Sustainable solid formats: Stephenson on the challenges of creating disruptive products

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Stephenson says Syndopal Solid Hair Conditioner 600-MB is the only extruded conditioner on the market right now
Stephenson says Syndopal Solid Hair Conditioner 600-MB is the only extruded conditioner on the market right now

Related tags Sustainability circular beauty green beauty Environment sustainable beauty Skin care Personal care products Packaging Soap Sustainable packaging

To celebrate ‘Plastic-free July’, we spoke to Stephenson – a pioneering manufacturer of solid formats – about its latest innovations and how sustainability continues to drive sales.

UK personal care company Stephenson has based its entire business around syndet (soap-free cleansing bars) and solid format products that give gentle and environmentally friendly results.

The company first launched into the personal care space with a bang in 2019 with Syndopal 300-MB – an ultra-mild, 100% soap-free, pH 5.5 base noodle – after more than five years of R&D. The product was a first for the global personal care market.

Syndets and sustainability

According to the company, syndets are environmentally friendly as they contain less water, can be packaged without plastic, and are biodegradable.

“Holistically, the impact is enormous, not only from the environmental benefits of transitioning to solid products but also from packaging, carbon footprint, and the added performance benefits,” ​explained Tim Pulleyn, Marketing Manager at Stephenson.

“Sustainability is a crucial concern for consumers, and as water scarcity continues to grow, brands will begin to innovate with more solid products to avoid manufacturing liquid products made with, on average, 90% water.”   

As a result, sustainability is a key business driver for the company. It has already launched four new syndet products this year and now offers a solid conditioner, cleanser, solid shampoo bar and premium solid shampoo bar.

The only extruded solid conditioner base

Its latest launch, Syndopal SHC 600-MB, is currently the sole extruded solid conditioning base on the personal care market.

It was specifically created for manufacturing ultra-mild yet luxurious solid conditioning bars, and is silicone free and cationic – for smooth conditioning. It’s also Certified Sustainable RSPO-MB.

“After the launch of Syndopal 300-MB in 2019, we gained a great deal of knowledge about syndets and how to formulate, process and manufacture them,” ​shared Pulleyn.

“We also learned a great deal about how Syndopal is processed from noodles to bars through contract manufacturers. This learning was significant in the development of our new range.”

When formulating the new products, a major challenge the company has faced as a base manufacturer was that its products needed to be trialled with contract manufacturers to see how they process on traditional soap lines.

According to Pulleyn, this was a source of issues, especially with machinery, as some machines are old and some new with each processing products very differently. 

As the company’s original expertise lies in soaps and syndets, creating conditioning bases has been another new challenge that has also taken some time to understand.

Re-educating consumers on solid formats

Teaching people how to use solid-format products has been another hurdle for the company.

“Solid format products are different to liquids; the two are applied differently and perform differently,” ​said Pulleyn.

“Especially with Syndopal Solid Hair Conditioner 600-MB. Consumers expect a ‘like-for-like’ experience because they have nothing else to compare their knowledge to.​”   

Efficacy is significant when comparing solid conditioning bases, but currently it is the only extruded conditioning base on the market.

Pulleyn said the only comparison are 'Melt and Pour' versions, which often don't meet the performance expectations of consumers.

He also noted that commercially these products are labour intensive and require large amounts of space to upscale and a significant amount of time to allow to cure.

As Syndopal SHC 600-MB is an extruded syndet, it can be run through a conventional soap line reducing labour costs and speeding up the manufacturing process.

According to Pulleyn, the end result is a better-finished product due to the process of creating the bar through high-pressure machinery, so it is compressed, thus creating a smooth and homogenous bar.   

“There isn't another extruded syndet conditioner on the market right now,” ​he concludes. “So, it's an excellent opportunity for brands and manufacturers who want to expand their range.”




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