Goodbye packaging, hello concentrates


Concentrates are sweeping the body and homecare sectors as a sustainable alternative. But what are they and why should you try them?

You may have noticed a new kind of product in the bathroom aisles at the supermarket recently: shampoo bars. These super-concentrated, dry soap bars come with hefty sustainability claims: they’re light on packaging, need replacing much less often, and are often made of green ingredients to boot.

But did you know shampoo bars are just the tip of the iceberg? There’s a cleaning revolution underway, as brands seek to replace wasteful products and non-user friendly refillables with “concentrates”: super-condensed, dry versions of all kinds of home and body-care products. 

Businesses across the globe are investing in the change – from big dogs like Unilever, which has begun producing laundry capsules made from greenhouse gases in China, to start-ups like Australia-based Pleasant State and Eco Turtles, which offer cleaning concentrates and design-led resuable spray bottles. As Pleasant State co-founders Sian Murray and Ami Bateman say, such concentrates are a “no-brainer”.

“When we realised everyday cleaning products are made up of roughly 97% water, we were in shock! The cleaning industry has been transporting around litres upon litres of water, contributing to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and packaging them in pointless single-use plastic packaging when the majority of the cleaning solution is just water – something we all have access to for next to nothing at home.”

re·stor

In New Zealand, re·stor is a great example of a company committed to concentrates. The Kiwi company, created by Rascal & Friends Nappies founder Grant Taylor, offers a range of dehydrated laundry detergent sheets. The pre-measured, dissolvable sheets mean you can avoid not only the mess and faff of measuring out detergent, but also tread more lightly on the planet. One box of 60 sheets ($12.50) is equivalent to 1.8 litres or kilograms of traditional detergent but weighs much less – meaning they’re much more sustainable to transport.

re·stor is set to launch a household cleaning range later this year, featuring re·fillable bottles and cleaning tablet re·fills. Kiwis will be able to simply fill an endlessly reusable, 100% recycled plastic spray bottle with water and drop in a tablet to make a range of all-purpose, bathroom, kitchen or glass cleaners – literally on tap. Taking unnecessary plastic bottles out of the supply chain is a boon for the planet, given that 42% of plastic bottles in New Zealand that can be recycled currently aren’t.

As Taylor says, “We see concentrates as the future for beauty and FMCG products in New Zealand as they bring together sustainability, convenience and performance which is what is needed to appeal to a wider audience and therefore make a bigger impact for the planet. As much as everyone wants to make better choices for the planet, if it’s not affordable or convenient, uptake will always be restricted. Concentrates solve this.”

Ecostore

ecostore, too, is at the forefront of concentrated cleaners. Its range of cleaner refill concentrates are packed in tiny glass bottles and just need mixing with tap water in a spray bottle at home. Like re·stor, the concentrating of the product makes transport much more sustainable and saves on packaging – with the concentrates expected to save 6.45 tonnes of plastic a year.

With sales already better than expected, ecostore chief executive Pablo Kraus expects the interest in concentrates to grow. “We expect that as the issue of plastic waste continues to grow, so will the trend to live with less impact.”

Ethique

If you’re interested in beauty concentrates, look out for Ethique (and see our interview with founder Brianne West on page 35). The new Ethique Concentrates range features a variety of different concentrate bars, packaged in compostable packaging – from salon-quality shampoo, to handwash, bathroom spray and dishwashing liquid. Again, consumers simply add water at home before using – or in some cases, just dive right in.

Concentrates at Countdown

re·stor, ecostore and most Ethique products are available at Countdown – and that’s no coincidence. According to Countdown’s cleaning and laundry category manager, Luke Bianca, Countdown has introduced a dedicated “concentrated cleaning” section in the cleaning aisle and is committed to making green solutions a supermarket-scale trend.

 “At Countdown, we want to make being sustainable easy and affordable. So we offer a wide range of concentrate products to customers who want to make more sustainable choices – many of which are supplied by Kiwi owned and operated businesses. We’re looking forward to expanding our concentrates range as more brands and products become available,” he says.

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