• 800-232-LOWE (5693)
  • info@lowe.org
  • 58220 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031

The 1980s

Era of expansion

To compete with West Coast manufacturers, in 1980 Lowe’s purchased the production assets of Panamint Marketing Co. in Maricopa, CA. Two years later it established European markets with Lawrence Industries of the United Kingdom and Skamol of Denmark. Automated packaging lines were installed in plant facilities to increase the daily capacity of finished product.

Product innovations were key to fending off competition—with Fresh Step from the Clorox Co. being the most serious contender. Product introductions included:

  • New breakthrough Kitty Litter with a patent-pending formula, which launched in 1985.
  • A 99% dust-free Kitter Litter launch in November 1985.
  • Tidy Cat 3 in 1982.

Despite competition, by 1989 Lowe’s led the $300 million cat-box-filler industry in market share with Tidy Cat 3 and the Kitty Litter brand ranking as the top two brands.

Another milestone, Lowe’s launched an export initiative and in 1977 executives traveled to Europe to conduct market research. Both the cat-box-filler and agricultural granule market appeared to have strong potential, and Lowe’s formulated a program to utilize the Olmsted and Paris facilities, both located on rivers, as water shipment points.

Grateful for his success and inspired to give back to the community, Ed Lowe decided to apply the profits from his various businesses to a cause he cared about greatly — entrepreneurship. In 1985 he and Darlene established the Edward Lowe Foundation to provide information, recognition and educational experiences for entrepreneurs, which was headquartered at Big Rock Valley Farms, a 3,000-acre property northeast of Cassopolis, MI.

Although Lowe’s concentrated on vertical integration during the 1970s, Ed Lowe couldn’t resist scratching his itch for innovation and created a number of new products and services. Many were outside the absorbent clay business, such as Frenchy Bucksaw, a company that produced pre-packaged firewood, and Lowe’s Executive Auction Service, which auctioned everything from furnishings to farm equipment to electronics. Ed also purchased the town of Jones, MI, and tried to develop it into a tourist attraction.

To meet growing demand, Ed began to increase manufacturing efficiencies. In 1951 he moved his packaging operation from southwest Michigan to a facility in Paris, TN, to be closer to the Southern Clay Co., which provided raw material to his company. In 1958 Ed purchased a manufacturing facility and mining tract in Olmsted, IL. This was a big milestone that enabled him to engage in vertical integration of mining, process and packaging.