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Continued: 3M turns agave leaves into kitchen scrub sponges

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 21, 2013 - 4:10 PM

3M launched its nonscratch agave scouring pad in Target stores in 2009. It later added a scrubber- sponge combination. Eventually, it was sold at Wal-Mart and is now in or entering grocery and dollar stores nationwide.

3M recently introduced an agave dish-scrubbing wand. And next year, it will roll out a “heavy duty” agave scouring solution that can scratch hard, baked-on foods off pots and pans.

Customer focus groups and new marketing plans are in the works, said Scotch-Brite marketing manager Angie Olson. “It’s nationwide now.”

Gayle Schueller, 3M vice president of global sustainability, declined to disclose sales, but said growth is “significant.”

The agave line “started as a bit of a lab curiously,” Schueller said. “But it ended up taking off much more quickly than we realized.”

Meanwhile, 3M marketers noticed that younger shoppers were not buying Scotch-Brite sponges and scouring products — until the agave line hit the shelves.

“This has been a business that has been trying to find ways to connect with a younger generation of consumers and those who have not connected to our scouring products. So this was a surprise,” Schueller said. “We thought it might become a niche for [people] very interested in sustainability. What we found was more than that.”

Today, 50 percent of 3M’s agave product buyers are new to Scotch-Brite.

‘Cross-tapping’ technologies

“The key is if it is demonstrably greener than the existing product and if it’s better,” said Dave Brennan, University of St. Thomas marketing professor and co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence. “If it is going to do exactly the same thing, that is OK, but it doesn’t move you very far down the road.”

For that, 3M will tap into its researchers and marketers toiling away in other divisions of the company. “3M is very well-known for cross-tapping its technologies,” Brennan said.

Already, 3M’s agave project has tapped into other 3M businesses across continents.

The company now has a coconut-fiber project underway at its production plant in India. A Brazilian team is using leaf fibers from an indigenous fruit plant to make kitchen goods.

“More products are to come,” Schueller said.

 

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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  • Myhanh Truong, a 3M product development specialist, researched a “green” scouring pad. “Sustainability is about using materials to their fullest,” Truong said.

  • 3M’s Scotch-Brite Greener Clean scrubby pad.

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