they continue to provide expert knowledge on the market and insight into up-and-coming products that might resonate with the Target guest.'' In Seventh Generation's soothing offices overlooking Lake Champlain--all earth tones and wood paneling with an open center staircase festooned with greenery and the company's principles emblazoned on dangling wooden signs--John Fitzgerald is working on a shelf layout for Target. The products are dish soaps and detergents. In the computer generated ``plan-o-gram'' on his big screen, Fitzgerald proposes a display layout of not only Seventh Generation's products, but also of Method's and Mrs. Meyer's offerings, as well as giants like Cascade and Finish. Finally, Fitzgerald proposes shelf positions for Target's own house brands, all based on data collected by a third party. ``Our goal is to be objective, to share the facts and give them a recommendation,'' Replogle said. ``Our goal isn't to convince them our way is the right way.'' Nevertheless, working so closely with Target is a pretty good relationship builder, Replogle adds. Born here, staying here Seventh Generation is bursting at the seams at Main Street Landing, with most of its approximately 140 employees working in Burlington. Replogle plans on adding another 15 employees to the staff by the end of the year. ``We have maximized our space in here,'' he said. ``Growth is a wonderful thing, but right now we're fully utilized in this building.'' That doesn't mean, however, that Seventh Generation is going anywhere. ``Burlington is our long-term home,'' Replogle said. ``We were born here, we're growing up here and will will remain here. No question. We're committed to that.'' Seventh Generation has a small office in Toronto, and a satellite office in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Replogle lived as CEO of Burt's Bees, and where his family still lives. When he was recruited to run Seventh Generation, Replogle and his wife decided against uprooting their four children, so he has been commuting, returning to his home in Raleigh every other week. A native of Boston and a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard, Replogle feels he has the best of both worlds, maintaining his life in Raleigh and returning to New England for more than a visit. Replogle said it's going to feel even better when his daughter starts at Dartmouth as a freshman this fall. ``She'll be right down the road as well,'' he said. Replogle expects to open an office in California soon, and earlier this year he launched the business in China with an office in Hangzhou. ``There's demand for our products over there,'' Replogle said. ``We're in Japan, Hong Kong, of course mainland China. We're in Korea, Vietnam, Australia. That's been growing over the last five years.'' Replogle said Seventh Generation will also be in Europe within three years. ``How we get there we're still working on right now,'' he said. ``Whether it's a direct model where we create Seventh Generation Europe or whether we partner into that market we haven't determined yet.'' The latest venture Seventh Generation's office in Raleigh is home to the company's venture arm, with nine employees who look for new business opportunities beyond natural cleaning products. ``We created Seventh Generation Ventures about three years ago with the idea of [[Page S6646]] partnering with like-minded companies and helping them accelerate their growth,'' Replogle said. The acquisitions began with Bobble, a filtered water bottle company Seventh Generation bought in 2013. The plastic water bottle features a replaceable charcoal filter, and sells for $10, with a new filter that costs about $3. It's marketed as a way to reduce disposable water bottle use. Next, Seventh Generation Ventures picked up Presse, a travel coffee mug with built-in French press, which is being marketed under the Bobble name. Call it a K-Cup killer. ``This is our answer to Keurig,'' said Replogle, holding a stainless steel Presse in his hand. ``We looked for mission- aligned companies like this that are trying to solve a problem like, end the incredible waste of single-serve water bottles or, end the incredible waste of K-Cups.'' Seventh Generation Ventures was boosted considerably by a $30 million investment last September from former Vice President Al Gore's investment fund, the London-based Generation Investment Management LLP. Seventh Generation returned to private ownership about 15 years ago after a brief flirtation with being a publicly owned company. The company's nine board members own about 70 percent of the company, Replogle said, with new shareholders periodically invited in, and existing shareholders offered an exit. The $30 million from Gore's foundation was mostly used to retire existing shareholders who wanted to exit. ``There's a long list of investors and companies that would love to put their money into Seventh Generation,'' Replogle said. ``We're pretty fortunate. We have a good thing happening right now.'' Seventh Generation is also debt-free. ``John has re-energized the business,'' Alan Newman said. ``He has them on clear objectives. He's done the things that you do to be successful in business.'' ____________________