UK-based brand FRUU, which makes its cosmetic products with ‘wonky fruit’, has just opened its first store in Camden, London.
Previously, the brands products were sold through retailers in over 1000 stores, including Holland and Barrett and John Lewis, as well as via Sephora online. The products were also sold online via its direct-to-consumer website and in less traditional sites, such as gift shops in museums and National Trust locations.
“We had always done lots of consumer shows selling direct to customer and really valued that face-to-face time with customers,” said Chung, when asked about the brand’s new store. “We want to know more about what our customers need and think in ‘real-time’ as this will further help us improve our products.”
He mentioned that the brand’s colour cosmetics products have also tended to sell a lot better in bricks and mortar retail rather than online.
Creating cosmetics with ‘wonky fruit’
Chung who co-founded FRUU in 2017 with Kelly Yee, came from an academic research background in biochemistry. As a scientist developing antibiotics from plant sources, he already had a good knowledge of using plant-based ingredients. He had also worked on a cosmetics science course at London College of Fashion, which helped him develop his cosmetics science knowledge.
He and Yee had noticed that fruit was an overlooked source material for cosmetics. “A lot of fruit is wasted because its perishable and there are always a lot of offcuts from the juicing industry for example,” he explained.
The duo started with a seed of an idea, with Chung doing the product development from his own home. They pitched the business idea at an entrepreneur competition, which they won, and this helped them get lots of PR to propel the business.
It’s now six years later and FRUU still does its own product development in-house. Although the business has expanded, Chung is still heavily involved in the R&D.
A lot of ingredients used in the cosmetics formulations are freshly pressed; the brand doesn’t use a lot of water-based ingredients.
“We use the seeds and kernels of ‘waste fruit’ for example,” explained Chung. “Our lime and lemon seed oil comes from the Italian lemon production industry. These are cold pressed into oil and used as an emollient in our cosmetics. We are also using the peel to extract oils too.”
In terms of formulating with fresh products, one of the biggest issues for FRUU is that most cosmetics are water-heavy, so it’s challenging in terms of chemistry to make the products purely with fruit and nothing else.
The brand tries to use as much fruit as possible, but it sometimes has to settle on a maximum amount in order to create a good product.
“For lip balm, the chemistry doesn’t always allow us to use simply fruit, so we have to use we maximum amount of fruit without impacting the product,” explained Chung.
He also shared that using fruit-based ingredients is much more expensive. “Originally, we were less cost conscious, but we do have to get a balance between what we want and what is actually possible,” he said.
Battling consumers sensorial perceptions
He admitted that another challenge for the brand is consumer perception of what a cosmetic product made with fruit is supposed to look and smell like.
“Sensorial factors are our biggest issue,” he said. “We try not to use synthetic fragrance, and this is a challenge because of consumer perception. For example, most berry-scented products are made with a synthetic fragrance. It’s almost impossible to find a natural berry scent that would smell how consumers would expect and want a berry scent to smell and even then, it would be too costly to produce that and the price point would have to reflect that.”
Chung said that the brand often tries to avoid using scent all together, but that this can also confuse consumers. “Our mango and avocado body butter is unscented and that causes a mismatch of expectations. Many people ask why it doesn’t smell how they expect a mango to smell, which is often a synthetic fragrance anyway” he shared.
The company uses every part of the fruit: seeds, peels and even flesh, but Chung says using the fruit flesh can also cause consumer perception issues, due to oxidation.
Textures can also be tricky to navigate when working with natural ingredients like fruit and when trying to avoid the inclusion of additional ingredients. “Our hand cream doesn’t use any silicones,” shared Chung. “And again, some consumers can find it too greasy and worry about it not absorbing into their skin.”
Despite having to overcome consumer perceptions of what fruit-based cosmetics should look, feel and smell like, FRUU has expanded quickly within six years.
The brand started its range with a lip balm and now has around 60 SKUs.
It has most recently launched a home fragrance range, made with 100%-natural candles that are formulated with citrus-based scents – orange, lemon, lime and bergamot – as well as cinnamon and cloves.
“We noticed that there aren’t many candles that are genuinely sustainable,” shared Chung on the expansion into home fragrance. “Lots of companies are using soy wax, but soy is causing deforestation. Some are using coconut, which is great, but we wanted to put our own stamp on it, so we are using mango and lemon waste products blended with rapeseed and coconut.”