Climate Fund backs Cleanery to tidy up emissions

Climate VC Fund is proud to announce its second investment.

CVCF is the largest investor in a seed round of $2.34 million for Cleanery, the innovative Kiwi eco-cleaning and personal care products company.

The raise attracted significant interest from the New Zealand business community, including Peter Cullinane, Nicola O’Rourke, and Michael Stiassny (via their company Founders Advisory). Also investing is Icehouse Ventures, Angel HQ, and friends and family who have supported the company from day one.

Dr Jez Weston, a partner in the CVCF says Cleanery meets its strict criteria for emissions reductions.

“Our mission is to fund high growth companies that deliver significant emissions reductions. Cleanery means you’re not making more single use plastic bottles and spray heads and it means you’re not hauling that weight of water around the world. Every household uses cleaning products, so the emissions savings are going to be substantial.”

Rohan MacMahon, partner of the fund, says Cleanery’s environmental credibility is matched by a strong management team. “We have huge confidence in the technical and commercial talent that Mark has attracted.”

Growth plans

“This is an exciting time for us,” says Cleanery co-founder Mark Sorensen. “The size of the investment is larger than we initially anticipated and the quality of the people backing us is incredible. To have the likes of Peter Cullinane who made such a success with Lewis Road Creamery, or the Climate VC Fund, which sees our emissions reduction potential, gives us real confidence.

“The money raised will be used to deliver an exciting New Zealand and Australian marketing plan, a USA e-commerce pilot, and resourcing the business for rapid growth,” says Sorensen.

After a successful launch supported by Farro in October 2021, the products are already loved by many New Zealanders, with a growing direct-to-consumer offer.

Woolworth’s launch

The successful Seed Round coincides with Cleanery’s launch into Australia with a national rollout in Woolworths supermarkets, starting this week.

“We have great capacity in our Auckland factory – and so it’s all about growing market share. The products work exceptionally well, and we’ve been selling online and in select outlets since last year, so we know there’s demand. It’s now about getting scale, which Woolworths and other supermarkets will bring in spades.”

Just add water!

Cleanery’s patented technology is revolutionising the cleaning and personal care categories by removing the water and the plastic bottle and simply using a sachet.

“There’s no point shipping water when we’ve all got perfectly good water in our taps at home. And we all know the problem caused by packaging waste – so let’s reuse what you’ve already got under the sink,” says co-founder Ellie Brade.

Cleanery products come in a recyclable sachet that can be mixed with water in a bottle the company supplies – or one of your own.

“We’ll even give you a sticker to put over the old label,” she says.

Cleanery estimates its products reduce plastic by 99%. And by not shipping water Cleanery can fit the equivalent of over 200,000 bottles in one shipping container – up to 20 times more than traditional products and at a fraction of the weight.

Cullinane likes the disruption

The proposition was immediately attractive to Peter Cullinane, whose former company Lewis Road Creamery shook up the dairy aisle. “The cleaning and personal care products industry is very large and very much ready for a disruption,” he says. “Cleanery is such a simple proposition: it’s the cleaner we want, not the bottle. And it works. It really does.”

Tests demonstrate how Cleanery’s products clean more effectively than other mainstream cleaning products – eco or otherwise – while still having a safe, natural, plant and mineral based formulation.

“So you have a cleaner that works better than any other, has such an elegant packaging solution, costs less, and has impeccable environmental credentials. What’s not to like?” says Cullinane.

Born on a beach

The investment in Cleanery is sweet reward for Sorensen, whose journey to solving plastic pollution started aged 14.

“When we launched the company, my mother dug out an old essay I’d written in Social Studies about the urgent need to address the problems with packaging. I’d forgotten I’d even written it. I got an A+ by the way.”

The essay was forgotten but the sentiment remained and during a three-day tramp in New Zealand’s Far North in 2017, Sorensen was surprised to find plastic on the coastline. “Here I was on remote beaches in the most remote country on Earth and I was still finding plastic. I was really motivated to do something.”

Having worked with many of New Zealand’s most exciting science and technology companies as an advisor, he was well placed to know how to start and who to call on. But the technical challenge proved immense. “it’s one thing to slap together something that looks and smells like a cleaner – to create something that actually does the job, and can truly replace mainstream products, is another thing altogether.”

Through a series of collaborations and explorations, the initial chemistry was developed and the real work – scaling up a factory capable of producing these novel formulations – began.

“The timing is right. Consumers want to address the problem. China has stopped taking our so-called ‘recycling’ and the government and industry realise they need to do something.

“And Covid helped highlight the need for scalable, local, manufacturing. The decisions we made during early Covid lockdowns, when supply chains started looking dicey, are paying off as we are now in control of our destiny with our own plant based here in Auckland and can produce product at any volume.”

“Now we are ready to grow.”

Read the NZ Herald’s coverage of the round