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Vetrazzo: A Story In Every Surface

Bill Roth | Thursday April 8th, 2010 | 1 Comment

“A kitchen countertop is a home’s social center. A home with our kitchen countertop made from recycled glass creates a forum for people to talk about and be educated about the benefits of going green,” explains James Sheppard, CEO and co-founder of Vetrazzo. Vetrazzo says their passion is recycling – something they see as their path to profitability, creating a positive environmental impact and accelerating consumer adoption of sustainability.

“Our manufacturing process is built around recycling, it is our daily focus, we strive to be zero waste,” John Sabol, VP of manufacturing explains with enthusiasm. “We recycle all our water in the manufacturing process. In fact, we use more water in our restrooms than we do in our manufacturing. We use very little electricity for lighting since we are located in a recycled Ford Motor assembly plant that is a model for use of natural lighting. And what electricity we do use we net-meter against our solar roof top system. We even take our waste cake, which is the discharge from our manufacturing process and recycle it to the construction industry which uses it for base rock in roads.”

The company’s recycling focus also goes into the actual material composition of their products. “For example,“ Sheppard explains, “we buy stop light lenses that a community would throw into a waste dump. We use this material to create some our most visually engaging countertops.” (You can see pictures of the lights and process in our earlier photo essay on Vetrazzo)

And Vetrazzo is a role-model company for buying locally. They buy 95% of their glass through a California Redemption Glass Program and by doing so they achieve a lower transportation emissions footprint. They are also supportive of “Slow Food”, using the yard outside the front of their manufacturing plant for a vegetable garden and giving the produce to their work associates and visiting customers.

Founders Sheppard and Jeff Gustafson are also astute business people with a sharp eye on sales and profitability. They have been as aggressive in driving costs out of their business to grow their price competitiveness as they are in pursuit of their environmental zero-waste goals. “We can’t compete on price with mass market imports of Chinese granite but in the $2.5 billion premium surface material market segment we are price competitive and the superior sustainable product,” Sheppard explains.

They have used the current construction industry’s economic depression to aggressively eliminate middlemen within their marketing channels that were adding costs but not value. “We have eliminated mid-supply channel resellers who were adding mark-up without advancing our product-line story with the customer,” Gustafson explains. “This re-engineering of our marketing channels combined with our continuous improvement focus upon eliminating waste in our manufacturing process has achieved a 27% price reduction in our product line over the last year.” Vetrazzo is one of the best examples of “Cost Less, Mean More” that I have found from working with actual businesses gaining competitive advantage by aligning value with values. Their example is a key lesson on the execution of a pricing strategy focused on price competition as a path for achieving green revenue growth.

Vetrazzo’s marketing approach is also a best practices example.

“The bottom line is that most people really are not that aware if a building is LEED certified,” Sheppard observes. “But, you can’t miss a Vetrazzo countertop with its rich colors and unique look. This is the opportunity our product creates. We enable visitor-awareness of a home’s or building’s sustainability efforts. Someone who sees our surfaces for the first time always starts asking questions and that creates an opportunity for the building or home owner to tell their story about what else in their building is green. That’s why we brand ourselves as a story in every surface.” This is a great lesson-learned in social marketing. While so much of social marketing’s focus is on new media technology the real opportunity is what Vetrazzo is realizing, to be able to generate “stories” that can be shared. Businesses in my network are using social marketing practices to engage their customers who are on a path of learning about, experimenting with and then acting upon what it means to be sustainable.

Procter’s & Gamble’s recent consumer research found that 75% of consumers will switch brands to conserve resources if the product costs are the same. My research on companies like Vetrazzo continues to document that businesses focused upon this emerging mega-marketing opportunity are achieving year over year sales growth even in this soft recovery economy. Companies like Vetrazzo are also the basis for my estimates of a $10 trillion global annual revenue economy in sustainable goods and services by 2017. Check out their truly stunning product line but more so, focus upon their best practices in pricing and marketing that are successfully connecting with consumers looking to align value with their values.

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017 and author of The Secret Green Sauce.


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  • Corinne

    The first time we heard about Vetrazzo, my husband and I were in love… beautiful colors, sustainable, local.. all that we could ask for. Two years ago, we picked our favorite and designed our $250+K remodel around the center island Vetrazzo countertop. (All the rest of the counters are caesarstone). After the first 6 months the little glass pieces started chipping out of the filler especially around the edges. Now the top is stained in two places and, on the Vetrazzo website, they say this just adds to the beauty…. wrong.. it just looks stained. The surface, in many places is rough where the filler is breaking down.

    Needless to say, we are not happy. Because of the recession, our installer is not in business. We went back to the manufacture and found the company has been sold and is now somewhere in Georgia. We contacted the sales rep on the west coast and got NO help. We contacted anyone that would talk to us … and got NO help. Mind you, we still believe in the product and want to make it work. We were looking for someone to come out and tell us what to do to fix it… It’s finally come down to nasty emails from the head of their sales force telling us it was our fault for not maintaining the surface properly. This is NOT the case, everything in our kitchen is BEAUTIFUL… Yes, we cook in our kitchen but nothing gets left on the surface that should harm it. Our caeserstone counters are unmarred and beautiful. Unless we can get some help, Vetrazzo countertop will have to be replaced. It’s definitely NOT sustainable!

    James Sheppard and Jeff Gustafson, where are you? I know you would never have let this happen when you were running the company.