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Making Their Mark: Bradford Soap cleans up in specialty market

Bradford Soap makes specialty soaps for a variety of companies. (WJAR)

The folks at Bradford Soap pump out a lot of soap. Bar soap, to be specific.

“Any kind of soap that you're using in a bar shape, we've probably made,” says Stuart Benton, CEO of Bradford Soap. “We make about 80 percent of the specialty soaps in the world.”

Bradford Soap and its 250 West Warwick employees are producing more than 200 million bars of soap a year. And this isn’t any old bar of soap -- this is specialty soap.

“Might have a lot of shea butter, might have a lot of fragrance, might have a lot of exfoliants,” explains Benton.

So why haven't you heard of Bradford Soap?

Probably because there's no such thing as a bar of Bradford Soap.

Instead, the Rhode Island company produces bar soap for some of the biggest brands in the industry, like Dove, L’Oréal and Neutrogena.

“Soap overall is a pretty flat market, but specialty soap is growing between 2 and 5 percent a year,” says Benton.

It’s a growing market because many specialty soaps are sustainable and organic, which appeals to younger customers.

Bradford Soap made the first all-natural bar soap for Tom's of Maine 25 years ago. The company also made the first organically certified bar soap for Dr. Bronners.

“What we're seeing is customers wanting something that's made almost especially for them,” says Benton.

Today, what started as a small Rhode Island soap factory by two brothers from Bradford England in 1876 has transformed into a sprawling and successful complex.

And Bradford Soap isn't finished evolving. Benton says in the coming years, the company hopes to produce more forms of solid cleansing, like soap sticks and bath bombs.

“We've really been built on innovation so we want to continue to innovate the category and be leaders in the category,” says Benton.

Bradford Soap has several second-, third-, and even fourth-generation employees working at their West Warwick facility.

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