5 Minutes With… Alexander Rosenlew from Orthex Group
“As long as you can keep the price level reasonable, consumers will buy your products.”
Orthex Group has strong traditions in the manufacture and marketing of household products, dating back to 1914. Today, Orthex Group is the leading Nordic producer of household products that make everyday life easier for the consumer. It produces bio-based products such as flower pots, kitchen utensils, and storage boxes. The products are sold in the largest daily consumer goods chains in the Nordic countries and in more than 40 countries around the world.
Here, Liz Gyekye, senior content manager at Bio-Based World News catches up with Alexander Rosenlew, chief executive officer at Orthex Group.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Can you begin with a description about Orthex Group and what it is the company does?
Alexander Rosenlaw (AR): I started working as CEO of the company nine years ago. When I took over the turnover was around €15m. Today, we are close to €70m. We are the market leader in the Nordics when it comes to practical, functional household goods, with a focus on the environment. That is one of the most important things for us. We are producing long-lasting high-quality products. Today we already produce many of our products from bio-based or recycled raw materials. We have three modern own factories in the Nordics and supply our products to around 40 countries around the world. We feel that we want to be the forerunner in the industry when it comes to running a sustainable business. The number one aim for us is to supply, practical, beautiful products to the consumer in a sustainable way. Those are the main key things for everything we do.
LG: Do you think the sustainability agenda is moving forward?
AR: It is definitely moving forward. We can see an increase in demand for bio-based products. As long as you can keep the price level reasonable, consumers will buy your products. If you produce bio-based products, it has to be affordable to the average man or woman. That’s where we come in. We are able to take the bio material and make really good products. All of our bio-based products can be recycled and are dishwasher friendly. It has the benefits of plastic, but has a bio background.
With the wood fibre-based products, the consumer understands directly that this is something that is bio-based. If you are buying a product and you have a thousand to choose from in a hypermarket, you need to be clear on what the product is all about.
LG: Before working at Orthex, what did you do?
AR: I was a country manager for Colgate in Finland, and before working at Colgate I worked at Nestle. I had always worked with big consumer goods companies before coming to Orthex. My background is in finance and marketing.
Orthex is headquartered in Finland, but is quite spread out in the Nordic countries. We have production both in Finland and Sweden.
You grow up so close to nature in Scandinavian countries that you have a respect for it, I think. We have been lucky because we have a prosperous wood industry. They have come up with new uses for wood and pulp. More than 70% of the Finnish area is covered in wood in one way or the other. It gives you the right starting point in how you can use that resource in a sustainable way. From a Nordic point of view, there is a lot of knowledge about the bio-based industry that we could export and build a business on. Everything from pulp-based stuff to biofuels.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing the company?
AR: We must be attentive to what the consumers want and their preferences. Trends change very quickly, so, we have to keep the pace with the demands from the consumer. We would also like to see more recycling. Looking ahead, recycling and biomaterials is what we will base much of our production on going forward.
LG: What is coming up next for your company?
AR: More new applications, both when it comes to biomaterials and recycled products. By 2020, we are aiming to use 20% of recycled or bio-based raw materials in our products. We are moving very fast with these things.
LG: What is your favourite sustainable/bio-based product?
I think everything we can do around packaging materials, which are bio-based is great. It is something close to my heart. I also see some very nice buildings made out of wood in the Nordics.