At Vancouver-based natural cleaning products manufacturer Biokleen, a company that began as a pioneer continues to lead the way in effective, non-toxic cleaning solutions.
In the 1980s, Biokleen founder Jim Rimer was working for a large chemical company, selling mainstream cleaning products.
“When he found out what was in them,” explained Barry Firth, Biokleen’s general manager and Rimer’s son-in-law, “and that some of his customers were getting sick – especially the carpet cleaners, janitors and housekeepers who worked with the products most closely – he talked with his employers about creating something that would be safe for humans to use.”
But, added Firth, “They didn’t think there would be a market for it. They really felt customers cared more about price than about health.”
Convinced that there was indeed a market for safe cleaning products, Rimer developed Biokleen in his garage in 1989.
“Because he’d worked in the industry, Jim knew that these products needed to work as well as any of the toxic products, so he developed one of the first natural cleaners that worked really well,” said Firth.
Today, Biokleen is still family owned and operated, and develops and manufactures all of its products out of its Vancouver plant that employs 18 people. The company has more than 30 products on the market, bringing in $7 million a year in business. Additionally, it’s still growing. Firth runs the company with his wife Cindy Rimer, vice president of sales and marketing, and daughter of the company’s founder.
Biokleen products are found in most natural products retailers, and every Whole Foods and Krogers store in the United States, with many other outlets worldwide. “We’re starting to ship more to Asia,” noted Firth. “It’s one of our growing markets right now.”
Over the years, mainstream manufacturers have started to incorporate some of the “green” practices Biokleen has been using from the beginning. But rather than hurt the company, said Firth, it’s helped them. For example, he said, “We were one of the first companies to develop a concentrated laundry liquid. It’s something we’ve been doing for 29 years, and now Tide is starting to sell one. That has actually helped us, because more people recognize now that it’s the load count, not just the size of the bottle that matters.”
Firth explained that many manufacturers will try to sell “value” with fillers that don’t actually increase cleaning power. A large company like Tide can help move the market to understand Biokleen’s business practices and product value more quickly.
Unlike many companies, Firth said, “We’ve been growing during the recession. Some years, we’ve had double digit growth. I think people aren’t willing to give up their health for cost savings. The products you’ll use around your children and pets, those are still important even when people are making cuts.”
Moving forward, the company is continuing to develop new products and expand its market reach.
“We just launched a sports laundry liquid a few weeks ago,” said Firth. “We’re one of the first natural products companies to have a sports liquid, designed specifically to go after the tough odors in sports-related clothing.”
As the natural products market segment continues to grow, Biokleen is well-positioned to continue to be one of the leaders, making effective, non-toxic cleaning supplies for a retail market that is finally catching up to the trail they started blazing nearly 30 years ago.