When it comes to plants, I’ve always had two brown thumbs. Whenever I bought one for my apartment, I had little success maintaining it, or keeping it alive. Feeding it was a hassle that involved mixing and measuring that often turned into a mess on my kitchen counter. It was simply time and effort I didn’t want to invest.
This all changed when I met Jeff Robbins and Ari Tenenbaum, Co-Founders of Instant Biologics. Their brand, Instant Plant Food, consists of tablets that dissolve in water and provide all the nutrients a plant needs for three months. A packet contains four tablets, enough to feed one plant for a year.
I am now the proud owner of a snake plant for which feeding is a piece of cake. And it’s thriving – much like Instant Biologics, which has landed business from a half-dozen large retail chains including Target and 1-800 Flowers (and is currently onboarding another half-dozen). This soaring growth can be credited to their RangeMe Premium membership, participation in several RangeMe summits and ECRM’s Lawn & Garden and Sustainable Products: General Merchandise sessions.
The idea for the company sprouted when Robbins and Tenenbaum decided to shift their focus from outdoor plants – via a landscaping business they ran together for 15 years – to indoor plants. “We saw an opportunity with fertilizer because the products on the market were hard to use,” says Robbins. “They came with complicated instructions for measuring and mixing and tend to be messy. Plus, many of the products are liquid, which are heavy to ship and as a result have a large carbon footprint.”
Instant Biologics’ Instant Plant Food addresses all of these challenges. Its fertilizer consists of effervescent tablets that are easy to use, don’t take up much space (on retail shelves or consumers’ cupboards) and have a low carbon footprint in their delivery to retailers and consumers.
A growing market
Timing couldn’t have been better for the brand. Two-thirds of U.S. households already had at least one house plant before the pandemic, and the shift to remote work accelerated demand, particularly among apartment-dwellers in more metropolitan areas that were looking to spruce up their remote offices, according to Tenenbaum. Along with this came the need for plant food that’s easy to use. “People living in apartments don’t have much space,” says Tenenbaum. “They want something that’s small and convenient and can be kept in the pantry, so our product has applications for a large audience.”
Instant Plant Food can be found in all retail channels as an add-on item at stores that sell house plants or as a standalone product in stores that don’t, and can be displayed on a shelf or pegged on a clip strip for cross merchandising. And as Instant Biologics sources all its ingredients and materials from U.S.-based vendors, it hasn’t faced the supply chain issues that can come with overseas shipping, which is a key factor for many buyers these days.
One of the ways in which Instant Biologics is driving exposure and engagement with buyers is through its RangeMe Premium membership. “If you have an innovative product and are looking to grow your brand, RangeMe is a great platform for getting exposure to buyers from large retailers that are difficult to break into without any kind of prior relationship,” says Robbins. “It gives us a ton of exposure on the front end that we would not have otherwise had.”
For additional reach, Instant Biologics submitted its products in RangeMe summits, including Hy-Vee’s Best of Local Brands Summit, the Amazon Sustainability Summit in 2021, and two previous Global Markets.
Robbins notes that RangeMe delivers benefits for retailers too, as it enables them to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s next in product innovation. “This is especially important now after the pandemic and inflation that have shaken things up and led to changing customer needs,” he says. “It helps buyers to rapidly respond to these shopper needs. It’s amazing for both parties.”
Going for the ‘Triple Win’ in buyer meetings
When meeting with buyers virtually during a RangeMe summit or ECRM session, Robbins and Tenenbaum aim for what they call the “Triple Win,” demonstrating how they deliver value so that all parties benefit: the retailer, consumer, and the brand. However, in our conversation, we realized that there was a fourth winner that is also discussed in their meetings: the environment. The sustainability aspects of the brand’s products are what the company says has gained traction with younger consumers, who like the lower carbon emissions involved with not having to transport liquids.
And it’s the younger generation of buyers making their way through the retail industry that are making digital platforms like RangeMe and ECRM the ideal way of connecting, according to Robbins and Tenenbaum, who see digital playing a major role in the future or product discovery and sourcing.
“There’s something important about that in-person meeting,” says Robbins. “But all of the work you need to do to get to that point can now be done digitally. It makes it so that we can get all of the front-end stuff done with a larger volume of buyers in a shorter time frame so that when we finally get to that in-person meeting, it’s not a chore anymore; you actually look forward to it. Both Ari and I met our wives online, so we know digital works in that realm. Why shouldn’t it work for business? The younger generation lives on digital, and they are now making their way through the ranks of buyers.”
Moving forward, Instant Biologics plans to launch various products that leverage its effervescent tablet technology and create a portfolio of brands that will make the company even more enticing for buyers.
“It’s an investment to onboard a new brand, and the feedback we’re getting is they would like more SKUs of similar-type products,” says Robbins. “And so we’re listening to them, and what we have in immediate development are related products, such as a biopesticide product for eco-friendly indoor pest control, microbial products for plants, and some pet-related products. There are many applications for our waterless concentrated effervescent tablet technology.”
Overall, their goal is simple. They want consumers to be more connected to the environment, whether it’s inside or outside, and their mission is to develop the technology to help make those connections easier.
Are you interested in growing your product assortment? Learn more about Instant Biologics by finding them here on RangeMe!
View the full video interview with Instant Biologics here.