Interview with the fastest growing brand in the accessories category – Gregory
is one of the most iconic names in American outdoor culture. Anyone even remotely familiar with hiking, backpacking, or outdoor pursuits in general has heard of them, as they have been designing some of the most widely used equipment in the backpacking space for over 40 years. Certainly, they were no stranger to Polygiene when they first approached us with the problem of microbial odor build-up on packs.
The problem of bad odor is not unique to Gregory products, or any backpack brand for that matter. But where should a company start when deciding how to prevent unwanted odors from the build-up of microbes? The answer is simple – you need to prevent microbes from producing odors in the first place.
The best way to do this is with our antimicrobial Stays Fresh technology. When applied to textiles, Polygiene Stays Fresh inhibits odor-causing bacteria from growing, which stops odors before they start. This eliminates one of the primary concerns for outdoor consumers. By keeping equipment and clothing fresh, they can pursue the activities they love with renewed confidence and get longer-lasting gear as well.
We had a chance to sit down with Matt Connors, Gregory product line manager, to discuss the genesis of this project and their philosophy on product design.
Interview with Gregory
Interview with Gregory
Polygiene: Where did the idea of adding an antimicrobial to your packs come from?
MC: Packs get sent back to our headquarters for a post-mortem after wear testing. Our testers will use these for weeks and months on end in places like the Appalachian Trail, where the back panel of the packs are constantly inundated with sweat and bacteria from the wearer’s body. By the time they get to us they smell awful. It turns out that sweat odor is a chief complaint amongst our wear-testers, and for some became reason enough to not want to wear the pack.
Consumers tend to view backpacks as separate pieces of equipment but the harness and suspension system, when designed correctly, becomes a part of your layering system. The backpack contours to your body like a piece of apparel. It also needs to be made of lightweight and porous synthetic fabrics, so it only makes sense that it would be a breeding ground for bacteria growth.
Polygiene: What specifically drew you to Polygiene?
MC: From the outset it became clear that Polygiene had a commitment to science and to helping us understand efficacy. What really impressed us was the data on safety, resource use, and potential benefit towards extending the life of the product. Gregory is also a global brand. We have a significant market presence in Europe and Asia. We needed a supplier that was known in these markets and didn’t require explaining. Polygiene’s global reach was unmatched in this area. Lastly, it was important that Polygiene was already bluesign® and Oeko-Tex® Eco Passport approved, as well as REACH compliant under the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR).
Polygiene: Has Gregory typically looked towards finding technology partners or do they prefer to own every aspect of product development?
MC: We know what we’re good at and not good at. When it comes to dynamic suspensions or proper load carrying design, we’re the best. But we’re not fabric engineers. We lean heavily on our technology partners in this area and expect them to deliver a product that addresses a need or benefit that we’ve identified. A great example is our Supply Duffel which features a Kevlar bottom panel. There is no one better when it comes to durable pack fabric that you can abuse day in and day out. The consumer trusts the Kevlar brand name and for good reason. So do we. Polygiene fits within this same design ethos.
Polygiene: Can you expand on your design ethos and what makes Gregory unique?
MC: For one, our design and development process is a benefit-driven discussion. What do consumers value? How do we meet or exceed this expectation? From there we tend to approach a product from a perspective that is both big and small. When it comes to the little details, we sweat the small stuff. Are all water bottle holders the same? Or are there changes to the placement, fabric, pattern (shape), etc. that make it easier to use?
At the same time, we’re looking at big picture stuff like total product impact. This doesn’t just rely on pure design philosophy but also involves fabric sourcing, product durability, lifespan, and end-of-life. We absolutely want to build the most durable and highest performing backpack out there, but we also need to do that while monitoring resource consumption at every step of the value chain.
Polygiene: You also must factor in commercial potential. For instance, a question you might ask is, “Is this pack something we can sell to enough people to justify its existence? Or is it a bit of a unicorn?”
Matt Connors: It’s easy to make gear that only a handful of people will like. It is a far bigger challenge to make something that a wide swath of customers will buy. Our designs need to suit a wide range of body types, interests/pursuits, and even aesthetic preferences, across different continents. Sure, you can’t be everything to everybody. But making packs that offer a balance of core features while maintaining broad appeal is something we’ve been doing for a long time. Going consumer-direct has allowed us to solicit customer feedback more directly. We also rely on third parties to benchmark us against the industry and to that end we were recently named the fastest growing brand in the accessories category in the US, by The NPD Group.