Spectro’s sustainability principles, an interview with CEO Laurens Metterich
The car and truck wash division of Spectro has been on a roll recently. Partly thanks to the sustainability policy of the Dutch cleaning products supplier. Reason enough to have an interview with CEO Laurens Metternich. “We try to limit the climate impact of everything we make and do.”
Spectro is a true family business from the Netherlands that has been around for more than 50 years. It is run by Alissa, Quintus and Laurens Metternich. “Depending on the supply and demand, between 50 and 60 people now work for our company,” says the latter.
“My parents once started Spectro. My father learned the trade again from his grandfather. He started a cleaning products company in 1963 under the name Metternich Chemie. Dad split off from that company at the time and then started Spectro. Later, when my grandfather had passed away, the two companies eventually merged again.”
Despite its long history, Spectro does not immediately ring a bell for many car wash owners. Metternich is well aware of this. “That is explainable, because we make a lot of so-called private labels. These are professional cleaning products for others who then re-label them. Only in recent years have we tried to market the company differently and be more visible.”
The Oss-based company has three separate business areas:
- Professional Cleaning (which involves cleaning companies, buildings and healthcare)
- Food & Hygiene (kitchen, food industry)
- Vehicle Care (car wash & truck wash)
“Those last two branches have received little attention from us in the last few years. But when we saw the number of private label customers declining, we decided to revive it, complete with new products and new people.”
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Spectro mainly serves customers in the Benelux with its cleaning products, but also has resales in Spain, Portugal and in Eastern Europe. “We are certainly no longer the smallest nor the biggest but in a number of areas we do try to be the best,” Metternich says of their position in the market.
They also set up a German branch of Spectro in 2021 in order to get access to the German market. It is hard work, Metternich admits. “Especially now that our German-speaking liasson has found another job.” According to the CEO, it is not always easy to get a foot in the door with German car wash owners. “They don’t switch so easily to a new supplier,” Metternich knows. “Even if you come up with a fantastic offer where the customer benefits in every way.”
When making first contact, Metternich therefore sometimes cleverly uses his surname. “After all, it sounds German”, the Dutchman laughs.
Spectro has been on the rise in recent years, partly thanks to the increasing focus on sustainability. “Especially Vehicle Care is growing like a rocket, I must say. On the one hand, this is due to good products, clear pricing and good advice. But our sustainability strategy also plays a part.”
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Metternich is clearly enormously proud of that sustainability policy. In 2009, Spectro was the first Dutch company with Ecolabel-certified cleaning products. A year later, the company already had 10 different eco-friendly certified products in its catalog. “We try to limit the climate impact of everything we make and do. The main question is always: what impact does it have on our future? We try to use renewable-based raw materials as much as possible. Furthermore, our company is completely energy-neutral and we do a lot of waste reduction and water conservation.”
In addition, Spectro tries to reduce the logistical impact of their products by designing packaging to fit more pieces on a pallet.
But it even goes so far as to actively approach the customer as well. Because the biggest ecological footprint often lies with the customer, they know in Oss. This is why Spectro provides instruction videos and dosing systems and uses color coding, such that the right product is used in the right place.
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“Furthermore, we ask our customers to return the empty packaging so that we can recycle it. Large industrial IBC containers go through the wash at our premises and we reuse it afterwards. The smaller plastic packaging we sort out ourselves by color, after which we throw it through the shredder in order to recycle it.”
The fact that Spectro’s Research and Development team counts five people, indicates that they take the matter very seriously. Not every company has 10% of its employees on R&D, after all. Metternich points to the dosing systems the company has developed. So we not only make the detergents, but also make sure they can be dosed properly in the process.”
Unfortunately, Spectro does not yet have dosing systems for the carwash industry on offer. “Not yet. We are working on that though. There are some ideas on the table to take further steps. In combination with making more concentrated detergents. Because dosing correctly then becomes even more important.”
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We have already made a lot of progress in data use, though. For instance, we have a number of customers in the truck wash where we can look into their stock management. So that they don’t unexpectedly run out. As soon as they fall below a certain level, we put an order in the system. After which the customer gets delivery within a few days.”
Indeed, at Spectro, they are well aware that many car wash employees are practical-minded and may have less feeling for accounting and stock management. “If you have one location with a good manager, of course that rarely becomes an issue. But in these times where everyone is struggling with their staff and you are trying to keep multiple branches running, this is an interesting extra service.”