From HappySoaps to Baya Baya: ‘The time is right for shampoo without a plastic bottle’

‘Absurd’, Dirk Taselaar calls it that we throw away all those shampoo bottles every year. Together with Leon Daggenvoorde, he is currently setting up the sustainable shampoo brand Baya Baya. No loose bottles, but a dispenser for your shower wall in which you can put a concentrated bar of shampoo.

Lots of water and plastic in shampoo production

“I had been working on sustainability at home for some time,” says Taselaar. “Solar panels, insulation, that work. I also started looking at daily routines, how you can change them and make them more sustainable. Then I looked in my own shower, with so many plastic bottles that are thrown away when they are empty. There I wanted to come up with something.”

Liquid shampoo not only produces a lot of plastic waste, but an enormous amount of water is also used in production. “Shampoo consists of more than 80 percent water. We wondered: can’t you make it compact? Like dishwasher tablets, but with natural ingredients?”

Bale moment: crowdfunding did not come around

They started figuring that out early this year. The crowdfunding that followed in the summer seemed to be a success. The target amount of 40,000 euros was achieved without too much effort, until there was a hitch. “One of the parties that had pledged a large amount made demands that were not in line with our sustainable philosophy,” says Taselaar.

Two days before the end of the crowdfunding campaign, they therefore decided to pull the plug on crowdfunding. “That was a good bale moment”, Taselaar looks back. “At the same time, the response to the campaign’s launch was so enthusiastic that we started looking to see if we could raise the amount in another way.”

Dispenser and shampoo concentrate

They are now at an advanced stage with investors to start with Baya Baya. “We are targeting the first quarter of next year. We are now fully engaged with certification, European regulations and testing the product.”

Baya Baya supplies two parts: a dispenser and the concentrate that can be placed in it. “We prefer to make the dispenser from recycled plastic”, explains Taselaar. “We also looked at aluminum, but that is just too heavy for the suction cups. Wood or bamboo is a lot more durable, but you have to impregnate it because of all the water – and that is anything but sustainable.”

Baya Baya initially focuses on shampoo and shower gel. Taselaar is considering a subscription form for the sale. “Preferably with shipping directly to the consumer. There is also interest from business customers such as hotels and gyms.”

Developing a concentrated shampoo was quite a quest. “The most important thing for the shampoo is that it dissolves well,” Taselaar says.

“From there it is quite easy to copy to other products. We prefer to get all ingredients from the Netherlands and otherwise from the European Union,” says the entrepreneur. “That’s also part of the story. If you want to produce a sustainable shampoo and then get everything from China… well.”

Also for Marco and Marcel Koers, founders of HappySoaps, it is ‘absolutely their goal’ to get as many raw materials as possible from Europe. Easier said than done, they tell RTL Z. “In the grooming industry it is inevitable that you have a global supply chain. Take shea butter, for example, which only comes from Africa.”

Happy Soaps on shelves at Plus

Palm oil, a common ingredient in cosmetics, is out of the question for the brothers’ shampoo, conditioner and other grooming bars. “Even though palm oil is three times cheaper than other oils,” says Marco. “It’s hard to find cosmetic raw materials that don’t contain it and that are affordable.” However, they do opt for this from a sustainability point of view.

The Koers brothers are making good progress with their plastic-free bars. They sell their range – more than 200 products – themselves through their website. They have also been on the shelves of supermarket chain Plus nationwide for a few months; a rollout to drugstore chain DA is on the agenda.

And that while they have no background in cosmetics. Father Koers was a baker, but always said to his boys: “This is such a tough profession, you shouldn’t want this.” They gladly took that from him, but the urge to produce things themselves was therefore there.

“What’s really in shampoo?”

Both followed a retail-related training and soon after started the ShaversClub: a razor subscription. That went ‘pretty good’ when they got a tip: they should start developing shampoo.

“Shampoo consists of 80 percent water and 20 percent active ingredient,” says Marco. “And the plastic bottle it comes in is dirt cheap. That would be easy to earn. As a consumer you are almost being ripped off in this way. You see great promotions and advertisements, but what is really in it in the end?”

Above all, the brothers wondered what would really be a sustainable shampoo. “The biggest thing was the packaging,” says Marco. “It’s a weird concept when you think about it: buying a new bottle of shampoo made from super strong plastic every time.”

Shampoo, no soap

They got rid of the plastic and concentrated on the 20 percent active ingredients. “After a lot of research and development, this has become our shampoo bar. We found a producer in the Netherlands who didn’t know exactly how to make it, but who was open to trying that.”

In June 2019 they launched it: completely (micro)plastic-free shampoo. Which by the way is not made of soap, as many people think. “Soap has a much too high pH value, that makes your hair bone dry”, Marco laughs.

They are not the first shampoo bars to be sold in the Netherlands; a shop like Lush also carries an extensive range of bars and bars of soap. “But we want to make plastic-free accessible to everyone,” says Marco. “A HappySoaps shampoo bar weighs 70 grams and costs 7.99 euros and really replaces three bottles of shampoo.”

To find out whether the bars (in addition to shampoo also include conditioner, hand soap and sunscreen) are well received by their customers, the brothers have created a separate Facebook page. “It contains about seven thousand consumers who keep us on our toes and who we can consult. Which products would they like to see more plastic-free, for example.”

HappySoaps now has a meter of shelf space at supermarket chain Plus nationwide. “The audience of our brand is a good fit for Plus,” says Marcel. “We started with a few independent entrepreneurs. The concept was a hit everywhere, not just in the Randstad. That was the reason for the head office to talk to us. It turned out to be a really great success; the shampoos are sold six times as fast. sold as they expected.”

The time is ripe for packaging-free

In the meantime, the brothers say they have sold hundreds of thousands of bars. About 250,000 for the whole of 2020; this year so far about 55,000 per month. The turnover? They’ll keep that to themselves for a while. They do want to say that they started HappySoaps with money out of their own pocket and that they have not needed external financing so far. Although they do not rule out the possibility that it will ever be necessary.

You notice that the time is ripe for packaging-free care, Marco concludes. “Consumers think it is high time for real sustainability. And the good thing is: we never actually have to explain why we are sustainable. No plastic, no palm oil: it is a sum that is correct.”

The sustainable packaging does not exist

Packaging expert Marcel Keuenhof of the Sustainable Packaging Knowledge Institute is often asked which packaging is the most sustainable. “It is usually the first question that entrepreneurs and companies ask when they knock on our door. Our counter question is always: what do you understand by sustainability?”

That can be looked at in different ways, he says. For example, packaging with as little CO2 emissions as possible. Or plastic-free, recyclable or fossil-free packaging. Moreover, sustainable packaging can work very well in one sector and not in another.

According to Keuenhof, the choice of materials influences Baya Baya’s refillable dispenser. “Every time you use the refillable packaging, you save on single-use packaging. That is why it is sometimes better to opt for a heavier material with more environmental impact. The lifespan of a refillable packaging is often more important than the choice of material.”

HappySoaps’ cardboard packaging could cause problems if the shampoo bars inside get wet, he thinks. “But that problem does not arise in the store. In that case, a wrapper made of regular cardboard, which can easily be recycled, is sufficient. It always makes sense to make such packaging as light as possible, as long as this does not lead to product loss, for example by damage or spoilage.”

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