CPG Playbook   //   May 28, 2024

Refillable cleaning wipes brand Biom launches in Target in push against plastic

A new refillable cleaning wipes brand landed in Target last week, part of the retailer’s push to bring in more sustainable brands that are seeing growth among U.S. shoppers.

Biom makes a reusable cleaning wipe dispenser that comes in chic neutral colors without any labeling. And the cleaning wipes themselves, available in refill packages for about $7 each, are marketed as a better-for-you alternative to other leading cleaning products; the plant-based wipes are biodegradable and made without any polyester or polypropylene that may be found in other brands.

Co-founder Will Gahagan told Modern Retail that part of the reason Biom is able to pitch itself as a differentiator is because the product can be left on a countertop within easy reach without looking like clutter.

“We went into this thinking that it was going to be a competitor to other cleaning wipe brands,” he said. “I think we’ve almost learned more that this product is creating new behaviors because it’s left in the places where it might be super convenient for something that you’re doing regularly, like wiping up where your kid eats.”

Since its 2021 launch, the venture-backed Biom is seeing sales growth. The company has raised $4.5 million to date. And sales revenue went up by 149% from 2022 to 2023, with about 70% of business coming in through direct-to-consumer channels, and the rest retail stores and marketplaces, like Grove Collaborative.

Getting into Target is a sign of not only Biom’s growth, but the growing appetite among retailers to offer CPG products that look to remove plastic packaging or materiality. Target also recently started carrying Reel Paper’s bamboo paper towels. Over at Walmart, the big box giant has its own line of compostable cutlery,

Biom will launch in about 600 physical retail stores and be available online. It’s part of both Target Zero and Target Clean, the labeling system that the big-box retailer uses to help delineate products to customers. The Target Zero label, launched in 2022, designates products and packaging that are meant to be refillable or reusable. Target Clean, launched in 2019, is a sign that products are formatted without certain chemicals such as phthalates and PFAS.

A media representative for Target declined to share with Modern Retail how these programs have grown or many products have been added this year. But the company’s annual sustainability report said it has set a goal of reducing the amount of virgin plastic used in packaging for food, essentials and beauty items by 20% compared to 2020 levels. But the latest data show it’s going in the other direction; Target says it measured 41,900 metric tons of virgin plastic used in packaging in 2022, an 8% increased compared to 2020.

“One of the ways we are working to make progress against our plastic packaging goals is by exploring reuse and refill alternatives,” the report said.

This mission was part of the reason Biom went to Target in the first place. Gahagan said Biom started talking to Target about a year and a half ago when the brand was still under two years old.

“Target had been really in our eyes, the optimal retailer for this to really be introduced to a much wider part of the population just because they, as a retailer, have been very public about their sustainability goals,” Gahagan said.

But it’s not just Biom that sees potential in reusable and refillable products as a growing product category. Al Sambar, general partner with CPG and retail-focused venture firm XRC Ventures, invests in multiple companies that aim to reduce plastic waste or offer refillable and reusable alternatives. The key to market success, he said, is products that are cost competitive with what is already on the shelves — for both the retailer and the end consumer.

“Mass sustainability adoption requires sustainable tech to be more profitable to operate than existing business-as-usual methods,” he said.

Sambar said refillables are one way that companies can become cost competitive, as the model can offer reductions in material, packing and shipping costs. He also said that refillable products could benefit from an upgrade that automatically orders refills for the customer. XRC invested in a company called Adrich that offers this technology and has worked with the likes of Amazon and Coca-Cola. “This saves consumers money, is more profitable for brands [and] retailers — and is way healthier for the planet,” he said.