With a goal to be plastic-free by 2025, personal care and home products brand Grove details ways it makes direct-to-consumer shipping more sustainable.

A Grove Collaborative customer would never receive their order for a bar of soap in a package sized for laundry detergent, complete with a large piece of plastic to fill up the space, says CEO and co-founder Stuart Landesberg.

“We would never do that,” he says.

Instead, the online merchant of cleaning and household products has about four box sizes and two envelope sizes to appropriately fit each size order into the correct box. And for orders with a few products — the average order size on Grove.co is eight to 10 products — its warehouse workers “Tetris” or puzzle together the fulfillment box so all the products fit inside, Landesberg says.

Packing in the Grove warehouse

Stuart Landesberg, CEO and co-founder, Grove Collaborative

Stuart Landesberg, CEO and co-founder, Grove Collaborative

This packer position at the Grove warehouse is not entry level. It requires more training and comes with a promotion. Packers receive a week of hands-on training, then a month of guided supervision as they learn how to pack the boxes and their expected goals.


“The training process at Grove is longer than most ecommerce packer training programs because the nature of our product and packaging expectations requires a level of detail that isn’t always necessary in a traditional packing role,” Landesberg says. “Our team members understand the importance of optimizing products and packaging materials in such a way that does not contribute to a higher carbon footprint.”

Landesberg describes the role as a “pressure seat.” The employee receives the touts with the products picked for the order and the appropriately sized box. Then, they have to quickly fit it all in, as employees have a units per hour goal.

“In addition to specific quality and safety goals, packers at Grove have an incremental units per hour goal to meet based on how long they’ve been in the job function,” a Grove spokesperson says. “The quality goals focus on ensuring that packed items arrive to our customers safely and in good condition.”


Other warehouses might use a robot to perform this task. Grove is willing to pay a bit more to have this step of the fulfillment process done right to be a more sustainable merchant. Landesberg declined to share its warehouse employee wages.

“I haven’t seen anything robots can do as good as a human,” Landesberg says about this box packing step. Grove weekly tracks customer satisfaction and feedback as the primary success metrics for Grove packers.

A sustainable Grove

Grove launched in 2012 as ePantry, and in 2016 rebranded to Grove Collaborative, an online-only brand with sustainability as its core mission. About 13% of the products sold on Grove.co are its own brand. The remaining 87% are from other brands it sells, such as Mrs. Meyer’s, Method and Rooted Beauty. Today, Grove is publicly traded, a certified B. Corp., and sells a selection of its branded products at Walmart, Target and Amazon. Grove Collaborative generated $321.5 million in net revenue in 2022. This was down 16% year over year, the merchant reported, and it is operating at a loss.

Grove is plastic-neutral, meaning for every pound of plastic sold, it collects and recycles that same amount in nature through rePurpose Global. Its goal is to be plastic-free by 2025. And that means Grove Collaborative has routinely iterated on its product and fulfillment packaging.


Packaging: lighter, smaller and less

To achieve the lowest carbon footprint on a fulfillment box, it’s all about lower weight, smaller size and less package, Landesberg says.

Grove focuses on only selling products that are smaller in size — or changing them to fit this mission. For example, instead of selling a full-size mop, which is bulky to ship, it made its broom stick collapsible to fit into a much smaller box. That brings Landesberg to a tip for merchants striving to be more sustainable: Invest in multiple box sizes.

“The best solution is well-trained labor and enough box sizes that you can match products to appropriately,” he says.

At one point, Grove had 30 box sizes. Now, it has settled on its four boxes and two mailers, which can appropriately fit its all of its orders.


Fewer boxes per order

Another shipping practice that Landesberg claims Grove “would never do” is splitting up an order of eight to 10 products into eight to 10 shipments. The carbon footprint is much larger for multiple boxes instead of a slightly larger box that can hold a few more objects, he says.

While orders arriving in multiple boxes sometimes happens, especially for larger orders, Landesberg says split shipments are less than 5% of all of its orders. This is below the industry standard, in which 21% of orders from an online retailer arrived in more than one shipment, according to data from fulfillment vendor Narvar Inc. collected October-December 2021.

Because Grove launched as a vertically integrated online brand, it purposely designed its products to ship directly to consumers, not for a store shelf, Landesberg says. For example, it’s laundry detergent is sold in a 1-ounce concentrated glass bottle that shoppers can mix with water at home, unlike the large bottles sold in stores. Its candles are packaged in a box with a thinner glass, unlike the freestanding, thick-glass candles at stores.

These modifications to the product package allow Grove to ship orders to consumers in a way that weighs less, takes up less space and uses less interior packaging in the box.


And after the packages are snuggly fit in the box, Grove uses a recycled paper to pad the products during the shipping journey. In May 2019, Grove went through its supply chain and eliminated single-use plastic and switched to paper materials.

Grove.co’s paid members are its more frequent purchasers

These initiatives resonate with a certain cohort of shoppers who strive to live a sustainable lifestyle. Grove is No. 301 in the 2022 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

About half of Grove.co’s sales are from shoppers making one-time purchases priced 5-20% above the discount it gives consumers who sign up for a subscription to products.

The other half of Grove.co’s sales are from consumers who signed up to receive auto-replenishments of  products or paid $19.99 for an annual VIP program membership. Members receive seven free gifts a year, exclusive sales, early access to new products and free samples. Landesberg says “hundreds of thousands” of customers are paid members, but declined to share the exact number.


Nearly 50% of paying members renew memberships annually, Landesberg says.

Landesberg says he is pleased with this membership retention rate. He points to the value of the program, the strong brand and engaged community as reasons for this retention rate. For example, members can join its private Facebook group, which is “incredibly engaged,” Landesberg says.

The average order value for traditional shoppers compared with members or subscribers is about the same, Landesberg says. He did not reveal that figure. The frequency of purchasing, however, is much higher for members and subscribers, from six to 12 times per year. That compares with traditional shoppers, which is about four times per year.


Grove expands its retail presence

But even with such high engagement rates on its own site, Grove Collaborative knows many shoppers still do not recognize its brand.

To that end, since 2021, Grove has sold a selection of its products with national mass merchants including Target Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. In 2022, Grove expanded to sell its products in CVS Caremark Corp., Harris Teeter Supermarkets LLC, H-E-B Grocery Company, Meijer Inc. and Giant Eagle Inc. Today, Grove products are sold at thousands of retail locations, including at mass merchant Walmart Inc.

“To change the category, we need to play in the channels where the majority of people are buying these products,” Landesberg says.

But the goal, Landesberg says, is not to introduce them to Grove on Target and then get them to buy that product on Grove Collaborative.


“It’s my goal to get them to come back and get them to buy that product again,” Landesberg says.

“Economically, yes, we make more money when they buy their entire regimen from Grove,” he adds.

He knows the majority of shoppers don’t buy their household cleaning and personal care products directly from a brand’s website. They buy these products from a mass merchant. Grove declined to share what percent of its sales are from its direct-to-consumer site or from other merchants.

Kathy Kimple, executive director, digital strategy, at ecommerce consulting firm OSF Digital, says it’s interesting to see subscription-based companies expand into retail. Shoppers save on shipping and get the product immediately. Meanwhile, the brand gets more exposure.


“As access to their products grows, there will be less need for subscription,” Kimple says. “Depending on the company’s goal, lower subscriptions may be offset by brand awareness if retailers start to carry more Grove products.”

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