Casabella's Mopping Up
Bruce Kaminstein founded Casabella in 1989.
By Andrea Lillo
Design may not be the first thing that pops into one's mind when thinking about the cleaning category, but for Casabella, it is an essential element of product development--on par with functionality and durability--and has been since the company began 21 years ago.
Visitors to the company's headquarters in Congers, N.Y., can even see the mop that inspired the company, which Bruce Kaminstein, chief executive officer of Casabella Holdings LLC, recently unearthed from his mother's closet. Though it's well worn and the sponge is only half attached, the Italian-designed and -made mop he found at a Macef trade show in the 1980s demonstrates Kaminstein's vision for the company: there is a segment of consumers who want both style and substance in a cleaning product and are willing to pay a little bit more for it.
"We're carrying on the tradition of design and function," Kaminstein told HFN on a tour of its facility here. "We have a very loyal customer base."
The vision remains the same, but the company has since expanded. Last year, the company moved to a new, larger facility here, combining the office space with a 94,000 square foot warehouse, increasing efficiency and control.
The company has also grown its in-house product development over the years. In the next few years, all of it will be done within the company, said Rob Moser, president. "There's so much opportunity at the better end of the market." The in-house design team includes two designers here, and another in the company's Hong Kong office.
And though cleaning remains its core category, the company has branched out when it made sense. After it hired Michael Karyo last summer, the company added a food-prep line, a natural extension to the products it already had for the kitchen, such as veggie scrubbers.
"We're looking for new and different ways to solve problems," said Karyo, the former SiliconeZone founder who is now Casabella's vice president, sales and marketing. With his extensive experience in silicone, the initial Be Gourmet launch focused on that material, but others will be used in future products for the line.
Items shown at March's International Home + Housewares Show included the Butter Keep 'n Slice, which stores, measures and slices a stick of butter; the Silicone Lid & Splatter Guard, which can make air- and water-tight seals on bowls; and the Big Cube Trays, where each cube holds two ounces for large ice cubes or freezing portions of baby or other foods. In addition, some of the core Casabella line has been rebranded as Be Gourmet. "The fact that we put together such a significant line within such a short period of time attests to Casabella's resources," Karyo said.
Under the Be Gourmet brand, the food prep category opened up opportunities in the independent stores, as well as expanded its real estate in the grocery channel. "My job is to make us more independent retailer friendly," Karyo said, and that now includes shipping pick-and-packs.
Besides Be Gourmet, Casabella's other sub-brands include Way Clean, a grocery and home center cleaning line that launched in 2008, and its new pet line, Be Frisky. The Casabella brand, with the tagline Be Clean, is still the core brand for cleaning.
Products and packaging overall were also refreshed with a new color scheme, switching from a blue and yellow combination to orange and graphite. The company's Web site will also soon be relaunched.
And though the company did not officially honor its 20th anniversary last year, Kaminstein's wife, Judy, found a better reason to celebrate at 21 years: "Well, now we're legal," she joked.