PM Profile: Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group’s Mark-Hans Richer
Moen made a splash this winter when it announced an investment in Silicon Valley-based startup Nebia. The first look at the new partnership was unveiled in February when it launched the Nebia Spa Shower 2.0 with a Kickstarter campaign. pme Chief Editor Ed McMenamin recently caught up with Mark-Hans Richer, senior vice president and chief marketing and innovation officer, Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group, Moen’s parent company, to talk about the future of water conservation and the next generation of shower products.
PM: What about Nebia caught Moen’s attention?
MR: We first connected with Nebia last year at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. They’ve truly reinvented showering with a sustainable solution that provides great style and experience for the consumer. We also share a vision to improve interactions people have with the water that flows through their homes. This partnership makes perfect sense as we’ll use our combined strengths and resources to develop — and bring to a broader market — innovative products that allow consumers to better enjoy and conserve Earth’s most precious resource.
PM: Why is water conservation important to Moen?
MR: Each year in the U.S. alone, more than 1.5 trillion gallons of fresh water flows through Moen fixtures. Moen has always been a steward for water, and we believe there’s an opportunity to not only make stylish products, but be smarter with our designs, all in support of this vital resource. It’s even more important now as the value of water today is on the rise. We’ve also recently hired our first water director, Nina Kshetry, a two-time MIT graduate and engineer, who will help us deepen our connections with organizations focused on broader-scope water situations across the country.
PM: What can the plumbing industry do better when it comes to bath and kitchen products?
MR: As experts in water, we all need to be more curious about water’s role in people’s homes and aggressive in how we can improve it. At Moen, we look at how people can get the most out of their water experiences. This is where innovation and technology can play a key role. Through great product innovation, we can start to change the way people view this resource. For example, our new Flo by Moen device, launched in January in partnership with startup Flo Technologies, helps detect and prevent leaks throughout the home. It can also monitor a home’s overall water usage, so a homeowner can easily view on their mobile device just how much they’re consuming and identify opportunities for savings.
PM: How successful was the Kickstarter campaign, and how did you choose that strategy?
MR: Nebia had phenomenal success when it launched its original spa shower two years ago on Kickstarter. The response has been just as positive around the release of Nebia 2.0, raising more than $1.9 million from 4,640 backers in a month. The Kickstarter is meant to give early adopters a chance to preorder the product before it’s more widely available. Nebia 2.0 will be available through Moen’s channels by the end of the year.
PM: What can an established business, like Moen, learn from startups like Nebia?
MR: As a plumbing leader, it’s our duty to explore all areas of the industry to find the best solutions for our customers. That may mean developing next-generation innovations internally or with partners, like Nebia, who are leading the charge in sustainable showering solutions. Startups often focus on one area or product that is truly unique to the market, and through partnership, we’re able to offer their technology to more consumers.
PM: What is the biggest innovation of the Nebia spa shower 2.0?
MR: Nebia 2.0 is an improved version of Nebia’s original spa shower and provides a hotter shower with the feeling of more pressure, while saving 65% of water compared to a conventional shower. The secret behind Nebia is water atomization — the science of breaking down large drops into precise patterns of tiny droplets. The shower features Nebia’s patented H2MicroTM technology which creates millions of tiny droplets, increasing the surface area of the spray by 10 times, all while saving water.