Pineapple Power Surges Through Asian Markets
When your idea of getting into business is to help improve social and environmental health, the sky’s the limit. Just ask Thailand-based American entrepreneur Peter Wainman.
Suffering serious allergic reactions to harmful chemicals in household cleaning products, his conviction to boldly go where no cleaning company has gone before to ferment and harness the power of pineapple, triggered a major transformationin the natural home cleaning segment across Asia.
Peter talks to The Straits News about the story of Pipper Standard and how the brand became a dominant player in the natural space in the region.
- What is the story behind Pipper Standard?
The concept of Pipper Standard is that we seek to improve people’s lives by promoting the replacement of chemical products with natural healthy products. And by doing so we’re helping our environment and health. I’ve been doing business in Asia since the mid-90s and I’ve been living in Thailand full-time for 15 years.In 2010, I had this horrible allergic reaction to chemicals commonly used in household products.
After this episode. I said to my wife “let’s change the products in our home from chemical to natural.” But when we looked around we couldn’t see anything that met the right kind of quality. Coming from a research and development (R&D) background from MIT and an entrepreneurial background for most of my career, I felt we can invent these type of products ourselves.
So, we began our R&D process to create a truly superior natural product that cleans as good or better than chemical products. After multiple years of R&D, we finally achieved that and patented that technology globally.
- What are the unique factors that attract consumers to Pipper Standard?
We are unique. We are different from anything else that exist in the world. What others usually do is they take off-the-shelf surfactants, builders, adders, some sort of preservative, some scent and mix them together. And the brands that position themselves as natural basically apply the same concept except that they use a mare natural version of the aforementioned.
What we do is fundamentally different. We take a fruit, ferment it and the end results – which are natural enzymes, natural acids and natural preservatives – act synergistically to clean. And it’s because of our pineapple fermentation – a technology that we’ve patented globally – we don’t add those harsh substances that are commonly found in other products.
As a result, we’re able to have all of our products non-irritation certified, free of known allergens, and all of our leading products are hypoallergenic certified.
- Who are your target market?
We have created a highly effective natural product from pineapple that’s safe and healthy for folks and it’s perfectfor the mom and baby segment which is our largest target market. What we’re seeing in the world, particularly in Asia, is rising allergy and asthma rates. Today across Asia, about one third of Asians now have some sort of allergy or asthma and it’s in the 40% plus range for kids.Families are genuinely concerned.
We believe there is a link between allergies, asthma and chemicals. The reality is a lot of pollution exist outdoors and, as individuals,there is very little we can do about it as it’s the domain of the powers that be. But we can control the health and safety of our home environment so what we seek to do is to help improve the health aspects by providing a healthy range of products that people can choose for their homes.
As a result our key target market is the mom and baby segment, followed by people with health issues such as allergies, asthma, respiratory illness or even more serious conditions like cancer. The environment segment is crucial for us too because we come from pineapple so all our products are certified to biodegrade.And there’s also the high-end sports segment as our products work really well with high quality fabric.
- From the time you hit the market, in your opinion, have consumers become more aware of the benefits of natural products or is ignorance still prevailing and they continue to use chemical detergents?
Well it’s a mix and it depends on a particular market. What we’re seeing across all markets is people are concerned about health issues. Parents are worried if their kids are going to develop allergies or have some sort of reaction and so forth. Whether this translates into the knowledge that they should be using natural products instead really depends on the particular market.
For instance, in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, people are a little more knowledgeable about this and in other markets not so much. Depending on the particular market, we do more or less awareness on these issues. In general, the trend is there and consumers around the world are increasingly moving into natural products. Eventually pure chemical products will not even exist for household. They’re going to be all gone and we are a part of that trend.
- How do you see consumer behavior changing in this space and how do you see yourself creating / initiating that change?
Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of the good and the bad. We always talk about – certainly I always talk about it as I’m doing now in this interview – the pollution outside and how that’s totally beyond our control but as individuals, we can decide what to use in our homes.
Since the mom and baby segment is our largest target market, it’s important for us as parents – I’m a parent of a young child myself – to choose products that are healthy for our homes.
So, we play a decisive role in this trend and the world has been trending towards the natural space for the last 20 years, which began with food and then cosmetics and now, the household cleaning space.
- What are the key factors that give Pipper Standard a competitive edge in today’s increasingly tough natural product marketplace?
I would say that we are a superior product to anything that’s out there. We have the uniqueness of fruit fermentation that creates a highly safe and healthy in-product and because we own this technology globally, no one else can replicate it. So, we have a distinct competitive edge. There is no other natural brand in the world with patented technology. We are it! As a result, no one else can do what we do. Yes, others talk about how they are natural but none of them use fermentation of fruit and may end up adding harsh substances in their products to achieve their desired cleaning efficacy.
- What are your core strategies to drive growth and increase market share in Thailand?
For us, we have a very sticky customer base. When people buy our product they tend to buy them again. The key process is getting that first customer and that is a function of money. It’s a function of how effectively we can deliver the message because our message is well taken in by people and they love our product once they’ve tried it. So the key for us is always getting that first sale and we do all sorts of stuff to try and get that. For example, we work with baby centers, hospitals, colleges and the likes to impact our core target markets.
- What is your expansion outlook for the next five years?
As a dominant player in the natural space in the region for cleaning, we have had explosive growth and over the next five years we are going to be rapidly increasing our market share. Today we are a relatively small clean tech company but given how we are growing, especially in large markets like mainland China and Japan that we’ve just entered into, five years from now we will be a very substantial company.
- What do you see as your biggest marketing and expansion challenge from 2020?
It’s all about access to capital. We have a superior product in a space that’s really hot. People are moving towards natural products, and, to our knowledge, we are the only brand in the world to have a globally-patented pineapple fermentation technology>So for us, our growth rate is purely a function of the amount of money we can spend on marketing and distribution. As we are still a small capitalized company, the more capital we have access to the faster we can grow. We are already growing very rapidly but we like to be even bigger than where we are.
- From a capital perspective, what do you see investors looking for?
In the past, investors might be looking just at the profit angle like the net income bottom line. But today, they’re looking beyond that. It’s also about a greater perspective about the world. That perspective is what we call triple bottom line investing (some call it Environmental, Social, and Governance(ESG) investing, impact investing or sustainable investing).
In essence, triple bottom line investing means the traditional bottom line of profit but also how you’re impacting society and the environment. It’s about key considerations like if you’re doing proper governance, if you’re doing the right thing by employees, or doing the right thing for our environment and so forth.
We fit this space. We do all the right things. We are certified for non-irritation and our products are hypoallergenic. We are also great for the environment as we come from pineapple and all our products are certified to biodegrade.And we run the company in a governance way which is emblematic of a much larger multinational corporation.
- How has the Covid-19 epidemic impacted your business and how are you working around it?
It’s interesting because most of our products are cleaning products so we haven’t really had a negative impact. In some cases, we actually had a positive impact because people are cleaning more. Our hand soap, for example, are selling out across multiple markets. We engaged a third party certifier two years ago – not for this virus but other bacteria and germs– and we are certified to kill common pathogenic germs.
As a result, people began buying our hand soap in large amounts. But of course, the corona virus is a huge issue for all sorts of reasons, be it our health or our economy. It’s impacting every business in certain ways, Travel into Asia is almost shut down. Typically, we meet our distributors from different countries face to face and go through sales and marketing plans but unfortunately we had to cancel all of them. It is impacting us but this isn’t going to last forever. It will get better.