‘A generation is waking up’: Solid startup SBTRCT sees future in waterless skin care
Launched in 2020, SBTRCT offered a small range of solid format skin care products – a gentle foaming cleanser, in perfumed and fragrance-free variants; a clarifying facial exfoliator; a makeup melt; moisturising facial balm; rejuvenating night balm; and a vitamin C booster. All were plastic-free and waterless with high levels of actives in each formula, requiring consumers to simply add water on application to emulsify the formula.
Available online via the brand’s D2C website and select retailers, each product was priced between €32-€40, with mini ‘discovery’ formats and travel sets also available. The brand also offered a range of storage accessories, including a mold-resistant diatomite dish for the wash-off range and a bamboo pot with magnetic seal for the leave-on products.
Making ‘choice’ available for beauty consumers
“A generation is waking up – reducing the amount of dairy and meat we consume; how we carry our shopping, water, our coffee; even the trainers we buy,” said Benjamin Grace, founder of SBTRCT and previous MD at Bulldog Skincare, at this year’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris in November.
“This just demonstrates that if the choice is made available, consumer behaviour will change. Consumers are looking to embrace a more conscious lifestyle,” Grace told attendees.
However, the world of premium beauty had been “relatively slow” to respond, he said. Whilst sustainability was firmly on the agenda for many brands today, there were few looking to overhaul established manufacturing processes and make significant change, he said.
“I understand it’s not something they can do overnight. I feel quite privileged I’ve had the visibility of the environmental challenges I wanted to tackle with my product range, before launching,” he said.
Three environmental challenges for beauty’s future
Grace said there were three clear environmental challenges facing the beauty and personal care category today: recycling, water and palm oil.
“Recycling is broken,” he said. “I think everyone is aware plastic is a problem as a primary packaging material within our industry. Only 50% of us in the UK are recycling our bathroom waste, and even if we are dutifully recycling, it can get incinerated or end up in our oceans.”
“The second one is water waste,” he said. Despite more than 800 million people worldwide lacking access to clean, safe water, the beauty and personal care industry continued to add 70-80% water into formulations – “water we don’t need to be using and we don’t need to be charging our customers for”, he said.
Over-reliance on palm oil was the third challenge facing beauty, Grace said. Worldwide palm oil consumption was set to quadruple by 2050, he said, and the majority of personal care items still featured the ingredient. “For me, starting out and starting from scratch, it made sense to avoid it all together.”
“…Our mission and approach is to create the highest performing expert skin care with the lowest environmental impact,” the founder said.
“The way to do that, looking at those three challenges, that’s what drew me to the idea of a solid. Today, [solid formats] are the only true way to tackle those problems head on. Today, not in three- or five-years’ time.”
Building the brand – NPD and retail expansion
Grace said SBTRCT was now focused on building out its presence and engagement further. The company had two new product launches set for 2023, using some “really fantastic proven ingredients”, he said, though what these were remained under wraps for now.
The brand also wanted to stretch beyond its D2C core that currently represented 70% of business and was therefore looking to roll out internationally via retailers, starting with the US, next year, he said.
Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, the founder said: “The bigger the business gets, the greater the impact. And that means saving on water, saving on plastic, stopping plastic going to landfill, so that really is the main benefit to building a much bigger business.
“I recognise that, at the moment, the customer base or the market if you like, is relatively small. But (…) if you build, they will come. People want to make the right conscious choice and I think if you can provide the products that really deliver on efficacy and really do that job, then I think people will move and make that switch.”