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Top 5 Business Insights from LOHAS Forum

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday July 2nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

LOHAS crowd. Photo: LOHAS

Last week’s LOHAS Forum generated lots of buzz here at Triple Pundit. As I combed through my copious notes from the two days of meetings, I came up with these five top insights that I brought back to San Francisco with me.

1: Time-tested, stalwart sustainable companies are growing strong. As I wrote earlier this week, the 40-year-old magazine Mother Earths News is growing strong amid a sea of magazines that follow in its do-it-yourself, self-sufficiency footsteps. Another example is cleaning products company Ecover, whose international communications manager, Effie Vandevoorde, told attendees at session called “Maintaining Values in Iconic Brands” that Ecover has evolved its messaging over the years to position itself as a mainstream brand. “Ecover went from being a green company that makes makes cleaning products to one that makes cleaning products and happens to be a green company,” she said.

2: Green companies can grow large without growing lame. Ellen Feeney from White Wave Foods–makers of Silk soy milk, Horizon milk and many other dairy products and a subsidiary of Dean Foods, spoke about the culture of sustainability that spans across not only White Wave’s brands but into Dean Food’s operations, as well. Susan Cote from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters talked about her company’s efforts to stay true to its sustainable roots as it completed a number of acquisitions of other brands–including Tully’s–in recent years.

3: Mainstream companies want to break into the LOHAS community. This point was driven home during some of the keynote addresses at the conference but it was also apparent during a session called “Rewriting the Rules of Customer Engagement,” where Elizabeth Charles, CMO of the pet supply chain PETCO talked about its major drive to market organic dog food.

4: The P in CPG is really important. Aside from the tale of two plastic bottles at LOHAS, I also heard about efforts that consumer packaged goods companies are making to chip away at the mountain of waste and cost associated with packaging. Ecover is getting so serious about lightening the bottles of cleaning products that even the labels are getting an overhaul. Every ounce counts, since 60 percent of the company’s energy footprint is traced back to its bottles, according to Vandevoorde. And Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is trying to figure out a way to remedy the rather unsustainable nature of the unrecyclable plastic liners used in the single-serving coffee doses it sells.

5: Small brands are pushing big brands–and sometimes keeping them at arm’s length. During a session called “Leading Edge LOHAS Entrepreneurs,” Joshua Onysko, founder of personal care product company Pangea Organics, described his ethos of building and maintaining his independent company with no plans on selling into a larger company.  ”The fringe leads the future,” he said, so instead of  joining ranks with the behemoths of his industry, he”s trying to “chew away” at the biggies (like Clorax, etc.).  ”They follow the dollar and the only way to change a market is to start taking dollars away [from those firms],” he added.


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