Consumer goods manufacturers are managing dramatic change that is being driven by challenging economic conditions, leaps in technology, an empowered consumer, and regulatory expansion. According to a 2013 Capgemini Consulting report, “The Future of Standards in the Consumer Goods & Retail Industry,” the majority of executives believe that shopping behavior changes among consumers will be the dominant force shaping manufacturers and retailers over the next decade. The report also noted that consumers are increasingly focused on product safety.
Havas Media’s “Meaningful Brands” report found that 71 percent of U.S. consumers think companies and brands should play a role in improving their quality of life and well-being, while only 36 percent think that brands currently achieve this goal.
Finally, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was signed into law August 2008, ushered in significant new regulations and testing and certification requirements for consumer product manufacturers and importers. Due to these trends, UL increased its investment in its quality assurance testing capabilities to better support its clients with the purchase of Consumer Testing Laboratories Inc. (CTL).
CTL got its start in 1952 when its founder, Herbert L. Satter, spotted the rise of consumer activism after World War II. At the time, he was fielding consumer complaints as ombudsman for the Massachusetts Dry Cleaners Association. Today, CTL tests consumer products, from apparel to footwear, paint to tools, toys to patio furniture, and housewares to automotive products to help ensure they perform at or better than consumer expectations.
“Manufacturers and retailers come to us because we can see if the products are meeting quality expectations and also conduct national brand comparisons within a particular category,” says Mark Moore, CTL’s Vice President of Global Operations.
Looking at products from end-to-end, CTL evaluates products from the consumer’s point of view. It conducts comparison testing, customer-focused evaluations and verification of application to legal requirements when needed. Additionally, it provides regulatory and quality requirements. For example, a frying pan must meet food contact regulations. However if the coating scratches off, the product only may meet regulatory requirements, missing the consumer’s quality expectations.
“We provide the infrastructure to develop and execute quality programs to help achieve a client’s quality objectives,” explains Moore. “We support quality throughout the entire supply chain from product manufacturing to when they reach the stores.” CTL and UL can now provide improved services because there are increased opportunities to reach customers around the world, with labs in the U.S., Canada, India and China.
“UL’s commitment to training in a knowledge-intensive industry will help CTL become better at helping clients because we can have a larger footprint and create additional quality assurance programs that are more focused,” says Moore. “We will now be a one-stop-shop.”
CTL officially joined the UL family on Oct. 4, 2016.