It’s a dirty little secret that most of us would rather not think about. “The grossest stuff is on your fruits and vegetables. There are little mites, there’s tiny worms, there’s dirt, there’s pesticides, insecticides and fungicides and hand oils. Up to 20 or 30 people touch your food before you eat it.”
This was the spark that led Mequon’s Ali Florsheim and Melina Marcus to create Rebel Green’s Fruit and Veggie Clean, a natural produce cleaner that helps get rid of the creepy stuff found on conventional and even organic produce. “A good produce wash was very hard to find,” Melina tells me over the phone during a moment of downtime from Rebel Green’s packed schedule of cross-country trade shows. “Before I was washing my produce with dish soap and that’s just not a good idea. I just remember there were so many recalls growing up of fruits and vegetables that I thought whatever is happening I want peace of mind to know I’m cleaning my produce well.”
After being disappointed with the produce washes available at the time, “They smelled like lemon furniture polish, and left an after taste” Melina recalls, these two working mothers decided 12 years ago to dive headfirst into the natural cleaners’ market and haven’t stopped since. They knew that to do it right meant having an exceptional product that people would want to use.
“We thought, if we really want this to be as popular as we think it should be— because it’s so good for families’ health—we want it to be right on the kitchen sink because if you throw it underneath the sink you’re never going to see it again. If we want parents to wash their kids’ fruits and vegetables, they have to have it right in their line of sight and the only way to do that was to have awesome packaging and a price point that was affordable.”
A word about that packaging. The bright, 1950’s inspired retro labels really make Rebel Green’s products stand out from other natural cleaners, which look more like something you’d find in an 1850’s apothecary and that’s just the way they wanted it. The two tweaked the design a bit last summer but kept that apothecary feel and the labels now reflect gender changing roles, there is now a dad featured on the baby detergent, the Green gal is an organic farmer on the Fruit and Veggie Clean, a doctor on the hand soap.
“Packaging is really important for new brands,” Ali explains, “We need to compete with lower cost and lower quality products. Packaging is essential when communicating what’s in the bottle or box, especially with new, natural brands. That’s why we came up with Rebel Green.”
But great design is only half the battle. It’s what goes in the bottle that keeps people coming back. Since their produce wash debut Rebel Green has introduced organic laundry detergents, dish soaps, hand sanitizers, glass sprays, sulfate free hand soaps and more. They’re commitment to transparency and environmental sustainability translates into Rebel Green becoming a Certified B Corporation and recently winning a “Force for Positive Change” Award from Marquette University and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
And while most Rebel Green’s products are made in Wisconsin or the Midwest, their new line of Carbon Neutral, tree free bamboo toilet paper comes from overseas. To offset this carbon footprint Rebel Green has partnered with The Paradigm Project, a social enterprise focused on funding clean cook stoves for women and families in rural Kenya. “It’s really a big problem there, cooking over primitive stove tops which causes immense pollution. Hopefully this brings awareness to the issue as well.”
Rebel Green’s commitment to the environment also extends to their packaging which they are hard at work trying to make greener, “We’re working on some awesome sustainable packaging right now,” says. “Infinitely refillable glass, ocean-bound plastics are great alternatives and we’re looking forward to incorporating those into our product line as well as bulk dispensers and other ecofriendly alternatives. Our ultimate goal is to help consumers use less packaging but still take care of their household needs.”
From our SPRING 2020 issue of Graze.