It’s no secret that consumers are demanding products that are safer and healthier for themselves and their families. But many brands are capitalizing on this by making health claims that are scientifically unfounded. What separates the companies that are delivering on their brand promise from the ones that are not, and how can companies tighten their messaging to cut across the noise?
Here, Allergy Standards’ VP of Sales, Courtney Sunna, interviews leaders, brand managers, and marketers who are part of a global movement towards healthier products that are rooted in rigorous science. In this interview, meet Steve Ramirez, Director of Product Development at Cleva North America, who helps developing innovative products that meet the highest standards at one of the biggest American home appliance manufacturer.
Courtney: Kenmore just launched the Kenmore Pet Friendly Upright vacuum cleaner that’s asthma & allergy friendly® Certified. Why was it important to obtain this Certification and why did you initially find it valuable?
Steve: There are actually a couple of answers for these questions. Initially, when Cleva took over the manufacturing of the Kenmore Floor Care lines, the Kenmore team had already set the brand precedent of targeting high performance standards including the achievement of the “asthma & allergy friendly®” certification to ensure we are meeting our key target consumers’ expectations and needs. Now, as we move forward, designing and developing new products, we continue to find that maintaining these stringent design and performance requirements is the best option for our customers, the end consumers and it is well aligned with how Cleva goes to market.
Now that Cleva is the exclusive licensee for Kenmore Floor Care products, we are working with an expanded customer base to distribute these products and we are aligning with the relevant initiatives they deem important to meet their consumers’ needs. As we roll out these products, we are finding that the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification, symbolizing all of the capabilities needed to achieve it, resonates extremely well with these new customers on behalf of all of their consumers.
We can certainly tell you that this Certification is not a simple thing to achieve, but learning how to get there has helped us fine tune both our R&D capabilities and our manufacturing practices.
Courtney: What other independent testing and certifications are conducted on your products to validate claims and communicate benefits?
Steve: Though we have significant labs of our own, we utilize a few independent laboratories for varied purposes. The more common ones are safety and regulatory related, like UL and ETL. However, through our internal development processes and testing, we have a diligent focus on, and strive to perform well with certain independent consumer review organizations and their testing methods. We believe these organizations are accurately measuring to assess real consumer-desired performance. Again, focus on this organization’s assessments is something we adopted from the Kenmore team who maintained this approach as a long-standing habit as an integral reflection of the Kenmore brand. Cleva has even made significant engineering changes and revised production models to ensure high performance in those test labs.
Courtney: What types of innovations and R&D testing did your scientific team need to undertake in order to receive these credentials, such as asthma & allergy friendly®?
Steve: We’ve made changes in product flow-path sealing, product documentation, and especially in our testing methods to be able to achieve the performance levels required to meet this certification. We have also investigated material changes and even motor modifications.
In any vacuum design, the sealing is always a prominent aspect of the design, but in the case when we are targeting asthma & allergy friendly® certification, it is critical. Additionally, we found that our testing processes must be closely calibrated with Allergy Standards’ test lab to quickly iterate design solutions that satisfy the stringent requirements.
Courtney: Have you conducted any independent consumer testing on trust and concerns related to allergies and asthma? How did this information impact your decision to seek the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark?
Steve:Early on in our relationship with Kenmore, we had relied on the guidance from their strong brand team. But now, the feedback we are clearly hearing from consumer insights and our customers, includes the distinct desire originating from the end consumers for products that specifically address the needs of their family members who suffer from allergies and asthma or other breathing related issues.
Over the past decade or so, nearly 65% of all US households own pets, and yet many of the young families, especially with small children, are concerned about maintaining their homes in a hygienic manner.
We’ve learned this from market research, social media and it resonates with our own employees. So, as a Product Management team, we are personally vested in creating products that satisfy these consumer needs, and which exceed our own personal expectations for our own in-home use.
Courtney: How do third party Certifications fit in with Cleva/Kenmore’s commitment to being a more reliable, healthier choice?
Steve: With Kenmore’s brand legacy, we deemed it extremely appropriate to continue striving for these performance levels to uphold the brand promise.
Then, as we began investigating the specific characteristics of the new “target market” for Kenmore products, we also found that asthma & allergy friendly® certification resonates very strongly with multi-generation consumers.
So, even from a strictly “business perspective”, when defining the new products’ definitions, the costly third-party certifications are justified for a portion of the portfolio. The end consumers are seeking alternatives which are healthier for them and Cleva, in concert with the Kenmore team, has a wealth of expertise in developing these types of products.
Courtney: How has the response been for this product since you launched the asthma & allergy friendly claim?
Steve: We have had three models which are certified asthma & allergy friendly®, by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Allergy Standards, and these continue to have healthy sales volume through the existing stores and online retailers.
When you search on the internet, throughout a multitude of independent reviewers and assessments, you will consistently find our products listed as either the best or right near the top for managing the allergens and asthma related dirt.
Courtney: For people looking to purchase this product, where can they find it?
Steve: Up until recently, we have sold Kenmore Floor Care products strictly through Sears and K-mart, but as of November 2017, the products are also now available on Amazon. Moving forward, Cleva will launch a new series of Kenmore vacuums starting in the 2018 3rd quarter time frame, expanding Kenmore sales to many other retail outlets. We expect that you will be able to find them in many locations in very near future.
Courtney: Thank you
About Cleva North America, Inc.
Cleva North America, Inc. offers an award-winning portfolio of innovative wet/dry vacuums, outdoor power equipment, household floor care products and accessories. Brands include Vacmaster®, Vacmaster Professional®, Duravac™, Armor All™ and LawnMaster®. Cleva is the exclusive licensee to manufacture and sell Kenmore® and Kenmore Elite® vacuum cleaners and accessories. With award-winning, proven experience in engineering and motor technology, Cleva incorporates the latest processes and highest standards for engineering, design, and production. The result is high-quality products with exceptional performance and durability. Cleva takes pride in producing a premium product at a great value. We will continue to usher in new, innovative products designed to meet our customers’ needs. Click here for more information.
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