San Francisco-based green cleaning pioneer Method has been sold to Belgian competitor Ecover in a deal that was brokered over the last few months, the company announced on Tuesday.
The move shakes up the market by creating the world’s largest green home cleaning company, with combined sales exceeding $200 million.
Method co-founder Adam Lowry says that the acquisition will function like a partnership between the two. Each brand will retain its own separate identity as well as research and development teams. The deal “feels more like a merger to me,” he told GreenBiz.
“The partnership gives us greater scale and resources and a global platform for our supply chain and research and development,” said Lowry, who started the company 12 years ago in his San Francisco apartment with friend Eric Ryan while working as a climate scientist.
“Initially, Method was not necessarily looking for a transaction per se, but in the course of getting to know the team at Ecover we saw the potential to accelerate the growth globally,” he said.
Key to that growth is that Method and Ecover will now have access — and be able to take advantage of — new geographic markets, the potential to manufacture products closer to where they’ll be sold, and access to knowledge such as Method’s developments in green solvents and Ecover’s biosynthetic surfactants.
“By coming together, our two brands will only serve to strengthen each other by providing complementary capabilities, an unrivaled opportunity for category-changing product development, and a united effort in building on our combined vision,” Ecover CEO Philip Malmberg said.
Leveraging each other’s strengths will also support the elevation of the green cleaning industry as a whole, Malmberg said.
Photo of (L-R) Ecover CEO Philip Malmberg, Method co-founder Adam Lowry (center), Method CEO Drew Fraser (R) and Method co-founder Eric Ryan (front) courtesy of Method.
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While Method's main market presence is in North America, it's also nurturing a nascent market in Europe. Ecover is in an opposite scenario, Lowry said. Both have complementary growing business in Asia as well, he added, with Method doing well in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan – and Ecover experiencing strong performance in Japan and Korea.
Similarly, Method will be able to share its knowledge gained in green technology research and development such as creating a nontoxic solvent made out of corn stalks and leaves, while Ecover has its biosynthetic surfactants developed in-house, Lowry said.
Ecover and Method also have different approaches to manufacturing that the two partners can learn about from each other, Lowry said. While Method has focused on reducing its carbon footprint in its product distribution as well as installing solar panels and eschewing the use of water in some of its facilities, Ecover designs its own factories in order to lower its environmental impact.
Method will attempt to its localize its distribution in Europe under the acquisition by manufacturing products for the European market in Ecover factories located in France and Belgium. Whether Ecover will begin to manufacture its products for North America in Method’s Midwest facilities is up in the air, though. “We’re determining what the right strategy is for the Ecover brand at this time,” Lowry said.
Changes aside, Lowry emphasizes that the deal will not change the way his company operates. “Method will still remain Method,” Lowry said, who will retain his role working on product sustainability as its "chief greenskeeper" in the company’s San Francisco offices. Likewise, co-founder Ryan will remain the brand’s chief architect.