A CLEAN RECORD

Spain 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

After taking a chance on the pharmaceutical market 55 years ago, SPB is rolling out original products in eco-friendly packaging made for the present.

Gracia Burdeos
BIOGRAPHY

Gracia Burdeos is the General Director of SPB, a company dedicated to improving quality of people's lives through home care products, from clothes to personal care. She holds a bachelor of pharmacy and has a extensive training with specializations in innovation, management, and leadership. She has worked at SPB since 2004 after holding different professional experiences outside of Spain. In the company, she leads the areas of innovation and internationalization.

2019 was the company's 55th anniversary. By way of an introduction, can you tell us about the origin and evolution of the company?
Belonging to the Burdeos family, the company has over 50 years of experience in the chemicals sector. In 1978, my father and current president Miguel Burdeos took control of the company, seeing a market opportunity in drugstores that sold bulk products. With new consumer-safety legislation introduced, he began selling bottled products to drugstores. First, the company sold products destined for home improvement, such as solvents. Observing the market's evolution, he increasingly focused on cleaning products and less on home improvement. An important milestone was when he saw fragranced ammonia products being sold in France. He went on to create a similar product for Spain, distributed by Pryca (now Carrefour), el Corte Inglés, and Mercadona back in 1999. The company went from being an SME to employing over 500 people, operating three manufacturing plants, a research and development center in Cheste, and another manufacturing plant in Sevilla. At the time, we generated around EUR30 million in volume, which today is approximately EUR130 million. When we decided to join the Mercadona strategy, it had just 300 stores and was not the market leader. Yet we supported its innovative strategy in retail distribution.

In terms of innovation, you have invested over EUR40 million in new products. Are there any new products to highlight from the Bosque Verde or Deli Plus brands?
We have four product categories: laundry, dishwashing, household, and personal care. In laundry, we have formulas specifically developed for sports apparel, and we are currently developing an innovative detergent capable of modifying fabric properties to protect them against stains. In terms of personal care, we are launching a textured soap for children to make washing hands a fun experience. We developed cleaning products with a dispenser that can help save on product and plastic. We have dish and laundry capsules suitable for all automatic dishwashing and washing machines. We were the first own-label manufacturers to launch the triple chamber capsule in retail distribution.

Can you tell us what you are doing in terms of sustainability?
As it is one of our core values, we are working on environmental, social, and economic sustainability. In terms of environmental sustainability, we are not only concerned about our products but the processes too. We aim to consume less water and electricity and have more efficient processes by investing in machinery. For our products, we are optimizing plastic use, which we aim to reduce in 2020, and use recycled plastic in our blowing process. Our team uses eco-design guides to develop product packaging that improves the product's life cycle. We have joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, an agreement led by the Ellen McArthur Foundation in the UK. The most disruptive innovations in the market will focus on improvements in packaging rather than the product formula. For example, an initiative called Loop involves refill packages, which the consumer returns to the company for a refill. However, the Spanish consumer does not have the same environmental sensitivity as in other countries. Change will depend on three key players: the producers of raw materials, who must be prepared to offer the industry eco-friendly alternatives, producers of the final product, and the consumer.

Can you tell us about some of your programs promoting CSR?
Taking care of our people is a core company value. We have a program called Wellness Formula created by our team to boost wellness through sports, nutrition, and volunteering. For example, they organize activities to clean forests and plant trees. Another project, called People Who Shine, has over 30 participating companies. It features an app where you add kilometers by doing sports, meditating, and sustainable development goal (SDG)-related activities. Those kilometers translate into money that is donated to charitable causes. It also creates healthy competition within the team.