Bulk is entering the cleaning department with Ecover!


Our new Bulk for Brands service has been supporting brands for a year in their move towards bulk distribution in the virtuous logic of the circular economy: an initiative awaited by consumers in search of meaning!

Ecover has long been committed to reducing its environmental footprint and has taken this approach one step further with our bulk distribution solution, which is integrated directly into the shelves.

Following the implementation of our solution in 8 shops in 3 countries, the brand has a lot of ambition for the future in order to multiply this positive impact! Tom Domen, Head of Innovation, talks about the path we have takenin this interview :

Bulk distribution of the Ecover brand accompanied by Jean Bouteille

Can you introduce your brand and its history?

Tom Domen: At Ecover, our mission is to lead what we call the "Cleaning Revolution". which started 40 years ago, in 1979! We saw the impact of everyday products on the environment, especially cleaning and maintenance products, because of the specific chemicals that were used (impact on rivers, ocean, aquatic life, algae).

We decided to offer an alternative with products designed not only to clean but also to be environmentally friendly by thinking about their end-of-life . We started by pioneering a new type of chemistry: developing products that are low-impact, easy to use, plant-based and easily biodegradable. We have been part of a movement that will gradually change our industry.

"Finally, we realised that the end of life of chemicals was not the only concern, we also wanted to think about the end of life of packaging!"

It started with recyclable bottles made from plastic collected from beaches, rivers and streams so that each of our bottles is made from recycled materials. But our ultimate goal is refill!

Portrait of Tom Domen, innovation manager at Ecover
Tom Domen Innovation Manager - Long Term Innovation at Ecover

What were your expectations at the start of the project?

Tom Domen: Our priority was to find a solution suitable for retail, to make charging available in the mass market and to have something really simple and scalable . At the beginning, we also had false expectations: we thought that for retail, we needed something really sophisticated and automated that would do everything for the consumer. That was the spirit when we started, but I realise now that we wanted something too complex. We chose to offer laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, multi-purpose cleaner and fabric softener in bulk.


Why did you choose to team up with us?

Tom Domen: We realised that our system had to be concrete, feasible and scalable. Jean Bouteille hadexperience in the shop. We went through some machines at the time. We had other offers and trials in parallel with Jean Bouteille. One of them was fully automated but we had the same problems with all of them at the beginning. It was a failure but also the best learning experience: the technology was finally too complex with the pump and we had to go back to gravity. The good news: the consumer was enthusiastic about finding bulk available in his shop. So it was more important to have something simple and robust than something more sophisticated with frustrating technical problems.

"Jean Bouteille came back with a new proposal that worked and we chose to work with you as a key partner. I'm really happy with the journey we've been on. For me, effort, learning and failure are part of the innovation process. This was a very interesting test: consumers and shops need a flexible and intuitivesystem. "

So why Jean Bouteille? It's thestart-up approach you have! You have less process and more motivation to adapt and meet challenges. In other companies, you get something delivered and then that's it. You have always risen to challenges very quickly. You learn from your mistakes and you always improve your solution

A consumer helps himself at the Ecover bulk dispenser

Tell us about it: what were the stages of this project?

Tom Domen: As mentioned before, we had to replace the first machines with the manual system. You developed a new gravity-based system. You managed to convince us and the retailers that this was the best solution. You helped us to find the right arguments for the shops. 

"We really liked your spirit: very good energy, flexibility, reactivity, good support even if it was a lot to handle for a small team and we had some problems initially. Now you have more people on board who help a lot and it really works. Your service is even more structured structured now and is continuously improving (both in terms ofsupport and technology)."

Want a story? It was a great surprise that the second system was developed and implemented in the shops so quickly! It took only two months from the idea to the first trial! The collaboration was very close between us, with weekly meetings and even extra meetings. We worked as a 'triangular team' to achieve this: us, you and the pilot shops. It's not always easy but we've managed! We know each other well now!

What is the first feedback from shops and consumers?

Tom Domen: The consumers are fans of the refill and the concept. The biggest challenge was to have something that works, otherwise it is frustrating and the shop loses sales. Now the solution works well and provides a good user experience. The design is also very appreciated. It was improved after the first trial and cleaning is easy.

We have never had as much good feedback as on this last solution since we started working on bulk! On the other hand, we don't have enough hindsight and results on sales yet, but for the moment it's promising.

"Your system is really flexible for shelf layouts: you canadapt itto many different shops (available space, shelf layout). Flexibility and simplicity are the best features of your solution. It can be adapted to all types of liquids. It has the potential to become the standard for all bulk liquid distribution."

Step 5 Bulk for Brands project

What other actions are you taking to reduce your environmental impact?

Tom Domen: We have 3 battles to fight to reduce our impact:

  • against plastic The refill initiative is the best answer to this problem. After this pilot phase, we are ready to move on to a larger scale deployment. Our goal is to find customer shops that want to multiply their impact & locations and not just do one test. Next projects: We are also thinking of switching to glass bottles for containers, and working on the concentration of our products, to use less plastic & water.
  • against textile and fashion waste: Textiles are a major category of waste, we encourage sustainable clothing and washing to make our clothes last longer. This is a topic we want to address to encourage caring for our clothes. "Protect your clothes and use a good detergent". We have also started to work with second hand shops to encourage consumers to shop there.
  • against food waste Our latest goal is to use organic/food waste to transform it into ingredients (food waste such as coffee grounds or cooking oil, but also CO2 captured from our production sites): we have moved from an oil-based industry to a plant-based industry (as sustainable as possible). Our final goal is to use organic/food waste to transform it into ingredients (food waste such as coffee grounds or cooking oil but also CO2 captured from our production sites).
The commitment of Tom Domen, innovation manager at Ecover

A few words to conclude?

Tom Domen: I highly recommend Jean Bouteille: My hope is that Jean Bouteille will set the standard for bulk liquid distribution for any type of shop.

You still have thespirit of a start-up but at the same time you offer a truly professional solution. This combination can work for everyone and will undoubtedly make your business take off in the years to come. Finally, a big thank you to the whole team for the great adventure we had together!


Jean Bouteille: Thank you again Tom for your confidence, it was a great challenge for our teams!

Video demonstration:

How does it work in practice? Everything is set up to guide consumers but also to facilitate the life of the shop. Francois Moignet, our brand manager, shows you in this video how to manage this liquid bulk department in a simple way: product change, follow-up & traceability, setting up the bulk dispenser . So let's get started?