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Clorox Buys Burt's Bees

Clorox Buys Burt's Bees

"...there should not be any perceived change for the consumer. And if you get to know Clorox and their people, mission and values, they're tightly aligned with our own."
- John Replogle, CEO of Burt's Bees

November 1, 2007 —

Clorox has acquired Burt's Bees for $950 million in a move that is sure to draw the ire of some devoted customers. In less than two decades, the Burt's Bees brand has grown from a one-room operation to a $170 million a year company, based largely on a reputation that was built in small health food stores in the early 90s.

Burt's adhered to sustainable business practices years before Fortune 500 companies began releasing CSR reports and hyping their green credentials. Being green was an important part of Burt's brand identity and remains so today, as "natural" personal-care products experience a rate of growth that dwarfs that of their competitors.

But there's reason to believe that much of Burt's original following would go elsewhere if they were to learn that the product they'd fallen in love with over the years had been swallowed up by a multibillion-dollar corporation that makes toxic household cleaning chemicals. Luckily, that probably won't affect sales because according to branding consultant Robert Passikoff, "It's likely not many of the consumers or category targets for Burt's Bees products are even going to know that Clorox has acquired the company."

It's also unlikely that these customers know that Burt's has actually been owned by the private equity firm, AEA Investors, since 2004. Company founder Roxanne Quimby has a seat on the board and a 20 percent interest, but a former Unilever executive is now CEO. In an age where companies change hands so frequently, it's often difficult for consumers to know who they're buying from.

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