Lancaster, NY (WBEN) - It's a household product, but probably not a household name.
Kanberra Gel is the brainchild of Indoor Air Professionals President Joel Solly. "You hear about air fresheners, you hear about air deodorizers, we are nothing like that," Solly said. "We are actually an air purifier. We're purifying the air by eliminating the source of the odors."
Solly says his product cleans the air by using Australian tea tree oil, an ingredient often used in shampoos and other cosmetics that many believe is an antimicrobial. "The invention was really (the gel). Tea tree oil has been around for hundreds of years, all I did was make it airborne."
The gel was originally invented for use in ventilation systems that Indoor Air Professionals serviced. Solly says he quickly realized that it could be used for many other applications.
Kanberra Gel in its original form (it is now also sold as a spray and a wipe), sits in a mug-sized container that can be placed just about anywhere. As air moves around the gel, the water inside evaporates and the tea tree oil attacks any airborne odors. After a period of time the gel wears down, and nothing is left except a small green cube.
"It worked great in your car, it worked great in your RV, in your sports gear, anything that smelled. Anything that had an odor it took away and we realized we had something unique, but it was in a different category."
It sounds great, but as Solly has found out, even a versatile product can be hard to get off the ground. "I kind of tell people sometimes it's a lot like duct tape, it has a million uses. That's the good news and the bad news of the product, because where do you go with it? You can go everywhere, which is impossible, or you can start to target certain markets."
Solly compares Kanberra Gel to Red Bull in that at the time of their launch, there wasn't really any sort of product like it, meaning they had a long process of educating consumers ahead of them.
"The big lift here is branding a brand new product in to retail. We're grassroots, we're doing a lot of trade shows, we're exposing the product into a lot of market silos. It just takes time and effort and manpower."
So far, Solly has taken a step-by-step approach. "We've gone after the marine market first, so we got heavily involved in the large mega-yacht community. From there we've branded it from mega-yachts to the rest of the boating communities, to RVs, to pet stores."
Those successes have led to a growing Western New York business.
While the tea tree oil is shipped in from Australia, the rest of the manufacturing process is done in the Kanberra facility in Lancaster. Workers mix the top secret blend of oils in to the gel and then fill the product in to a large vat, which is then handled by a single worker who uses a foot-pedal to fill jars with the product. The jars are then sealed with an inner-lid, labeled, and boxed for shipping.
"We're very proud that this brand was invented, started, lifted, and distributed right here in Western New York. Our headquarters are here in Lancaster. The gel, the spray, the wipes, everything is put together and distributed out of this location."
While Solly works to market the product to different sectors he says he has plenty of room to grow right at his current Lancaster location.