In April, Zurn acquired Green Turtle Group, enhancing both companies product portfolio and reach in the commercial marketplace. Recently, Zurn Industries Vice President of Global Marketing and Business Development Scott McDowell and Green Turtle Group President Roland DuBois spoke with pme about the acquisition, advancements in the grease interceptor marketplace and innovation.
pme: How does Zurn’s recent acquisition of Green Turtle set the company up for the future?
Scott McDowell: It really serves a market that is growing and adjacent to the traditional grease market. The traditional market is point-of-use. There has been a steady trend toward outdoor grease interceptors that take on the site-level management.
Our strategic work last year identified this as a growing market and one that we needed to invent a product or purchase. Green Turtle is a great product and a great brand so we felt like it was a good fit.
pme: How has grease interceptor technology advanced throughout the years?
Roland DuBois: Green Turtle’s specialty is gravity grease interceptors and outdoor, site-level applications. Zurn has expertise in the point-of-use interceptors, which are typically in kitchens and serving a fixture. When you look at the gravity grease interceptors, 10 years ago modified concrete septic tanks and repurposed underground storage tanks were the norm. The primary buying decision, if you will, was really focused on upfront costs and meeting local plumbing codes more than anything else.
Today, a focus on upfront economics is still the case in many places, but products such as gravity grease interceptors are growing at a rate that outpaces the overall market. We believe the reason is because we’re a long-life, engineered system designed from the ground up specifically to remove grease, oil and solids. In the last 10 years, beyond the basic need of having to be in compliance with sewer-use codes, we’ve seen more owners focus their buying decision on lower ownership and lifecycle costs.
pme: What does Zurn and Green Turtle see coming down the pipeline in the next 10 years?
RD: We’re going to see technology adoption in the form of real-time monitoring for both sewer-use regulators and also for owners. We’re also going to see regulations tighten up. We think as time moves forward there will be a more universal standard focused on interceptor performance and quality.
pme: How has the market responded in recent times to grease interceptors?
RD: The key factors toward a change in the type of grease interceptor are regulatory driven. Specifically, gravity grease interceptors have been steadily growing for the past several years and will continue to do so. This has all focused on the fact there is a chronic lag in municipal sanitary sewer infrastructure investment. Towns and cities are quickly growing and the funds don’t exist to support the buildup of sanitary sewer systems.
Therefore, we have to do a better job of keeping grease, oil and fats out of the sanitary sewers. Once you let it into the sewer you’re going to create a blockage and a sewer overflow which is a critical pollution event.
Since infrastructure investment hasn’t really happened over the past 20 years, the only thing they can do is tighten the regulations around the end-users. That’s what really drives the use of interceptors.
SM: The market is responding very well to new technologies. When people build a site now, they typically build for a 30-year lifecycle. You don’t want to touch or put any more investment into that site than you have to. With a product such as Green Turtle’s Proceptor, which is fiberglass-based and is going to last, that owner can say, “This product is going to last.”
pme: How does Zurn and Green Turtle reach the engineering community for these products? How have engineers embraced grease intercepting?
SM: We have broad specification prospects that include our internal associates looking, monitoring and consulting on specifications as they develop. So if a hospital goes up or a restaurant goes up, we have a specification analytics department look at that application, consult the engineer and make sure that not only are they choosing the right product, but they’re choosing Zurn, which has the broadest portfolio. We’ve seen a lot of success with that program.
We also have a host of tools we arm our reps with. They include specification books so when they walk into an engineer’s office they can talk about the project. If the engineer is building a hospital, the reps can say, “These are all the pages applicable to your hospital. Let’s talk about what those line cards look like for that application.”
Now, Green Turtle has the ability to be a part of that family and that specification strength. Now they can be a part of the largest portfolio in commercial water.
pme: How important is Zurn’s relationship with the contractor and wholesale distribution channel, particularly with grease interceptor products?
SM: We have a host of documents on our website. We have about eight CEU courses. They are outlined through the AIA standards. They’re not branded and are actual educating pieces.
We have different categories ranging from how to design a sanitary bathroom, to sanitary water for backflows. We’re working on a CEU specifically for grease interceptors as well. All of those courses can be found at www.continuingarchitect.com. We also have a YouTube channel with a ton of followers.
RD: At Green Turtle, we start with person-to-person contact. The territory managers, the customer-service department, all those folks walk contractors through installation processes every day.
Our website has a host of technical and installation information. The contractors installing a grease interceptor are incredibly competent and do this type of installation all day long. We build our instructions around what they already know how to do in terms of sitework and setting a gravity grease interceptor.
If we have a larger contractor who does multiple installs, we’ll set some time aside and walk them through installations and product lines. It’s on a case-by-case basis, but there’s no shortage of ways for contractors to understand how to install our products.
pme: What is Zurn focusing on the next few years?
SM: We are focused on where we started and that’s innovation. Ninety percent of Zurn’s portfolio was invented in-house. From linear-trench drainage to commercial brass trim business, 100% of that was invented. So we really view our ability and our strength as being able to innovate these categories.
Most importantly, we see our ability to innovate new categories. In cases such as Green Turtle, we have a customer base asking for those products, so we asked ourselves: Can we invent it to the level of quality that can successfully compete or is there somebody strong in the marketplace that would allow us to be in the market faster? That’s why Green Turtle is part of our team now.