Thorn to tissue: N&E Innovations produces durian-husk wet wipes, targets ME and China expansion

By Nurul Ain Razali

- Last updated on GMT

The wet wipes developed by N&E Innovations are made of durian husks. © N&E Innovations
The wet wipes developed by N&E Innovations are made of durian husks. © N&E Innovations

Related tags durian durian husks Sustainability Wet wipes market

A Singapore firm that has created wet wipes from durian husks hopes its product differentiation can propel it to success in the Middle East and China, as well as in South East Asia.

N&E Innovations’s latest offering is a unique wet wipe made of specific parts extracted from ground durian husk. The soaking agent is made with the firm’s proprietary Vi Kang 99 technology that can inactivate up to 99% of viruses and bacteria.

Founder of N&E Innovations, Didi Gan, said: “Do you know how many durians Singaporeans consume annually? We don’t have to worry about the supply of durian husks.

“Out of the 744m food waste generated annually in Singapore, around 12m is completely durian husk. Around 60% of a durian gets thrown away while we consume the flesh, usually around 40% of the fruit.

“Here, we grind and blend the husks and then boil them. After that, we will extract certain parts to make the wipes”.

Founded in 2020, N&E Innovations is a medtech start-up that engineered a 100% non-toxic, food-grade antimicrobial powder compound to create two SKU categories: the reusable, medical-grade Vi-MASK and non-alcoholic disinfectant product range C2+.

The C2+ product price ranges between SGD$12.90 (USD$9.20) for hand sanitisers to SGD$32.90 (USD$23.60) for disinfectants.

The disinfectant is the same chemical used as an antimicrobial coating that some buildings use on various touchpoints during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as lift buttons.

The antimicrobial powder, a proprietary and patented nanotech named Vi Kang 99, is derived from cashew skin and husk. The process also utilises iron content from soybeans and crab shells.

The firm’s formulation could reduce carbon emissions by around 300 metric tonnes or equivalent to 60,000 houses’ worth of electricity annually.

‘Thorn’ between situations

Since 2020, Gan, trained in biomedical science at the University of Melbourne, has worked with two other scientists to develop the durian husk wipes.

One of the challenges the team encountered was the colour of the prototype due to the natural dark green pigment on the husks. Upon surveying consumers, it was found that the colour repelled people. Gan and the team went back to the drawing board to achieve a more natural colour.

Finally, they managed to produce a bamboo tissue-like colour, with qualities such as being fully biodegradable, hypoallergenic, food-grade and no usage of synthetic ingredients. The final wipe product is soaked in a Vi Kang 99 powder and glycerine solution.

“We are targeting the mummies and babies segment of the market with these wipes. But they can also be used in households. We also intend to target businesses for this product. The wipes are like our hand sanitisers, with self-sanitising properties and provide 24-hour protection,”​ said Gan.

A total of 10,000 cans will be retailed for the first production run, both domestically and in four other countries – Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. One can of 80 wipes retails at SGD$12.90 (USD$9.20).

It will be available for sale on the firm’s e-commerce site, popular e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee, department storesTangs and Takashimaya, Times Bookstores and select Cold Storage outlets in June 2022.

“Our strategy is to utilise product differentiation to let consumers feel the difference we offer. Today, sustainability plays a big part in the customers’ minds. With this sustainability mindset in Asia, people would convert and choose sustainable products, but we must place the right price points for them,”​ she said.

The ‘King (of Fruits)’ expands its territory

Domestically, she plans to place smart recycling machines across the country. The team is finalising the specifications and hopes to deploy them by Q4 2022.

“These machines are like the normal vending machines you see at 1.7m tall, just like a small kiosk. After consuming durians, people can place the husks inside. For now, it can contain 28 kg, but we are tweaking it to increase its capacity,”​ she highlighted.

The firm is also undergoing the halal certification process conducted by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) for its wipes. It is expected to receive the get-go this year. Once it is halal, Gan will proceed to retail her products in the Middle East by Q1 2023.

For China, she has a local business partner and can retail online and offline throughout the country. The target for market entry is also Q1 2023.

“A concern for China is that it has a stringent import licence, especially for disinfectants. Our application was submitted two months ago and is underway,”​ she said.

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