“Innovation is only successful when there is a purpose”

“Innovation is only successful when there is a purpose”

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Break molds with a purpose: to provide the best service. At Sortem, an international funeral goods distribution company, they know this very well: «Innovation is important but not per se,» says Antton Loinaz, co-founding partner. It must always be closely linked to service, to that tribute and memory of a loved one who has passed away. Innovation is only successful when there is a purpose which, in our case, is based on the warmth and closeness of a farewell and a memory. That is our philosophy.”

«There is a whole world to develop in the presentation of the funeral service and how to sell the product»

An example of this disruptive vocation is The Tree Remembers urn, which stands out for its functional simplicity and consists of a tree being born from the ashes. A project that today is still looking for its place and that reflects this dialogue between updating and tradition in the market. In 2017 it received the prestigious German Red Dot Award, an award for the best industrial design among 5,500 candidates from 54 countries. Sergi Martínez, partner and CEO of Sortem explains that, despite the great media coverage of this product, there is a cultural barrier, which little by little is beginning to break down to offer an ecological and sustainable funeral service.

The Tree Remembers was also the best product that year at Funergal, a fair that gives them «a lot of luck», as they say in the company, which will return to the event this year with an important novelty. “In any event in life, all attendees participate. At a shower, there are few opportunities for attendees to participate other than ordering a flower crown. We want to cover the need to take a physical memory of the funeral home itself”, anticipates the CEO.

Sergi Martínez celebrates this May twenty springs in the funeral sector. His experience was key in transferring the trust that funeral homes had in his work to a fledgling Sortem in 2013, specializing in thanatoesthetic and thanatopractic products. As official Dodge dealers, they began to delve into the realm of postmortem treatment training: “Back then, we saw a need for training for funeral professionals. We carried out training with them and that allowed us to also make ourselves known to people and generate trust”, he says.

This educational spirit is also transferred when offering its products to funeral homes and is a differential value for the company, which understands that it is its obligation to analyze which products are suitable for each one and how they should be presented. According to Antton Loinaz, «there is a whole world to develop in the presentation of the service, and Sortem must transmit how to offer the product with a global vision, in all the departments of the funeral home».

«The professional is the thermometer that tells us what works and what doesn’t»

An essential piece in the integration of this innovation in companies in the sector is Belén Nasarre, partner and head of corporate image and product development, who always seeks to impregnate everything that passes through Sortem with a modern but emotional aesthetic, the DNA of the firm. Nasarre emphasizes that the purpose is to incorporate «feeling into each product». Along these lines and just before the pandemic, Sortem assumed the distribution of LoveUrns in Spain, Italy and Portugal. Urns, reliquaries and funerary jewelry with high added value and artisan production, which are working very well in our country. “At LoveUrns they take into account the person’s contact with the urn, how it feels in the hands and its ergonomics. They think of people when designing, a philosophy that we share”, describes the person in charge of product development.

The marketing of LoveUrns has grown a lot in Spain in recent years. Their quality, with great resistance to deterioration, and their presentation, which begins with the bag and case that carry them, have made it possible to discover an audience that wants the best to preserve the memory of their loved ones. «One of the novelties that we will soon present is a new ‘teardrop’ model -says Sergi Martínez-. This urn was a favorite among the LoveUrns inventory and one of the most imitated, and now it’s time for an update. In addition to the urns, accessories, jewelry and minerals for ashes are receiving great support from families”.

With a growing trend of cremation, derived keepsakes are being refined for those without reference to a cemetery. The watch that the father bequeathed and that the son lovingly wore on his wrist, is today complemented by new elements with a great emotional charge, rubbing against the skin, and which Sortem considers to be one of the keys to the present and future of the funeral sector. Always listening carefully to the professional, in the company they consider that this is the «thermometer» of what works and what does not. Projects such as a pioneering urn customization website in Spain must wait: “We have a unique customizer that has not yet found a place in the sector. When the time comes and the sector demands it, we will be ready. We adapt to each scenario and try to anticipate it”, emphasizes Martínez. In this sense, the biodegradable urns, one of the firm’s first products, continue to be its most demanded product by funeral homes, although each one has its own idiosyncrasy: «When we launch a product we study the design, the price and the positioning in a specific company, and how it can be presented to families. We test to find out what works and what doesn’t.»

An increasingly international and digital scenario. From the Terrassa headquarters, Sortem sends products to half the world. Activity that, according to Antton Loinaz, has been complicated recently: “In these strange years we have doubled the stock, for our peace of mind and that of our customers. With the pandemic we saw that, suddenly, we had to look for specific products, such as disinfectants, and that many others are no longer in such high demand.”

Its evolution as a company, explains Loinaz, goes through «knowing how to analyze the needs of the funeral home well, which are very different from when you talk to a small or a large group.» With a presence in several countries, for Sortem the cohesion of the sector is important wherever they work. That is the reason for its commitment to large groups such as the National Association of Funeral Services (Panasef), the Latin American Association of Cemeteries and Funeral Services (ALPAR) or The World Organization of Funeral Operatives (FIAT-IFTA), of which they miss an event. Nearing the decade of life, Sortem will continue working to increase its weight inside and outside our country: “We have a very good position in Italy and Hungary and we are growing in France, Denmark and Latin America. We have even shipped biodegradable urns to Hong Kong. Funeral homes set the pace for us and we will be there where our service is needed”.